R.I.P 〓 Peter Brook, British director

2022/07/04

British director Peter Brook passed away on July 2 in Paris, where he had been based. He was 97.

He had a great influence on the world of theater with his direction that removed the superfluous from theater and distilled the drama to its essence. He was known for his versatility on stage, in opera, film, and screenwriting.

Born in Turnham Green, west London in 1925. While a student at Magdalen College, Oxford University, he became the first stage director at the age of 17. 1946 he became the youngest invited director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now the Royal Shakespeare Company).

From 1947 to 1950, he directed productions at the Royal Opera House, including Richard Strauss’s “Salome,” designed by Salvador Dali. In 1952, he made his debut as a film director with the film “The Beggar’s Opera,” produced by actor Laurence Olivier.

From 1962, he directed a series of Shakespeare’s works at the Royal Shakespeare Company, including “King Lear” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He has directed many famous productions with such great actors as John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Paul Scofield, and has won acclaim for his method of getting to the essence of the work. Among his productions, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was particularly popular for its innovative use of a white cube set, trapeze, stilts, and a forest of iron wires.

In 1966, he staged “US,” a critique of the Vietnam War, which drew attention for its innovative style of improvisational debate theater. His avant-garde play “Marat/Sade,” based on the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, swept Broadway in New York and won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play.

In 1968, he published his book “The Empty Space,” in which he wrote: “I can call any empty space a naked stage. A man walks through this empty space, and someone else watches him, and this alone constitutes the act of theater.

In 1971, he founded the International Center for Theatre Research (CIRT) in Paris, which he presided over from 1974 to 2010. The Bœuf du Nord Theater, located behind Paris North Station, has long been deserted, but now that it has become the home ground of CIRT, it has become a hot spot for theater fans from around the world.

In 1985, he staged “The Mahabharata,” based on the long epic poem of ancient India, in a French quarry, and presented it to the audience of many different nationalities. The production featured actors of various nationalities and reexamined the nature of human existence.

In the field of opera, his productions include Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, France, in 1998, and “Peter Brook’s Magic Flute,” an arrangement of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which won the Molière Award in 2011.

His numerous awards include Tony, Emmy, Laurence Olivier, and Italian prizes, among others; he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale of Japan in 1997 and the Princess of Asturias Award in Arts of Spain in 2019.

He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1965 and the Companion of Honor (CH) in 1998.

Photo:Theatre des Bouffes du Nord / Simon Annand


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