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Peter Brook

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Title: Peter Brook  
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Subject: Lord of the Flies (1963 film), Royal Shakespeare Company, The Balcony, Jeffery Kissoon, Niels Arestrup
Collection: 1925 Births, Acting Theorists, Alumni of Magdalen College, Oxford, American Theater Hall of Fame Inductees, British Expatriates in France, British Jews, British Opera Directors, British Theatre Directors, Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Emmy Award Winners, English People of Latvian-Jewish Descent, English People of Russian-Jewish Descent, English Theatre Directors, Film Directors from London, Living People, Members of the Academy of the Arts, Berlin, Officiers of the Légion D'Honneur, People from Chiswick, Prix Italia Winners, Recipients of the Praemium Imperiale, Royal Shakespeare Company Members, Shakespeare Prize Recipients, Tony Award Winners, Writers from London
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Peter Brook

Peter Brook
Peter Brook at the Peter Brook: Empty Space Awards, London, in November 2009
Born Peter Stephen Paul Brook
(1925-03-21) 21 March 1925
Chiswick, London, England, UK
Occupation Director
Spouse(s) Natasha Parry (1951-2015)
Children Irina

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. He has won multiple Tony and Emmy Awards, a Laurence Olivier Award, the Praemium Imperiale, and the Prix Italia. He has been called "our greatest living theatre director".[1]

With the Royal Shakespeare Company, he 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.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Influences 2.1
    • Collaborators 2.2
    • Shakespeare 2.3
    • The Mahabharata 2.4
    • Tierno Bokar 2.5
  • Personal life 3
  • Work 4
    • Major productions for the RSC 4.1
    • Other major productions 4.2
    • Filmography 4.3
  • Awards 5
  • Honours 6
  • Bibliography 7
    • By Brook 7.1
    • About Brook 7.2
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Brook was born in Turnham Green, Chiswick, London on 21 March 1925, the second son of Simon Brook and his wife Ida (Jansen), both Jewish immigrants from Latvia.[2][3] The family home was at 27 Fairfax Road, Turnham Green.[3] He was educated at Westminster School, Gresham's School and Magdalen College, Oxford.

His elder brother was the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Alexis Brook (1920-2007).[4]


Bouffes du Nord theatre, Paris

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 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 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.[5] 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.[6]


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,[7] Bertolt Brecht, Chris Covics and Vsevolod Meyerhold and by the works of G. I. Gurdjieff,[8] Edward Gordon Craig,[9] and Matila Ghyka.[10]


Brook has collaborated with a range of directors, writers and actors during his career, notable examples include actors 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, I 'was convinced that this was the designer for whom I had been waiting'.[11]


The Mahabharata

The Mahabharata, stage play by Peter Brook.

In the mid 1970s,[12] 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[13] and then later into a televised mini series.

Tierno Bokar

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.[14]

Personal life

In 1951, Brook married the actress Natasha Parry; the couple had two children, Irina, an actress and director, and Simon, a director. Natasha Parry died in 2015, aged 84.


Major productions for the RSC

Other major productions





By Brook

About Brook

  • 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)[3]
  • 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. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^ Chambers, Colin The Continuum Companion To Twentieth Century Theatre (Continuum, 2002, ISBN 0-8264-4959-X) p. 384
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Pas de deux" by Michael Holroyd, The Guardian, Saturday 7 March 2009
  10. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra "The prayers of Peter Brook", The Guardian, 17 January 2010.
  11. ^ , 53
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Columbia University, "Record of Events",; accessed 19 June 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^ II Europe Theatre Prize / Reasons Europe Theatre Prize
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links

  • The Company: A Biographical Dictionary of the RSC: Online database by Simon Trowbridge
  • Dan David Prize laureate 2005
  • Peter Brook biography and filmography at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
  • Peter Brook at the Internet Movie Database
  • Screener for Brook by Brook on YouTube
  • Peter Brook profile by Experimental Theatre Organization
  • Review of Brook's Mahabharata in Caravan Magazine
  • Master's Degree in Urban Scenography in Barcelona
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