1st Edition

Bakhtin and Theatre Dialogues with Stanislavski, Meyerhold and Grotowski

By Dick Mccaw Copyright 2016
    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    What did Bakhtin think about the theatre? That it was outdated? That is ‘stopped being a serious genre’ after Shakespeare? Could a thinker to whose work ideas of theatricality, visuality, and embodied activity were so central really have nothing to say about theatrical practice?

    Bakhtin and Theatre is the first book to explore the relation between Bakhtin’s ideas and the theatre practice of his time.  In that time, Stanislavsky co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898 and continued to develop his ideas about theatre until his death in 1938. Stanislavsky’s pupil Meyerhold embraced the Russian Revolution and created some stunningly revolutionary productions in the 1920s, breaking with the realism of his former teacher. Less than twenty years after Stanislavsky’s death and Meyerhold’s assassination, a young student called Grotowski was studying in Moscow, soon to break the mould with his Poor Theatre. All three directors challenged the prevailing notion of theatre, drawing on, disagreeing with and challenging each other’s ideas. Bakhtin’s early writings about action, character and authorship provide a revealing framework for understanding this dialogue between these three masters of Twentieth Century theatre.



    Methodology: questions, double-faced images and dialogue


    Time and Space, Body and Image

    Character and Author, Body and Image

    Realism and Revolution

    Art and Life

    How This Book Works

    Part I

    Chapter 1 –Bakhtin and Theatre


    i. Early Manuscripts

    ii. The Writings of the Bakhtin Circle

    iii. Dostoevsky

    iv Dialogue in the Novel and in Theatre

    v Time, Space and the Chronotope in the Novel and in Theatre

    vi. Carnival and Theatre

    vii Last Thoughts and Reflections

    Bakhtin and Theatre – Some Conclusions

    Part II

    Introduction to Part II

    Texts and Contexts

    Bakhtin and Stanislavsky as Thinkers

    Concepts in Bakhtin’s Early Philosophy



    Act and Action


    I and Other

    Chapter 2 – Time and Space in Novel and Theatre

    Acting from the Centre

    Experiencing not Thinking

    Given and Created

    Given Circumstances

    Value, Sense, Meaning

    Acts and Tasks

    Time and Timing in Performance

    Theatrical Space



    Chapter 3 – Psychophysical Acting


    Bakhtin’s Body

    Face to Face

    I and other in Space

    To Know the Body, To Value the Body

    The Value of the Human Body in History

    Stanislavsky’s Resistant Body

    Internal and External Images

    Bakhtin, Stanislavsky and Psychology

    Creativity and the subconscious


    Chapter 4 – The Actor, Author and Hero

    I and other become Author and Hero

    Being, Playing and Imaging

    Creating the Image of the Character

    Who Authors the Character – Writer, Director or Actor?

    Stanislavsky, the Playwright and the Play

    Working with the Play Script

    The Director

    The ‘Double Life’ in Bakhtin and Stanislavsky’s Theory

    Conclusion: Image and Human Being


    Chapter 5 – Meyerhold’s Revolution in Theatre


    i. Meyerhold and Stanislavsky

    ii. A Dialogue about Symbolism

    iii A Dialogue about Physical Action

    ‘a plasticity which does not correspond to the words’

    The actor’s work on a role

    iv Training the Actor’s Body

    ‘The actor’s art is the creation of plastic forms in space’

    ‘the route to image and feeling must begin with motion’

    ‘an actor whose natural abilities have been developed by systematic training’

    Training, Training, Training

    v A Dialogue About the Traditions of Popular Theatre

    vi The Grotesque

    vii Commedia, The Mask and the Emploi

    viii A Theatre without footlights

    Chapter 6

    Outline of a Career

    Grotowski, Stanislavsky, Meyerhold and Bakhtin


    Grotowski’s dialogues with the public

    Grotowski’s dialogue with actors

    The Development of Grotowski’s Actor Training

    In search of a method

    The way toward a Poor Theatre

    Overview of Grotowski’s Theatre of Productions (1959 – 1969)

    Staging the Dialogue between Actor and Audience

    Confronting and not illustrating the play


    The Actor’s Score – in search of true signs

    The Actor’s Body

    Holiday, Carnival, Meeting – Beyond Theatre

    From Acting to Action

    From Theatre to Meeting




    Dick McCaw is Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Royal Holloway, University of London.

    "At last, a landmark book that stitches Bakhtin unapologetically into the performing arts. Bakhtin loved novels best—but this spectacular study shows how keen and creative his thought can be when theatre is its site."

    - Caryl Emerson, Princeton University, USA

     "A lucid and stimulating book that does what Bakhtin himself failed to do: bring his theoretical positions into dialogue with the theatre practice of his contemporaries."

    - Franc Chamberlain, University of Huddersfield, UK