Peter Brook

(redirected from Brook, Peter)
Peter Brook
Peter Stephen Paul Brook
BirthplaceChiswick, west London

Brook, Peter

Brook, Peter, 1925–, English theatrical director, b. London, grad. Oxford (1943). An innovative, unconventional, and controversial figure, Brook mounts energetic productions in which the entire stage is utilized and realistic sets are banished in favor of bold, abstract, and austere settings. His approach is extremely physical, and he often has his actors sing, play musical instruments, and perform acrobatics. After apprenticing in various repertory companies, he began his long association with what became (1961) the Royal Shakespeare Company with his production of Love's Labour's Lost (1946). Subsequent Shakespearean productions included Measure for Measure (1950), Titus Andronicus (1955), King Lear (1962), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1970), which was set in a kind of adult playground with trapezes, stilts, and spinning plates. Other Brook productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company included his staging of Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade (1964, Tony Award for best director), a play within a play set in the insane asylum housing the Marquis de Sade that examines both revolution and madness, and US (1966), an attack on U.S. involvement in Vietnam. During the 1960s, Brook's productions were influenced both by the shock tactics of Antonin Artaud and the analytical detachment of Bertolt Brecht.

Brook has also directed films, such as Moderato Cantabile (1960), Lord of the Flies (1963), and King Lear (1971); and operas, such as Faust and Eugene Onegin. In the 1970s, he founded the International Center of Theatre Research in Paris, an assembly of actors, dancers, musicians, and other performers of many nationalities. Their most recognized achievement was a nine-hour presentation of the Indian epic The Mahabharata (1985). Since then Brook has created a variety of other theatrical works, including a version of Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1994); a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (1998); a streamlined Hamlet (2000); Tierno Bokar (2005), based on the life of a West African Sufi in the 1930s; The Grand Inquisitor, a parable adapted from Dostoyevsky (2006); and The Prisoner (2018), a tale of crime and punishment. The last was written and directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne, as was Why? (2019), a play devoted to the life of Meyerhold and his wife.. His books on the theater include Empty Space (1969), The Shifting Point (1987), and The Open Door (1995). He has also written Playing By Ear: Reflections on Music and Sound (2019).


See his The Open Door (1993) and his autobiographical Threads of Time (1998); Gregory Boyd, ed., Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook (1999), M. Croyden, Conversations with Peter Brook (2003); biographies by J. C. Trewin (1971), A. Hunt and G. Reeves (1995), and M. Kustow (2005); studies by D. Williams (1988), R. Helfer and G. Loney, ed. (1998), and A. Todd and J.-G. Lecat (2003).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Brook, Peter


Born Mar. 21, 1925, in London. English director.

Brook studied at Oxford University. In 1943 he began his career as a director in London. From 1943 to 1946 he worked at several theaters, including the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. From 1945 to 1965 he put on Shakespeare’s plays at the Memorial Theatre (Stratford-on-Avon). Brook has worked at dramatic theaters in London and Paris, and he has directed operas at Covent Garden (London) and the Metropolitan Opera (New York). Since 1962 he has been one of the directors of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Brook’s productions of Hamlet (1955) and King Lear (1964) were put on in Moscow. His other productions include Shakespeare’s plays Measure for Measure (1950), The Winter’s Tale (1951), and Titus Andronicus (1955) and The Persecution and Murder of Marat … (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, London, 1964). Brook also produced the political revue US, about the war in Vietnam (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 1966; Brook is one of its authors). Gogol’s The Inspector General (Oldwich Theatre, London, 1966) and Seneca’s Oedipus (National Theatre, 1968) are also among his productions. Brook has made several films.


The Empty Space. London, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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