Peter Brook

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For the 20th century politician, see Peter Brooke. For the 17th century politician, see Peter Brooke (MP). For another similar name, see Peter Brooks (disambiguation).
Peter Brook
Peter Brook.JPG
Peter Brook at the Peter Brook: Empty Space Awards, London, in November 2009
Born Peter Stephen Paul Brook
(1925-03-21) 21 March 1925 (age 90)
Chiswick, London, England, UK
Occupation Director

Peter Stephen Paul Brook CH, CBE (born 21 March 1925) is an English theatre and film director who has been based in France since the early 1970s.



Brook was born in London in March 1925, the son of Simon Brook and his wife Ida (Jansen), two Jewish immigrants from Latvia.[1] He was educated at Westminster School, Gresham's School and Magdalen College, Oxford.

He 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, Covent Garden. His work there included a highly controversial staging of Strauss' Salome with sets by Salvador Dalí and also an effective re-staging of Puccini's La Boheme 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 a much early admired production.

In 1951, Brook married the actress Natasha Parry; the couple have a son and a daughter.

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 is now based in Paris at the Bouffes du Nord theatre.[2] In 2008 he made the decision to resign as artistic director of Bouffes du Nord, handing over to Olivier Mantei and Olivier Poubelle in 2008.[3]


Brook was influenced by the work of Antonin Artaud and his ideas for his Theatre of Cruelty.[citation needed]

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 major 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,[4] Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covics and Vsevolod Meyerhold and by the works of G. I. Gurdjieff,[5] Edward Gordon Craig,[6] and Matila Ghyka.[7]

The Mahabharata[edit]

The Mahabharata, stage play by Peter Brook.

In the mid 1970s,[8] 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[9] and then later into a televised mini series.

Tierno Bokar[edit]

In 2005 Brook directed Tierno Bokar, based on the life of the Malian sufi of the same name. The play was adapted for the stage by Marie-Helene 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.[10]


Major productions for the RSC[edit]

Other major productions[edit]





By Brook[edit]

  • 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. 
  • Brook, Peter (1998). Threads of Time: Recollections. 
  • Brook, Peter (1999). Evoking Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books (2nd Ed 2002). 
  • Brook, Peter (2013). The Quality of Mercy: Reflections on Shakespeare. Nick Hern Books (23rd April 2013). ISBN 978-1848422612. 

About Brook[edit]

  • 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)(Hebrew)


  1. ^ Aronson, Arnold (25 May 2005). "Peter Brook: A Biography". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Chambers, Colin The Continuum Companion To Twentieth Century Theatre (Continuum, 2002, ISBN 0-8264-4959-X) p. 384
  3. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (17 December 2008). "Interview: Peter Brook says a long goodbye to his Paris theatre". London: Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Brook, Peter (1968). The Empty Space. 
  5. ^ Nicolescu, Basarab; Williams, David (1997). "Peter Brook and Traditional Thought". Contemporary Theatre Review (Overseas Publishers Association) 7: 11–23. doi:10.1080/10486809708568441. 
  6. ^ "Pas de deux" by Michael Holroyd, The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009
  7. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra "The prayers of Peter Brook", The Guardian, 17 January 2010.
  8. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (17 April 1988). "Jean-Claude Pierre; the Mahabharata, the great history of mankind – interview about the stage adaptation". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2007. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Columbia University, "Record of Events",; accessed 19 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Tony Awards". Retrieved 13 February 2008. 
  12. ^ II Europe Theatre Prize / Reasons Europe Theatre Prize
  13. ^ "British director wins the Ibsen Prize". Retrieved 21 August 2008. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Gets 10 New Members". New York Times. 10 May 1983. 

External links[edit]