Theater director Peter Brook is dead

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His reputation as a theater maker was legendary, he staged Shakespeare as well as contemporary authors and had a decisive influence on European theatre. Now Peter Brook died in Paris at the age of 97.

The theater world will miss him: Peter Brook

Until almost the end, Peter Brook could not be without the theater. In 2019 he made a guest appearance with his production “The Prisoner” at the Ruhr Festival in Recklinghausen. The culture journalist Andreas Wilink described it in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” with the words: “Brook's theater is so unspeakably far removed from what our municipal theatre, the independent scene, the performative, what determines our discourses and aesthetics that one thinks it must have come to us from a sixth continent. Calling it Atlantis would be too much of an attribution.” 

Successful early on

Peter Stephen Paul Brook was born in Britain and has lived and worked in France since 1974. His theatrical language was international, his influence on modern theater is formative to this day. He was born on March 21, 1925 in London to Russian parents who fled their homeland after the October Revolution and settled in England.

Brook revealed his passion for theater while still a student at Oxford. In 1943, at the age of just 18, he staged the production “Faust von Marlowe” with his own theater company. After the Second World War, his career was unstoppable. He staged Shakespeare's famous play “Romeo and Juliet” in Stratford-upon-Avon , his hometown, then became production manager at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. 

He worked in Great Britain, Belgium and France. Then in 1962 Brook was appointed director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon alongside Peter Hall.

Peter Brook at the 2012 Venice Film Festival

The radical interpretation of classical pieces, in which he always looked for a contemporary reference, was his trademark. In 1970 he turned his back on conventional theater and founded the theater research institute “Centre International de Recherches Théâtrales” in Paris. He also developed his own theatrical language, which he called “Orghast”. The focus was on the physical expression of the actors, so that Brook could do without stage decorations and optical effects. Critics repeatedly called Brook the “magic doctor of the theater”. 

From Paris to the world

His plays first appeared at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, and later he went on a world tour with them. Brook was always on the lookout for new approaches. In West Africa he improvised with his actors in village squares. In 1985 he staged the Sanskrit epic “Le Mahabharata”, the Indian version of the prehistory of mankind. The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” wrote at the time that Brook was “inspired by the idea of ​​a world culture”.

Brook  has received several awards, including the European Theater Prize (1989), the Dan David Prize (worth one million US dollars) (2005) and the International Ibsen Prize (2008). In 2019, Brook was honored with the Princess of Asturias Prize for Art in the Arts category. He was Commander of the Order of the British Empire and officer and commander of the French Legion of Honour.

According to the French daily newspaper “Le Monde”, Peter Brook died on Saturday (July 2nd, 2022). The theater world mourns the loss of one of its great geniuses, who had a major influence on the stage in the 20th and 21st centuries.

suc/as (le monde, AFP)