Theater legend dies aged 97

The Brit Peter Brook, theater legend and one of the most influential directors of the 20th century, died on Saturday at the age of 97, as AFP learned on Sunday from those close to him, confirming information from World.

The British-born theater master, who spent much of his career in France, had reinvented the art of directing at the helm of his Parisian theater Les Bouffes du Nord, favoring clean lines over traditional decor.

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

He created a bald “King Lear” (1962) with the Royal Shakespeare Company and above all his surprising staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1970) in a gymnasium in the form of a white cube: this is the theory of the “empty space” , which will definitely shape contemporary theatre.

First published in book form in 1968, it gives free rein to the public’s imagination and is considered the “Bible” for lovers of avant-garde theatre. “I can take any empty space and call it a stage” is one of his famous sentences.

“The visionary, the provocateur, the prophet, the trickster and the friend with the bluest eyes I have ever seen has left home,” fellow actor Simon McBurney tweeted on Sunday.

His “Marat/Sade” fascinated 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 Center for Theater Research” at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord.

He stages monumental plays, nourished by the exotic, with actors from different cultures, and will shoot all over the world, often in unseen places: from African villages to the streets of the Bronx and the Parisian suburbs.

His best-known play is Le Mahabharata, a nine-hour epic of Hindu mythology (1985), which he premiered at the Avignon Festival and was adapted for cinema in 1989.

When he triumphed in Britain in the 1990s with Samuel Beckett’s Oh les beaux jours, he was hailed by critics as “the best director London doesn’t have”.

After an adventure spanning more than 35 years at the Bouffes du Nord, Peter Brook left the theater in 2010 at the age of 85 and continued to direct productions there until recently.

“Peter Brook gave us the most beautiful silence in the theater, but this final silence is infinitely sad,” French culture minister Rima Abdul Malak responded on Twitter, saying with him “the scene was cleaned to its most vivid intensity.”

In 2019, in Why? to Meyerhold, a major Russian figure in the theater and a victim of the Stalinist purges, in memory of one of his quotes: “The theater is a dangerous weapon”.

He has always refused to engage in committed theatre, preferring theater that invites reflection or spirituality, whether it’s Shakespearean plays or adaptations like Carmen.

“Some journalists come to ask me: + So you think you can change the world? +. That makes me laugh. I never had that aspiration, it’s ridiculous,” confided to AFP in 2018 the man devastated by the death of his wife, actress Natasha Parry, three years earlier.

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

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