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Theater legend Peter Brook dies at 97

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(Paris) The British Peter Brook, one of the most influential theater legend and director of the twentieth centuryAnd century, who died Saturday at the age of 97, the AFP learned on Sunday from his entourage, confirming information from the newspaper Le Monde.

Updated yesterday at 6:34 pm

Frog MOUSSAOUI
French media agency

The master of theater, born in Great Britain, but who spent most of his career in France, at the helm of his Parisian theater of the Bouffes du Nord, had reinvented the art of staging by favoring refined forms with traditional decorations.

It was in the 1960s, after dozens of hits, including numerous Shakespeare plays, and after directing the greatest – from Laurence Olivier to Orson Welles – that this son of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants began his experimental period.

He created with the Royal Shakespeare Company in King Lear stripped (1962), and above all his surprising production of Dream about a summer night (1970) in a gym in the shape of a white cube: it is the theory of “empty space” that will definitively mark contemporary theater.

Published for the first time in book form in 1968, it gives free rein to the public’s imagination and is considered a “bible” for lovers of avant-garde theater. “I can take any empty space and call it a stage” is one of his famous phrases.


PHOTO LIONEL BONAVENTURE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVE

Pietro Ruscello

“The visionary, the provocateur, the prophet, the trickster and the blue-eyed friend I’ve ever seen, has left the house,” fellow director and actor Simon McBurney tweeted Sunday.

The Royal Shakespeare Company said it was “deeply saddened by the news of the visionary director’s death”, greeting its “more than 20 years of art and experimentation” within the troupe.

His Marat / Sade captivated London and New York and earned him a Tony Award in 1966.

In the early 1970s he moved to France where he founded the “International Theater Research Center” at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord.

Monumental pieces

He stages monumental works fueled by exoticism, with actors from different cultures, and will film all over the world, often in invisible places: from African villages to the streets of the Bronx passing through the Parisian suburbs.


PHOTO GEORGES GOBET, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVE

Peter Brook directs actors Romane Bohringer and Ken Higelin during rehearsals for Storm by William Shakespeare during the Avignon Festival in July 1991.

His most famous piece is The Mahabharataa nine-hour epic from Hindu mythology (1985), which premiered at the Avignon Film Festival and which was adapted for film in 1989.

In the 90s, when he triumphed in the UK with Oh good daysby Samuel Beckett, critics hail him as “the best director London doesn’t have”.

After an adventure of over 35 years in the Bouffes du Nord, Peter Brook left the direction of the theater in 2010 at the age of 85, while continuing to stage productions there until recently.

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed “an extraordinary director who extracted the quintessence of theater and pushed it outside its three walls,” according to a press release from the French presidency.

In 2019, Peter Brook pays tribute to How come? to Meyerhold, a great Russian figure of the theater and victim of the Stalinist purges, recalling a quote from him: “The theater is a dangerous weapon”.

He has always refused to do committed theater, preferring theater that invites reflection or spirituality, both with Shakespearean works and with adaptations such as Carmen.

“Some reporters come and ask me, ‘So you think you can change the world?’ That makes me laugh. I’ve never had that claim, it’s ridiculous, “the man who three years earlier had been shaken by the death of his wife, actress Natasha Parry, told AFP in 2018.

In addition to his faithful collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, he leaves two children, director Simon Brook and theater director Irina Brook.

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