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This BBC article says

Anfield has also been nothing but a theatre of pain for Guardiola since he arrived in England

What is the origin of this phrase? It sounds quite gruesome. I'm aware of phrases like "security theatre" or "political theatre" - which are metaphors for actual theatre - but this sounds like a reference to something specific (besides a Mötley Crüe album).

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    It is not "a phrase". It is just writing. Why do people so often not understand that one can write creatively without using all the usual clichés? That said, it does echo off of things like "theater of the absurd" or "theater of cruelty" (from the French, théâtre de la cruauté) – Lambie Nov 11 at 16:03
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    A Google Ngram search turns up an 1828 example of 'theatre of pain [and tribulation]' in Portugal Or, who is the Lawful Successor to the Throne Being an Enquiry ... By Paulo Midosi. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 11 at 16:05
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    @Lambie you've answered your own question. I'm not disputing that people can create fresh phrases, but they're usually anchored in some common mental image or historical reference. Both "theatre of cruelty" and the "theatre of the absurd" have clear origins in concepts in dramatic criticism (respectively originating in Artaud and Brecht) - that is to say, there is a literal theatrical referent! – Josh Friedlander Nov 11 at 17:06
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    It sounds quite gruesome. Yes, I think that's the point, to poor Mr Guardiola it was a gruesome visit to Anfield. – High Performance Mark Nov 11 at 17:34
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    Manchester United's Old Trafford ground has the nickname the 'Theatre of Dreams'. Though at the moment, perhaps a reawakening is what's needed. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 11 at 18:59