Theatre Studies Resources

Theatre of the Absurd:

"Theatre of the Absurd" was a term coined by Martin Esslin, a Hungarian theatre critic, to describe a new movement in modern theatre that took hold in the 1950's and 1960's. The plays in Theatre of The Absurd put forward the idea championed by philosopher Albert Camus, who believed that all life was meaningless. Read more about Theatre of the Absurd here!

Let's have a look at a wonderfully inventive student documentary that describes the advent of the Absurdist movement in theatre...

Here's part two!!!

​Some of the great writers that wrote absurdist drama include Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov, and Harold Pinter, although these writers were not always comfortable with the label and sometimes preferred to use terms such as "Anti-Theater" or "New Theater".

Absurdist theatre used a strange mix of different theatre styles (Realism, Expressionism, Epic Style) to express the writer's idea that life was indeed futile. Lets have a look at one of the most famous Absurdist plays, "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett. The play can be taken as a tragic comedy where two hobos wait for a person who never comes or something much more meaningful. You decide!  Read more about the play here!

Here is the entire production directed by Beckett himself...have a look.


Try answering some of these questions about "Waiting For Godot":

How are sets used in this production?

How are stagecraft elements used in this type of theatre as opposed to naturalism or realism?

What are the major themes of the play?

How does it reenforce the ideas and themes of Absurdist theatre by illustrating that "life is meaningless"?

How did the actors use their expressive skills to show character? (Give specific examples)

What are the basic differences between Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir (Didi)?

Who is Godot?

Why is the idea of suicide important in the play?

 What is the significance of the moments of silence in the play?

 What is the significance of Estragon’s eating a carrot?

Compare and contrast the roles of Pozzo/Lucky and Vladimir/Estragon.

What is the significance of Lucky’s speech and philosophy?

 What does Vladimir mean when he says “What is terrible is to have thought”?

 What is the Christian imagery in Vladimir and Estragon’s “relationship” with Godot?

 What other aspects of the play can be interpreted as Christian symbols?

What is the significance of Pozzo’s blindness and Lucky’s muteness in Act II?

 Discuss Beckett’s “world view.”

Discuss characteristics of “theatre of the absurd.”

Support the idea that Waiting for Godot is a play based on Christian themes, or support the idea that the play is an anti-Christian play.

Now that you've had a dose of Samuel Beckett, lets have a quick look at Ionesco's "Rhinocerous".

Here's a scene from Ionesco's "Rhinocerous"