Last updated on 6 August 2017
Peter Stephen Paul Brook, CH, CBE (born 21 March 1925) is an English theatre and film director who has been based in France since the early 1970s. He has won multiple Tony and Emmy Awards, a Laurence Olivier Award, the Praemium Imperiale, and the Prix Italia. He has been called "our greatest living theatre director".
With the Royal Shakespeare Company, Brook directed the first English language production of Marat/Sade in 1964. It transferred to Broadway in 1965 and won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Brook was named Best Director.
Brook was born in the Turnham Green area of Chiswick, London, the second son of Simon Brook and his wife Ida (Jansen), both Jewish immigrants from Latvia. The family home was at 27 Fairfax Road, Turnham Green. His elder brother was the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Alexis Brook (1920-2007). His first cousin was Valentin Pluchek, chief director of the Moscow Satire Theatre. Brook was educated at Westminster School, Gresham's School, and Magdalen College, Oxford.
Bouffes du Nord theatre, Paris
He directed Dr Faustus, his first production, in 1943 at the Torch Theatre in London, followed at the Chanticleer Theatre in 1945 with a revival of The Infernal Machine. In 1947, he went to Stratford-upon-Avon as assistant director on Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost. From 1947 to 1950, he was Director of Productions at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His work there included a highly controversial staging of Strauss' Salome with sets by Salvador Dalí, and an effective re-staging of Puccini's La Boheme using sets dating from 1899. A proliferation of stage and screen work as producer and director followed. Dark of the Moon by Howard Richardson (1948–49), at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, was a much early admired production.
In 1970, with Micheline Rozan, Brook founded the International Centre for Theatre Research, a multinational company of actors, dancers, musicians and others which travelled widely in the Middle East and Africa in the early 1970s. It has been based in Paris at the Bouffes du Nord theatre since 1974. In 2008 he made the decision to resign as artistic director of Bouffes du Nord, handing over to Olivier Mantei and Olivier Poubelle in 2008.
Brook has been influenced by the work of Antonin Artaud and his ideas for his Theatre of Cruelty.
In England, Peter Brook and Charles Marowitz undertook The Theatre of Cruelty Season (1964) at the Royal Shakespeare Company, aiming to explore ways in which Artaud's ideas could be used to find new forms of expression and retrain the performer. The result was a showing of 'works in progress' made up of improvisations and sketches, one of which was the premier of Artaud's The Spurt of Blood.
- – Lee Jamieson, Antonin Artaud: From Theory to Practice, Greenwich Exchange, 2007
His greatest influence, however, was Joan Littlewood. Brook described her as "the most galvanising director in mid-20th century Britain". Brook's work is also inspired by the theories of experimental theatre of Jerzy Grotowski, Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covics and Vsevolod Meyerhold and by the works of G. I. Gurdjieff, Edward Gordon Craig, and Matila Ghyka.
Brook has collaborated with a range of directors, writers and actors during his career, notable examples include actors Paul Scofield and Glenda Jackson; designer Georges Wakhévitch, and writers Ted Hughes and William Golding. Brook first encountered Wakhévitch in London when he saw the production of Jean Cocteau's ballet Le Jeune Homme et la Mort which Wakhévitch designed. Brook declared, he "was convinced that this was the designer for whom I had been waiting."
