Written in 1984 and staged in 1986 as an explosive, conceptual love letter to theater and all of its dramatic associations, Jan Fabre's The Power of Theatrical Madness is the stuff of performance legend. Playing with the timeless duality of truth and fiction in a way not seen before on the stage, Fabre's four-hour production utilized installation, projections, pyrotechnics, dance, music (Wagner and Strauss), and imagery from the work of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Fragonard, to name a few. Upon its debut at The Kitchen in New York City, New York Times theater critic John Rockwell called it troubling, fascinating, alluring, and involving, though he noted it was "built on numbing, often punishing repetition and rituals of psychological and physical cruelty."
The artist Robert Mapplethorpe's subsequent photo book from the performances is now a first-edition collectors' item, which has served to immortalize Fabre's vision to this day. In 2012, Fabre revived the production and asked photographer Willy Vanderperre to photograph the performances. The resulting book, The Power Of Theatrical Madness II, is a beautiful, 250-edition bound and boxed update that juxtaposes studio with live-action photography, seamlessly adhering to Fabre's dualistic vision, while emanating the same tenderness of Mapplethorpe's volume before him.