Below are diagrams outlining the performance space and actor-audience relationship for three 20th century non-naturalistic theatre styles: Jerzy Grotowski’s Poor Theatre, Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre, and Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty.
Grotowski’s Poor Theatre was performed in non-traditional spaces such as abandoned warehouses and factories. There was no purpose-built platform known as the stage. Grotowski placed spectators in and around the action of the performers, referring to this process as a “communion” between the actor and audience.
Brecht’s Epic Theatre was mostly perfected by the actors in his own theatre company, the Berliner Ensemble. The company’s theatre building still stands today, with a recognisably traditional proscenium arch stage and an audience placed on one side of the performance space.
Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty deliberately positioned the spectators in the centre of the performance space, with the action happening all around them. Wanting to place the spectators in a weaker position than the performers, he aimed to “entrap” the audience in the middle. While spectators sat on swivel chairs turning in all directions, the performers focused on acting in the four corners of the outer area.