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Liitoja Way Cruel

Jon Kaplan 

Experiencing Hillar Liitoja’s homage/deconstruction of theatre force Antonin Artaud is like being set down in the lunatic asylum of Charenton, à la Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade.

As 10 performers whirl, dig, clap and swoop around the Wellington Space, the audience is under increasingly violent and decreasingly rational visual and aural assault, the latter largely from a deafeningly loud degenerating recording of a Bach chorale.

Perhaps Liitoja is trying to give viewers a sense of Artaud’s own madhouse incarceration, or to explore the artist’s difficulty in preaching his concepts or to let us know firsthand what theatre of cruelty is about. Or all three.

But control is the final issue here, and it’s all in Liitoja’s possession. We may descend into a horrific vision of hell but are spared its final moments by the dictatorial hand of the creator.

The artistic concern seems to be to alienate rather than to involve. If that’s Artaudian, it’s also theatrically close to being flayed. I can do without the experience.

Now Magazine
June 6-12, 1996