Epic, Postmodern, and Absurdist Theatre

     Love and Information by Caryl Churchill is a thought-provoking play that evolves around real life situations and themes that individuals would face throughout their lifetime. Rather than having a linear storyline, the play spontaneously bounces from one scene to the next with different characters. Each scene has it’s own premise that emphasizes and raises questions about morality, justification, and purpose. Churchill’s unique layout of this play is analogous to postmodern, epic, and absurdist theatre, which gives the audience a lot to think about.

Postmodern plays primarily focus on questioning the norms of modern society; rather than centering on a topic to raise a point, the plays focus on fostering questions about them. These plays are often performed as real life events to make them as true-to-life as possible, but can sometimes involve some surrealism. An instance of this play relating to postmodernism is in the “Message” scene:

“If enough people did it because they don’t really feel terror do they, they don’t live in terror, if they lived in terror they’d be getting the message.
Would you do it yourself?
I don’t think I would, no.
Because you’re scared?
I don’t think that message is what I want to say.” (20).

In this scene, Caryl is touching on the sensitive topic of terrorism. Instead of bashing terrorism or supporting it, he creates a scenario where two individuals debate over the topic themselves. He raises the question of whether terrorism is the best way to send a message to society. The question is for the audience to answer.

Epic theatre is similar to postmodern theatre in which both require the audience to analytically view the events on stage. The primary focus of Epic theatre is to ensure that the audience rationally self-reflects on the topics discussed in the play. An example of this could be seen in the “God’s Voice” Scene:

“They came into me.
The words.
What God said.
So you didn’t exactly hear…?
In my heart.
So how does that work then?
I was praying about it.” (29).

This scene is speaking particularly to theists—someone who believes in a God. Many theists, rather they be Christian, Catholic, or Muslim, often pray to a God and believe that God speaks to them in an unexplainable way. This scene touched on that phenomenon, and in response, theist audience members were expected to reflect on the times they’ve connected with God or reflect on conversations they’ve had with others who’ve done so. Some Postmodern theatre is also relevant. This scene could provoke theist audience members to question or redefine their communication experiences with God and possibly give them a better way to describe the experience to those who’ve never had it.
Lastly, Absurdist theatre is pertinent all throughout this play. Albert Camus’—a French philosopher who contributed to the absurdist movement—description for Absurdist theatre was when a play depicted a “man’s quest for meaning and truth as a futile endeavor.” In other words, Absurdist plays disprove someone’s ambition to find meaning in the universe because such meaning doesn’t exist. The play doesn’t have many particular instances that gratify absurdism because the entire play portrays human’s actions that don’t have a basis; humans simply do these things because they’re human, they don’t know why. The best example that I could get of Caryl signifying absurdism is in the “Irrational “scene:

“Is an irrational number real?
It’s real to me.
But can you have an irrational number of oranges?
Not as things stand, no.
I’m not comfortable with the whole idea.
There was someone called Hippasus in Greek times who found out about the diagonal of a square and they drowned him because no one wanted to know things like that.
Like what?

Numbers that make you uncomfortable and don’t relate to oranges.” (16).
Irrational numbers aren’t real numbers, but one character claims that it’s “real” to him. This is relatable to absurdist humour, which usually involves nonsense by a character. The core of absurdism could be seen here because one character is frustratingly trying to understand the purpose of their being irrational number’s, but quickly becomes “uncomfortable” with the idea because humans don’t know the reason why anything is irrational, we simply know that it’s just out of the norm. Caryl then uses an innuendo by telling that character that people, who were “uncomfortable” with the universe being irrational, killed someone who brought that topic up. He’s suggestively saying that people should just learn to live with things being irrational because it’s beyond human comprehension.


Does Churchill accurately depict conversations that individuals would have?

Does having different characters in every scene affect the audience’s connection with the characters?

Do you think Beltrot Brecht had an influence on this play?