konrad bayer: '... there is an unbridgeable chasm of misunderstanding between us.' kantor: '[there is a] ... PRIMEVAL FORCE OF THE SHOCK TAKING PLACE AT THE MOMENT WHEN OPPOSITE A MAN (THE VIEWER) THERE STOOD FOR THE FIRST TIME A MAN (THE ACTOR) DECEPTIVELY SIMILAR TO US, YET AT THE SAME TIME INFINITELY FOREIGN, BEYOND AN IMPASSABLE BARRIER.'
theatre communicates the failure to communicate. which is theatre and what theater necessarily fails at in the same instance.
the performer stands before the audience and shares his (the performer's) suffering with that audience. he thereby lessens it. but the performer's suffering is all he has that is not at base a lie. to share it is to lessen the only true thing that that human being, the performer, has. it is the only thing he has worth having, and thus the hardest thing to keep and endure. it would take real courage to NOT communicate one's suffering and instead to keep it; to feel it fully. but theatre unavoidably fails to not communicate. the performer will confess and console himself. because theatre communicates the failure to communicate, it fails in its aim - to not communicate. but it must fail. its failure is intrinsic.
if theatre condensed into its basic constituents is one human being stood before another (without geography/biography/text etc.) then the unavoidable fact that he is bodied and therefore languaged means that even to stand still before another is to communicate. an actor's exercise might be to stand before another and attempt to communicate Nothing. hours of standing still before another will not really achieve this task. john cage noticed while in an anechoic chamber that he could not find silence because always the pumping of his blood and the ringing of his nervous system persisted. there is no such thing then, as the co-existance of silence and life. if those two human beings before each other are alive, they must communicate. at base, we can see them and hear them, however minutely. the performer necessarily fails to not express himself, even if all he is expressing is his aliveness.
theatre must aim to express Nothing. it must necessarily fail in this aim. but the attempt, knowingly pointless, is all theatre is.
practically manifested this might not be quite as desolating as it first seems. in konrad bayer's 'idiot', the idiot - 'a' - rails at the man who 'want[s] to force me to see you, ... want[s] to force me to hear you.' he rages at the man who forces communication, and audiences laugh at the fact that 'a' communicates his hatred of the man who forces communication so communicably: 'a' expresses his desire not to express himself with exceptional powers of expression. he fails, and there is humour in his failure to not communicate.
there is a similarly dark humour in the 1923-24 correspondence between artaud and riviere; 'it is my peculiar weakness and my absurdity to want to write no matter what the cost, and to express myself' writes artaud. riviere dryly points out the 'extraordinary precision' with which artaud expresses this self confessed 'impossibility of expressing myself.' he is rendered comically absurd in his desire to express the sense that he cannot express himself. artaud's claim that self-expression is impossible links closely to bayer's point that 'you cannot understand what i say just as i can't understand what you say.' the failure to not express oneself does not suggest that perfect communication of one's suffering to the audience is achieved albeit in the shadow of this basic failure (to not communicate). we fail in every direction. we cannot say exactly what we mean because we mean to say Nothing. so when the performer says that he suffers to the audience, he is not truly understood as there is an 'impassable barrier' between them. the communication is a deception.
for artaud there might have been more of this theatre in his day to day experience of himself in his language that there could ever be in a theatre-room. but even in the theatre-room, or within what might be more usually defined as 'theatre' or the making of a play, practitioners face this same unachievable task of non-expression. billie whitelaw's accounts of her work with beckett reveal an endless effort to rid text, actor and stage of meaning and interest. 'it takes courage to be boring' says beckett to the actor, 'less colour'. it takes courage, one might continue, to not act, to not communicate, to not share anything - to instead allow the 'unbridgeable chasm of misunderstanding' between the performer and the audience to be felt. billie whitelaw never claims to have finished a role, or to have achieved the total absenting of herself from beckett's texts, but she felt that to be the aim. 'get out of the way' she told herself before each performance of footfalls. in beckett and whitelaw's performances, there are still words, bodies and meanings; communication does occur. but there is a struggle against this. there is a failed attempt to not communicate at its base.
the idea of an actor with out meaning behind his text, without biography behind himself, without significance behind his objects but rather unintelligible and closed, not expressing Nothing, is unachievable. but the failed attempt at this goal is as close as we might come to theatre. we make theatre because we cannot achieve the unachievable goal of suffering in silence.