Peter Brook, the theater giant of our time, dies at 97

Peter Brook, the theater giant of our time, dies at 97

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The party is over, and Peter Brook, like the spirits in The Tempest, has dissolved in the air, the slight air. Worth, paraphrased, the words of the great magician Prospero in William Shakespeare’s twilight play to fire another great magician, this one from the scene, who leaves us this Sunday at the age of 97, the newspaper has reported Le Monde, creating a desolate emptiness around him. After the death of Peter Brook, as when Prince Hamlet died, the rest can only be silence.

Renovator of the scene, unrepeatable giant of the theater of our time, which in his case extends from the middle of the 20th century until now, as he continued to stage productions, Brook is now as synonymous with dramatic art as Shakespeare himself, whose work it was one of the beacons of his life and of which he offered unforgettable rereadings.

Everything was overwhelmingly wonderful and exceptional at Brook, from the marathon performances to his unforgettable Mahabharata (1987), the 9-hour version of the Hindu epic poem that he staged with as much epic as the original in what constitutes one of the milestones of world theater of all time, and that we were able to enjoy in Spain, until the small introductory talk that offered just a year ago at the Teatre Lliure in Barcelona during the Grec festival when he went on stage, already in a wheelchair, to present his show tempestproject, his version of Shakespeare’s classic.

Among his most remembered creations, the productions of Shakespeare, of course, Hamlet, Lear, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, A Midsummer Night’s Dreamor his staging of Marat / Sade by Peter Weiss in 1964.

Writer of several essays that are of reference in the scenic art, such as the señero empty space, film director with filming of his plays and productions purely for the screen such as moderately cantabile (1960), on the novel by Marguerite Duras, with Jeanne Moreau and Jean Paul Belmondo, and her 1963 version of Lord of the Flies, by William Golding; a humanist and Renaissance man, with a strong character, interested in Sufism and in the Russian writer George Gurdjieff, of whom he also adapted his works for the cinema. Meetings with notable men (1979), with Terence Stamp, was a cosmopolitan who traveled the world collecting and revaluing material from other cultures for his creations. Among his main collaborators, the writer Jean-Claude Carrière, essential in many of his projects.

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Born in London in 1925, Brook, who was director of productions at the Royal Opera House and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), where he directed a number of productions (with actors such as John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Glenda Jackson ), lived in France since the 1970s (he had worked with Jean-Louis Barrault), where he founded his famous Bouffes du Nord theater in Paris, a mecca for experimentation and theatrical excellence, where he developed his art for half a century.

His works include works by virtually all the great playwrights, including Chekhov, Genet and Beckett, operas, creations from non-theatrical texts, such as the works of the neurologist Oliver Sacks, or taken from the African world, including simple little stories from the popular world elevated by his wand to the category of theatrical goldsmith jewelry.

Influenced at different stages of his career by Artaud, Brecht, Grotowski, Meyerhold or Craig, Brook advanced towards a distilled and essential theater in which the gesture acquired a magical potentiality. In his last stages, he considered virtue the reduction of space in a way that seemed to also compress the time of the representation, causing an effect of conceptual grandeur that had something of quantum physics. Holder of numerous international awards, including the Legion of Honor and the Order of the British Empire, Peter Brook received the Prince of Asturias for the Arts in 2019. Married to Natasha Parry, who died in 2015, he was the father of two children.

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