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Grotesque Inversions On Stage, In Film: Horrid Yet Curious, Fascinating Yet Alarming

Grotesque theatre is not a genre but a style of theatre made up of many strands which has been employed over many centuries beginning in Ancient Greece, particularly with Aristophanes and moving through time to the present. François Rabelais recognised the grotesque in Church Feasts, Festivals, Guild performances, sotties and farces. This thesis investigates through theatre and film the seven strands Bakhtin identifies: grotesque image, abusive language, grotesque madness, scatalogical humour, light, reversals and the lower bodily stratum (1984, pp. 24-41). In particular the thesis traces inversions in both theatre and film. These two mediums have been selected to compare and contrast the use of the grotesque in each, as they share two strong commonalities in acting and the requirement of scripts. Each chapter of this thesis deals with a script, and the last two chapters incorporate the use of a movie for contrast. The Introduction introduces the grotesque, offering an explanation of the styles of the grotesque as defined by Mikhail Bakhtin and Philip Thomson. Examples are shown in pictures. Chapter one explores two plays written by Eugene Ionesco: Amedée or How to Get Rid of It, and Rhinoceros. Chapter two moves back through time to Aristophanes' Lysistrata and explores the power women's bodies might have when men are in need. The third chapter investigates The Roaring Girl, written by Middleton and Dekker. This delves into the life of the character Moll Cutpurse and shows why Moll chose to dress as a man. Chapters four and five deal with the fantasy and the gothic elements in Frankenstein and Dracula respectively: focusing on bodily transformations; as well as the treatment of the monster and Dracula by society, and their treatment in turn of society. The grotesque is an intriguing style of theatre because it deals essentially with human nature and the human body in its imperfect and ever-changing form. The grotesque therefore lends itself to horror, comedy and exaggeration making it a style which does not have to be limited by strict parameters. The grotesque can be successfully woven into other genres such as the gothic or the absurd giving it even greater dimensions in storytelling, staging and special effects. Human beings are often torn between the gory or visually disturbing whilst needing the safety of the normal and acceptable. The grotesque offers both, which can make a scintillating piece of entertainment by fulfilling our needs at both ends of the emotional spectrum. Grotesque theatre therefore by its very nature is a style which will continue to exist so long as it keeps its patrons in suspense.
Type of thesis
Dellow, D. R. (2012). Grotesque Inversions On Stage, In Film: Horrid Yet Curious, Fascinating Yet Alarming (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7558
University of Waikato
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