Existentialism as a philosophy is concerned with the meaning of our existence and the non- existence of a spiritual figure to mould our being. This philosophy was created as early the early 1900s, but mid 20th Century Philosophers Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre are seen as the fathers the movement. Existentialism can be seen as a major influence on the Theatre of the Absurd as it is uses theatrical effects in order to show the way in which man uses endless and futile ways to distract from the meaninglessness of his existence.
Other themes that are evident in absurd plays are that of the devaluation of language and our entrapment in an Absurd existence. Devaluation of Language As characters who speak completely different languages, we are unable to communicate verbally and are forced to using gestures and appropriate sounds. The language barrier causes a lot of frustration and exhaustion and at many times conflict between our two characters because no matter how important or trivial the words that the person is saying- they serve no purpose as neither understands the other.
After a short fight, my character begins to rant in her language, leaving Niina’s character confused and unsure of what to do. She then retreats back to her place on the opposite part of the ‘island’ whilst I continue to express my frustration. The space between us symbolises our aloneness at being able to communicate directly with each other. Entrapment in an Absurd Existence As two people who do not understand each other and are stranded on an island there is not much that can be done. As a means to fill our boredom my character started to hum a tune and was slowly but surely joined by my companion with a drum beat that she had added.
Niina’s character who is very pessimistic comes to her senses and realises the meaninglessness of the entire exercise. This drives her to attempt to kill herself. An absurd existence is one which is full of meaningless distractions and once a person realises this they come into conflict with their existence and is driven towards two different choices: To free oneself from the meaninglessness- which Niina’s character attempted to do, or to hope for change or for the discovery of meaning like my character.
We are adrift in a world devoid of purpose As our characters use diversions to avoid facing the meaninglessness of our lives, like how our two characters play a game to pass the time. But as time goes on, Niina’s character voices her frustration of the situation: that, having already been stranded for some time, we are not likely to be rescued. This presents the question of whether there is a point of living when there is neither future ahead nor purpose for you. This is another contributing reason as to why Niina’s character attempts to kill her self. My character has a different way of viewing this situation as she has held on to her faith to give her purpose.
She has also found purpose in trying to keep her companion from killing herself. The island improvisation reflected the strong themes of Existentialism in Absurd Theatre through the staging of the conflict created between our two conflicting characters. Unable to linguistically understand each other, language as a tool of communication becomes useless and we are forced use a small game in order to distract ourselves from the reality of the situation and the meaninglessness of our existence on an island where we have no purpose. ————————————————-
Courtney from Study Moose
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