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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peter Brook

Peter Brook.JPG
Brook in November 2009
Born (1925-03-21) 21 March 1925 (age 97)
Years active1943–present
(m. 1951; died 2015)
ChildrenIrina Brook
Simon Brook

Peter Stephen Paul Brook[1] CH CBE (born 21 March 1925[1]) 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.[2] He has been called "our greatest living theatre director".[3]

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.[2]

He was also awarded India's fourth highest civilian honor Padma Shri in 2021 for his valuable contributions towards art.[4]

Early life

Brook was born in the Bedford Park area of Chiswick, London, the second son of Simon Brook and his wife Ida (Jansen), both Lithuanian Jewish immigrants from Latvia.[5][6][7] The family home was at 27 Fairfax Road, Turnham Green.[7] His elder brother was the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Alexis Brook (1920-2007).[8] His first cousin was Valentin Pluchek, chief director of the Moscow Satire Theatre.[9] Brook was educated at Westminster School, Gresham's School, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Brooks was excused from military service in World War II due to childhood illness.[10]


Bouffes du Nord theatre, Paris
Bouffes du Nord theatre, Paris

Brook 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 in London. His work there included a highly controversial staging of Richard Strauss's Salome with sets by Salvador Dalí, and an effective re-staging of Puccini's La bohème 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 an early, much admired production.[citation needed]

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.[11] He announced in 2008 that he would resign as artistic director of Bouffes du Nord, beginning that year a three-year handover to Olivier Mantei and Olivier Poubelle.[12]


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,[13] Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covics and Vsevolod Meyerhold and by the works of G. I. Gurdjieff,[14] Edward Gordon Craig,[15] and Matila Ghyka.[16]


Brook has collaborated with a range of directors, writers and actors during his career, notable examples include actors Paul Scofield and Glenda Jackson; designers Georges Wakhévitch and Sally Jacobs, 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 that he "was convinced that this was the designer for whom I had been waiting".[17]


The Mahabharata

In the mid-1970s,[18] 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[19] 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".[20] 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."[21]

In 2015, Brook returned to the world of The Mahabharata with a new Young Vic production, Battlefield in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière and Marie-Hélène Estienne.

Tierno Bokar

In 2005, Brook directed Tierno Bokar, based on the life of the Malian sufi of the same name.[2] 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.[22]

Personal life

In 1951, Brook married actress Natasha Parry. They had two children: Irina, an actress and director, and Simon, a director. Parry died of a stroke in July 2015, aged 84.[23]


Works with RSC

Other major productions





  • 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. ISBN 978-1-55936-102-6.
  • Brook, Peter (1998). Threads of Time: Recollections. ISBN 978-1-887178-35-8.
  • Brook, Peter (1999). Evoking Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books (2nd Ed 2002).
  • Brook, Peter (23 April 2013). The Quality of Mercy: Reflections on Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books. ISBN 978-1-84842-261-2.
  • Brook, Peter (14 September 2017). Tip of The Tongue: Reflections on Language and Meaning. Nick Hern Books. ISBN 978-1-84842-672-6.
  • Brook, Peter (24 October 2019). Playing by Ear: Reflections on Sound and Music. Nick Hern Books. ISBN 978-1-84842-831-7.


  1. ^ a b c "Peter Brook". Encyclopedia Britannica (online ed.). 17 March 2022. Archived from the original on 18 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Peter Brook: all the world's his stage". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  3. ^ Taylor, Paul (5 September 2008). "Peter Brook: The director who wrote the book". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Padma Awards 2021: Full list of Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri recipients". India Today. 8 November 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  5. ^ Webb. "Peter Brook".
  6. ^ Aronson, Arnold (25 May 2005). "Peter Brook: A Biography". The New York Times.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Wittenberg, Isca (27 September 2007). "Obituary: Alexis Brook". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Category Archives: Memorial Plaques to Theater Artists". russianlandmarks. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  10. ^ Peter Brook Collection Archives Hub. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  11. ^ Chambers, Colin The Continuum Companion To Twentieth Century Theatre (Continuum, 2002, ISBN 0-8264-4959-X) p. 384
  12. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (17 December 2008). "Interview: Peter Brook says a long goodbye to his Paris theatre". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  13. ^ Brook, Peter (1968). The Empty Space. [New York] Discus Books.
  14. ^ Nicolescu, Basarab; Williams, David (1997). "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought". Contemporary Theatre Review. Overseas Publishers Association. 7: 11–23. doi:10.1080/10486809708568441. Archived from the original on 23 September 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  15. ^ "Pas de deux" by Michael Holroyd, The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009
  16. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra "The prayers of Peter Brook", The Guardian, 17 January 2010.
  17. ^ Brook, Peter (1999). Threads of Time: A Memoir. ISBN 0-413-73300-9., 53
  18. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (17 April 1988). "Jean-Claude Pierre; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind – interview about the stage adaptation". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Margaret Croyden (25 August 1985). "Peter Brook transforms an Indian epic for the stage". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  21. ^ Dasgupta, Gautam (1991). ""The Mahabharata: Peter Brook's Orientalism"". In Marranca, Bonnie; Gautam, Dasgupta (eds.). Interculturalism and Performance: Writings from PAJ. New York: PAJ Publications. p. 81.
  22. ^ Columbia University, "Record of Events",; accessed 19 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Natasha Parry obituary". The Guardian. 26 July 2015.
  24. ^ Rosenthal, Daniel. "You've all been wonderful, darlings". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  25. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (7 July 2011). "A Streamlined 'Magic Flute,' Reimagined by Peter Brook". The New York Times.
  26. ^ Green, Jesse (26 September 2019). "Review: Peter Brook Asks the Ultimate Question in ‘Why?’". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Tony Awards". Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  28. ^ II Europe Theatre Prize / Reasons Europe Theatre Prize
  29. ^ "British director wins the Ibsen Prize". Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
  30. ^ "No. 43529". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1964. pp. 1–36.
  31. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Gets 10 New Members". The New York Times. 10 May 1983.
  32. ^ AFP. "563 décorés de la Légion d'honneur pour Pâques". Libération (in French). Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  33. ^ "The British Academy President's Medal". British Academy. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  34. ^ IT, Desarrollado con webControl CMS por Intermark. "Peter Brook – Premiados – Premios Princesa de Asturias". Fundación Princesa de Asturias.
  35. ^ The Hindu Net Desk (25 January 2021). "List of Padma awardees — 2021". The Hindu – via

Further reading

  • 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)

External links

This page was last edited on 26 May 2022, at 01:45
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