- A Midsummer Night's Dream with John Kane (Puck), Frances de la Tour (Helena), Ben Kingsley (Demetrius) and Patrick Stewart (Snout) 1970
- Hamlet Prince of Denmark with Paul Scofield (Hamlet), Alec Clunes (Claudius), Diana Wynyard (Gertrude), Mary Ure (Ophelia), Ernest Thesiger (Polonius), Richard Johnson (Laertes), Michael David (Horatio), Richard Pasco (Fortinbras) (plus 27 others) 1955|The Tragedy of Hamlet with Adrian Lester (Hamlet), Jeffery Kissoon (Claudius / Ghost), Natasha Parry (Gertrude), Shantala Shivalingappa (Ophelia), Bruce Myers (Polonius), Rohan Siva (Laertes / Guildenstern), Scott Handy (Horatio) Yoshi Oida (Player King / Rosencrantz) 2000|The Tragedy of Hamlet (TV film) 2002
- King John, Paul Shelving (designer) the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 1945
- King Lear with Paul Scofield (RSC) 1962| King Lear (film) 1971
- Love is my sin, sonnets by William Shakespeare, 2009
- Measure for Measure with John Gielgud (Shakespeare Memorial Theatre) 1950 |Mesure pour mesure, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, 1978|Mesure pour mesure (film) 1979
- La Tempête by William Shakespeare, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière, with Sotigui Kouyaté, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord,1990
- Timon d'Athènes, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord 1974
- Titus Andronicus with Laurence Olivier(Shakespeare Memorial Theatre) 1958
- Warum warum by Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne after Antonin Artaud, Edward Gordon Craig, Charles Dullin, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Motokiyo Zeami and William Shakespeare, 2010
- The Winter's Tale with John Gielgud (Shakespeare Memorial Theatre) 1952
In the mid 1970s, Brook, with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, began work on adapting the Indian epic poem the Mahābhārata into a stage play which was first performed in 1985 and then later into a televised mini series.
In a long article in 1985, The New York Times noted "overwhelming critical acclaim", and that the play "did nothing less than attempt to transform Hindu myth into universalized art, accessible to any culture". However, many postcololonial scholars have challenged the claim to universalism, accusing the play of orientalism. For instance, Gautam Dasgupta writes that, "Brook's Mahabharata falls short of the essential Indianness of the epic by staging predominantly its major incidents and failing to adequately emphasize its coterminous philosophical precepts."
In 2015 Brook returned to the world of Mahabharata with a new Young Vic production, Battlefield in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière and Marie-Hélène Estienne.
In 2005 Brook directed Tierno Bokar, based on the life of the Malian sufi of the same name. The play was adapted for the stage by Marie-Hélène Estienne from a book by Amadou Hampate Ba (translated into English as A Spirit of Tolerance: The Inspiring Life of Tierno Bokar). The book and play detail Bokar's life and message of religious tolerance. Columbia University produced 44 related events, lectures, and workshops that were attended by over 3,200 people throughout the run of Tierno Bokar. Panel discussions focused on topics of religious tolerance and Muslim tradition in West Africa.
In 1951, Brook married actress Natasha Parry. They had two children: Irina, an actress and director, and Simon, a director. Parry died in July 2015, aged 84.
Works with RSC
Other major productions
- 1955 : Hamlet with Paul Scofield
- 1958 : The Visit with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
- 1964 : Marat/Sade
- 1968 : Oedipus with John Gielgud and Irene Worth, adapted by Ted Hughes
- 1971 : Orghast by Ted Hughes
- 1974 : Timon d' Athènes, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1975 : The Iks by Colin Turnbull, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1977 : Ubu aux Bouffes after Alfred Jarry, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1978 : Mesure pour mesure by William Shakespeare, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1979 : La Conférence des oiseaux (The Conference of the Birds) after Farid al-Din Attar, Festival d'Avignon, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1979 : L'Os de Mor Lam by Birago Diop, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1981 : La Tragédie de Carmen after Prosper Mérimée, Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, Viviane Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, New York
- 1981 : La Cerisaie by Anton Chekhov, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1984 : Tchin-Tchin by François Billetdoux, mise en scène with Maurice Bénichou, with Marcello Mastroianni, Théâtre Montparnasse
