Peter Brook

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Peter Brook

Peter Brook at the Peter Brook: Empty Space Awards, London, in November 2009
BornPeter Stephen Paul Brook
(1925-03-21) 21 March 1925 (age 87)
Chiswick, west London
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Peter Brook

Peter Brook at the Peter Brook: Empty Space Awards, London, in November 2009
BornPeter Stephen Paul Brook
(1925-03-21) 21 March 1925 (age 87)
Chiswick, west London

Peter Stephen Paul Brook CH, CBE (born 21 March 1925) is an English theatre and film director and innovator, who has been based in France since the early 1970s.




Brook was born in London in March 1925, the son of Simon Brook and his wife Ida (Jansen), two Jewish immigrants. He was educated at Westminster School, Gresham's School and Magdalen College, Oxford.

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 StraussSalome with sets by Salvador Dalí and also 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.

In 1951, Brook married the actress Natasha Parry; the couple have a daughter.

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 is now based in Paris at the Bouffes du Nord theatre.[1] 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.[2]


Brook was influenced by the work of Antonin Artaud and his ideas for his Theatre of Cruelty. His major influence however was Joan Littlewood. Brook described her as "the most galvanising director in mid-20th century Britain".

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

Brook's work is also inspired by the theories of experimental theatre of Jerzy Grotowski,[3] Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covics and Vsevolod Meyerhold and by the works of G. I. Gurdjieff,[4] Edward Gordon Craig,[5] and Matila Ghyka.[6]

The Mahabharata

In the mid 1970s,[7] 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[8] and then later into a televised mini series. The production using an international cast caused heated intercultural debate. Negative criticism came from Indian scholar Pradip Bhattacharya who felt that Brook's interpretation "was not a portrayal of a titanic clash between the forces of good and evil, which is the stuff of the epic... [but] the story of the warring progeny of some rustic landlord".[9]

Tierno Bokar

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-Helene 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.[10]


Major productions for the RSC

Other major productions





By Brook

About Brook


  1. ^ Chambers, Colin The Continuum Companion To Twentieth Century Theatre (Continuum, 2002, ISBN 0-8264-4959-X) p. 384
  2. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (2008-12-17). "Interview: Peter Brook says a long goodbye to his Paris theatre". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2008-12-29.  }
  3. ^ Brook, Peter (1968). The Empty Space. 
  4. ^ Nicolescu, Basarab; Williams, David (1997). "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought". Contemporary Theatre Review (Overseas Publishers Association) 7: 11–23. doi:10.1080/10486809708568441. 
  5. ^ "Pas de deux" by Michael Holroyd, The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009
  6. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra The prayers of Peter Brook The Guardian, 17 January 2010.
  7. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (April 17, 1988). "Jean-Claude Pierre; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind - interview about the stage adaptation". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  8. ^ Carriere, Jean-Claude (September 1989). "Jean-Claude Carriere; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind - interview about the stage adaptation". UNESCO Courier. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  9. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip (November 2004). "Negative Criticism". Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  10. ^ Columbia University, "Record of Events"
  11. ^ "Tony Awards". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  12. ^ "British director wins the Ibsen Prize". Retrieved 2008-08-21. [dead link]

External links