Fundamental doubts on the nature of representation constitute the essential theme of Romeo Castellucci’s work. The paper analyses how, through very specific scenic devices, Castellucci confronts spectators not only with the power of theatre but also with its tremendous darkness. Exposed to violent sensible impressions and pure vibrations (sounds, odours, ruptures of rhythm), the spectator is forced to see beyond the image and to think the unthinkable.
It is argued that what constitutes the genuine elements of such a theatre is what Deleuze, and before him Artaud and Proust, called “signs.” Signs testify for the power of nature and spirit, working beneath words, gestures, characters, or represented actions. Far from being linked simply to a signifying expression, a content, or an affection of the subject, they are above all a manifestation of forces of a differential of intensity. In that regard, on the one hand, signs are always sensible, already part of a process of actualisation, but, on the other hand, they already point towards the virtual system of relations, the ideal coordinates of a problem. This is the reason why signs are always to be interpreted, and why they put our thought in motion. There is a great danger in this interpretation, however, since signs are deadly not only when they are lost in the distance (they do not touch us, they do not reveal the nature of the problematic) but also when they strike us with full force (they abruptly reveal the unbearable abyss, and lead to madness or death the one they have confronted). The art of Castellucci (originating from Greek tragedy) is precisely to tear spectators apart between these two kinds of signs.
The questions we would like to ask are hence very simple: What is the origin of these signs in which one finds the maximum drama in the least possible information? Why do they manage to make such a deep impression on us? Or, as Castellucci himself puts it about his experience of listening to Schubert, “Where do my tears come from, void of content and so far removed from the sentimentality I loathe?” Paradoxically, isn’t it because signs withhold force that they express their potency, beyond any theatre of representation, any explicit content, and any meaning? Therefore, we believe Castellucci prominently displays the new image of thought Deleuze promotes in all his works: the will no longer to have the choice, to have the spirit forced by sensation, to have the need for thought to go as far as the tremendous darkness, but also to have the need to interpret signs, to elevate ourselves from this darkness to light. While projecting images from Castellucci’s productions (Parsifal, Orphée et Eurydice, Schwanengesang D.744, Go Down Moses, On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God, Ödipus der Tyrann, Human Use of Human Beings), we question to what extent spectators genuinely cannot see without being seen in return, why that which is worth being represented is always the representable; ultimately, we address the main problem Deleuze was obsessed with: the sensible origin of thought.
Castellucci, Romeo. 2001. Les pèlerins de la matière: Théorie et praxis du théâtre. Paris: Les Solitaires intempestifs.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1968. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.
—. 1970. Proust et les signes. 2nd ed. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.
Tackels, Bruno. 2005. Les Castellucci. Paris : Les Solitaires intempestifs.