- 1985 : Le Mahabharata (The Mahabharata) Festival d'Avignon
- 1988 : The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, Majestic Theatre, Brooklyn
- 1989 : Woza Albert! by Percy Mtawa, Mbongeni Ngema et Barney Simon
- 1990 : La Tempête by William Shakespeare, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière, with Sotigui Kouyaté, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1992 : Impressions de Pelléas after Claude Debussy, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
- 1993 : L'Homme Qui after The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
- 1995 : Qui est là after texts by Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, Edward Gordon Craig, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Konstantin Stanislavski and Motokiyo Zeami
- 1995 : Oh les beaux jours by Samuel Beckett
- 1998 : Je suis un phénomène after prodigieuse mémoire by Alexander Luria
- 1998 : Don Giovanni by Mozart, création au 50ème Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence
- 1999 : Le Costume by Can Themba
- 2000 : Hamlet by William Shakespeare, with Adrian Lester
- 2002 : Far Away by Caryl Churchill
- 2002 : La Mort de Krishna extrait du Mahabharata de Vyasa, adaptation Jean-Claude Carrière and Marie-Hélène Estienne
- 2003 : Ta main dans la mienne by Carol Rocamora
- 2004 : Tierno Bokar after Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar-Le sage de Bandiagara by Amadou Hampâté Bâ, with Sotigui Kouyaté
- 2004 : Le Grand Inquisiteur after The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky
- 2006 : Sizwe Banzi est mort by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, Festival d'Avignon
- 2008 : Fragments after Samuel Beckett
- 2009 : Love is my sin sonnets by William Shakespeare
- 2009 : 11 and 12 after Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar-Le Sage de Bandiagara by Amadou Hampâté Bâ
- 2010 : Warum warum by Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne after Antonin Artaud, Edward Gordon Craig, Charles Dullin, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Motokiyo Zeami and William Shakespeare
- 2011 : A Magic Flute an adaptation of the opera The Magic Flute by Mozart. Directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne, Composer Franck Krawczyk to positive reviews at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater of John Jay College.
- 2013 : The Suit after Can Themba's tale. Directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne, Franck Krawczyk.
- 2015 : Battlefield
- 1953, The Beggar's Opera
- 1960, Moderato Cantabile (UK title Seven Days... Seven Nights)
- 1963, Lord of the Flies
- 1967, Ride of the Valkyrie
- 1967, Marat/Sade
- 1968, Tell Me Lies
- 1971, King Lear
- 1979, Meetings with Remarkable Men
- 1979, Mesure pour mesure
- 1982, La Cerisaie
- 1983, La Tragédie de Carmen
- 1989, The Mahabharata
- 2002, The Tragedy of Hamlet (TV)
- Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for Marat/Sade, 1966
- Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1971
- Freiherr von Stein Foundation Shakespeare Award, 1973
- Grand Prix Dominique, 1975
- Brigadier Prize, 1975, for Timon of Athens
- Society of West End Theatre Award, 1983
- Emmy Award, 1984, for La tragédie de Carmen
- Prix Italia, 1984
- Europe Theatre Prize.
- International Emmy Award, 1990, for The Mahabharata
- Praemium Imperiale, 1997
- Dan David prize, 2005
- The Ibsen Award for 2008, first winner of the prize of NOK2.5 mill (approximately £200,000).
- Critics' Circle Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts 2008
- Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1965
- Induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame, 1983
- Honorary DLitt, University of Birmingham, 1990
- Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1991
- Honorary DLitt, University of Strathclyde, 1990
- Honorary DLitt, University of Oxford, 1994
- Officier de l'Ordre de la Légion d'honneur (France), 1995
- Companion of Honour, 1998
- Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur (France), 2013
- In 2011, he was awarded the President's Medal by the British Academy.
- Brook, Peter (1968). The Empty Space. Penguin (2008).
- Brook, Peter (1988). The Shifting Point. UK: Methuen Drama. ISBN 0-413-61280-5.
- Brook, Peter (1991). Le Diable c'est l'ennui.
- Brook, Peter (1993). There Are No Secrets. Methuen Drama.
- Brook, Peter (1995). The Open Door.
- Brook, Peter (1998). Threads of Time: Recollections.
- Brook, Peter (1999). Evoking Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books (2nd Ed 2002).
