Informed by his own experience in French prisons, Jean Genet’s first play, “Deathwatch,” is an explosive exploration of the inversion of moral order. Essentially a dream, the play is a dramatization of impersonation. Three young convicts share a cell. Locked into a world of dangerous rivalries, criminals Lefranc and Maurice compete for the attention of the charismatic condemned man, Green-Eyes.
For Genet, the stage offered the most effective literary form for the incantatory expression of dream and ritual. Divinity can be reached both through spirituality and sexuality, which for Genet are not only the same but also the starting point for everything else, and the point to which all returns. His plays are sacred dramas during the course of which the deepest parts of man are moved communally through the common sharing of the theatrical ceremony. Genet’s work is concerned with a search for the Absolute – whether for an Absolute Good or an Absolute Evil is, in the long run, essentially indifferent, and indeed, in those ultimate domains of thought, beyond time and space, to which he eventually leads us, the one becomes indistinguishable from the other. Genet is fundamentally interested in metamorphosis, or the development of the individual in society, his/her transcendence or rite of passage from on mode of living to another. These and many others shared beliefs make Genet’s “Deathwatch” the perfect totemic conduit for this, the first non-devised production from Luciani’s Absolute Theater.
LUCIANI’S ABSOLUTE THEATER PRODUCTION OF
“DEATHWATCH” BY JEAN GENET
FOR RISK-TAKERS ONLY
For Jean Genet, all risk-takers and outlaws are all noble and beautiful. He places artists in this category as he considers them “game players” rather than “role players” for whom he bears no appreciation. To Genet, the artists represent another form of solitude comparable to that experienced by risk-takers, criminals, and traitors.
The no-limits artist proposed by The Absolute Theater is the ultimate risk-taker and the shared principle behind this production of Genet’s “Deathwatch”.
Genet believes that sex is the starting point for everything else, and the point to which all returns. The core belief of The Absolute Theater is the transmutation of sexual energy into creative energy. Using a sensory-somatic approach, The Absolute Theater artist taps and unleashes this non-gender bound energy to directly connect to his/her subconscious, instincts and more primal self.
Genet’s risk-takers submit themselves to degradation – lowering of themselves – in order to achieve solitude, a necessary requirement for their metamorphosis and transcendence to sainthood. The Absolute Theater actor must strip down to his/her bare character before playing the theatrical games and adopting the masks represented in the characters they will play in each performance.
“Evil must explode on the stage, show us naked, leave us distraught if possible and without any other resort than within ourselves.” – J. Genet
Judgment is one of the greatest limitations we all share, as performers, audience and just as members of society. Talking about the theater, Genet states: “I feel I have the strength not only to commit bolder burglaries but also to affront fearlessly the noblest human institutions in order to destroy them.” Genet’s world of reverse morality, his risk-takers and out-of-our-reach logic are the best invitation for us artists and the audience to surrender ourselves to a judgeless theatrical ritual where we can return to a child-like view of the world we live in.
Barbara Myerhoff notes, “When an initiate is stripped of all that he/she knows and understand – the sources of knowledge of self and society – he/she is likely to develop a freer, deeper understanding of the system from which he/she has been removed. Then the moral order is seen from a different perspective and the result may be alienation, social change, and/or individual self-awareness.”
– Guido Luciani