Peter Brook, British theater legend, dies at 97

British theater legend Peter Brook, one of the most influential directors of the 20th century, died yesterday at the age of 97, people close to the artist told AFP.

The British-born theater teacher, who spent much of his career in France directing the Parisian theater Les Bouffes du Nord, reinvented the art of theatrical direction by privileging sober forms over traditional settings.

Born in London on March 21, 1925, this son of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants signed his first production at the age of 17.

During his career, he led important institutions such as the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, or the French Les Bouffes du Nord and the International Center for Theater Creations (CICT).

An artist with a background in opera, film and theater criticism, Brook settled in Paris in 1971.

Often compared to Stanislavski (1863-1938) who revolutionized acting, Peter Brook is the theorist of “empty space”, a kind of bible for the theater world, first published in 1968.

“I can take any empty space and call it a stage. Someone crosses that empty space while another watches, and that’s enough to start the theatrical act”: these famous first lines became a “manifesto” for alternative and experimental theater .

His best-known work is “The Mahabharata”, a nine-hour epic of Hindu mythology created in 1985 and adapted to film in 1989.

In the theater he directed actors such as Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles.

After an adventure spanning more than 35 years at the Bouffes du Nord, Peter Brook left the theater’s direction in 2010, aged 85, continuing to sign productions.

“All my life, the only thing that has always counted, and that’s why I work in the theater, is what lives directly in the present,” he told AFP at the time.

The charismatic director took a big hit in 2015 with the death of his wife, actress Natasha Parry. “We tried to negotiate with fate by saying, ‘Bring her back for just 30 seconds…'”

In 2019, Peter Brook was awarded in Spain with the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, as “master of generations”.

“Considered the best theatrical director of the 20th century”, Brook “opened new horizons in contemporary dramaturgy, by contributing decisively to the exchange of knowledge between cultures as different as those of Europe, Africa and Asia”, said the jury, justifying its decision. .

About Hrishikesh Bhardwaj

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