- Brook, Peter (2013). The Quality of Mercy: Reflections on Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books (23rd April 2013). ISBN 978-1848422612.
- ^ Taylor, Paul (5 September 2008). "Peter Brook: The director who wrote the book". The Independent. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- ^ Aronson, Arnold (25 May 2005). "Peter Brook: A Biography". The New York Times.
- ^ a b Michael Kustow (17 October 2013). Peter Brook: A Biography. A&C Black. pp. 5–7. ISBN 978-1-4088-5228-6. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- ^ Wittenberg, Isca (27 September 2007). "Obituary: Alexis Brook". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
- ^ "Category Archives: Memorial Plaques to Theater Artists". russianlandmarks. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- ^ Chambers, Colin The Continuum Companion To Twentieth Century Theatre (Continuum, 2002, ISBN 0-8264-4959-X) p. 384
- ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (17 December 2008). "Interview: Peter Brook says a long goodbye to his Paris theatre". London: Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
- ^ Brook, Peter (1968). The Empty Space.
- ^ Nicolescu, Basarab; Williams, David (1997). "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought". Contemporary Theatre Review. Overseas Publishers Association. 7: 11–23. doi:10.1080/10486809708568441.
- ^ "Pas de deux" by Michael Holroyd, The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009
- ^ Gibbons, Fiachra "The prayers of Peter Brook", The Guardian, 17 January 2010.
- ^ Brook, Peter. Threads of Time: A Memoir. ISBN 0413733009., 53
- ^ Morgenstern, Joe (17 April 1988). "Jean-Claude Pierre; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind – interview about the stage adaptation". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
- ^ Carriere, Jean-Claude (September 1989). "Jean-Claude Carriere; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind – interview about the stage adaptation". UNESCO Courier. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
- ^ Arts, Margaret Croyden; Margaret Croyden Is A. Frequent Contributor To The; Section, Leisure (1985-08-25). "PETER BROOK TRANSFORMS AN INDIAN EPIC FOR THE STAGE". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-16.
- ^ Dasgupta, Gautam (1991). ""The Mahabharata: Peter Brook's Orientalism"". In Marranca, Bonnie; Gautam, Dasgupta. Interculturalism and Performance: Writings from PAJ. New York: PAJ Publications. p. 81.
- ^ Columbia University, "Record of Events", tiernobokar.columbia.edu; accessed 19 June 2015.
- ^ "Tony Awards". Retrieved 13 February 2008.
- ^ II Europe Theatre Prize / Reasons Europe Theatre Prize
- ^ "British director wins the Ibsen Prize". Norway.org. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
- ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Gets 10 New Members". New York Times. 10 May 1983.
- ^ "The British Academy President's Medal". British Academy. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
- Jamieson, Lee, Antonin Artaud: From Theory to Practice (Greenwich Exchange: London, 2007) Contains practical exercises on Artaud drawn from Brook's Theatre of Cruelty Season at the RSC; ISBN 978-1-871551-98-3
- Freeman, John, 'The Greatest Shows on Earth: World Theatre from Peter Brook to the Sydney Olympics'. Libri: Oxford; ISBN 978-1-90747-154-4
- Heilpern, John, Conference of the Birds: The Story of Peter Brook in Africa, Faber, 1977; ISBN 0-571-10372-3
- Hunt, Albert and Geoffrey Reeves. Peter Brook (Directors in Perspective). Cambridge University Press. (1995)
- Kustow, Michael. Peter Brook: A Biography. Bloomsbury. (2005)
- Moffitt, Dale, Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook (1999)
- Todd, Andrew and Jean-Guy Lecat, The Open Circle: Peter Brook's Theatre Environments (2003)
- Trewin, J. C. Peter Brook: A Biography. (1971)
- Trowbridge, Simon. The Company: A Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oxford: Editions Albert Creed, 2010; ISBN 978-0-9559830-2-3.
- Zohar, Ouriel, Meetings with Peter Brook, Zohar, Tel-Aviv 176 p. (1990)(in Hebrew)
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