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Who was Peter Brook? Tributes pour in as prominent film and theatre director passes away at 97

Popular film and theater director Peter Brook recently passed away on July 2 at the age of 97. He was famous for his theater work on Broadway alongside experimental productions. The news was confirmed by his publisher on July 3.

Born on March 21, 1925, Peter Brook was the recipient of several accolades, including the Tony and Emmy Awards, a Laurence Olivier Award, the Japanese Praemium Imperiale, and the Prix Italia. He has been named the greatest living theater director as well and had also been a resident of Paris since the 1970s.

Peter Brook, visionary, provocateur, prophet, trickster & friend with the bluest eyes I ever saw, has left the house.“…take an empty space, call it a bare stage. A person walks across whilst someone else is watching them… all that’s needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”

“A stage space has 2 rules – 1) Anything can happen. 2) Something must happen.”Peter Brook taught us well, both in life and in theatre.Go well, master. https://t.co/j5jmf0T5FB


Everything known about Peter Brook

Peter Brook was born to Simon Brook and Ida Jansen, and they used to live at 27 Fairfax Road, Turnham Green. He finished his education at Westminster School, Gresham’s School, and Magdalen College, Oxford. He was excused from military service during World War II due to an illness.

Peter Brook directed several successful plays in his career (Image via Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Peter Brook directed several successful plays in his career (Image via Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Brook’s first production was Dr Faustus at the Torch Theatre in London in 1943. This was followed by the revival of The Infernal Machine at the Chanticleer Theatre in 1945. He was an assistant director for Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1947 and was Director of Productions at London’s Royal Opera House from 1947 to 1950.

Peter then founded the International Centre for Theatre Research with Micheline Rozan in 1970. Based in Paris since 1974, it was a multinational company of actors, dancers, and musicians who traveled in the Middle East and Africa. However, Peter resigned as the artistic director in 2008.

Antoni Artaud and Joan Littlewood were his biggest influences. He was also influenced by Jerzy Grotowski, Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covis, Gurdjieff, and others.

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He even collaborated with several directors, writers, and actors like Paul Scofield, Glenda Jackson, Ted Hughes, William Golding, and Georges Wakhevitch. He planned to make the Indian epic poem Mahabharata into a stage play during the mid-1970s. It was first performed in 1985 and was eventually developed into a television miniseries.

Brook’s Mahabharata received a mixed response, and post-colonial scholars accused it of orientalism. He adapted it into a new play titled Battlefield in 2015 by collaborating with Jean-Claude Carriere and Marie-Helene Estienne.

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He became a familiar name after directing Tierno Bokar in 2005. Based on the life of the Malian Sufi of the same name, it focused on Bokar’s life and message of religious tolerance. A large number of events, lectures, and workshops were organized by Columbia University throughout the run of the play.


Netizens pay tribute on Twitter

Peter Brook gained recognition in all these years for his flawless work in directing plays. Twitter was flooded with tributes when people heard about his death:

No one shaped world theatre more than Peter Brook. His ideas, practice and vision influenced generations. His Mahabharata at Tramway was one of the great Scottish theatre events of all time. What a life, what a legacy. Vale. twitter.com/guardiancultur…

Peter Brook has left us. I met Peter when he came to see my play The Jumper Factory at The Young Vic a few years ago and was lucky enough to meet him. Peter gave me life changing advice about life and Art. “The only question you have to ask is how am I useful?”. Changed my life.

The adaptation of a XXth century literature classic, Glenda Jackson’s breakthrough, a very riveting Shakespeare’s screen rendition (with a gigantic Scofield), a spectacular reprise of one of his most legendary theatrical triumphs. Some of Stage Titan Peter Brook film successes https://t.co/pTjLZX1QA0

“I can take any empty space and call it a stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” Peter Brook. Kein Theater mehr. Nach fast einem Jahrhundert. lemonde.fr/disparitions/a…

“Empty space, one person in it – that’s all it takes to have a theater!” Peter Brook – 1925/2022 ❤️‍🩹#RestInPeace 🥗 https://t.co/b8f9z9gOI0

R.I.P. PETER BROOK — Knew he was a glorious writer on theater, but skimming obits for him, I keep finding wonderful *interview* quotes — say, this from the @NYT: “I am ready to disclaim my opinion, even of yesterday, even of 10 minutes ago, because all opinions are relative.” https://t.co/5hljzrQgDw

R.I.P. PETER BROOK, arguably the most brilliant theater mind of the 20th Century. “The only thing that truly concerns me,” he told me in a 1984 interview, “is what happens now, in the moment, whenever that moment is taking place.”npr.org/2022/07/03/344…

The blink-and-you-miss-it online placement of news about Peter Brook’s death suggests an icon who retired eons ago, not one who persisted and persisted and persisted as a theatermaker and a theatergoer.

He is survived by his two children – Irina Brook and Simon Brook. He was married to Natasha Parry, who died in July 2015.


Edited by Soumyadyuti Ghosh



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