Peter Brook: Why And How Essay, Research Paper
Peter Brook: Why and How?
In modern theater today, the director is ultimately responsible for the artistic effectiveness of the production. He reviews the script and determines how he wants that play to be performed. In his hands rests the future of the play. Lighting, scenery, costumes, and cast all support and bring to life the productions, under the scrutiny of the director. Modern theater is normally the reproduction of masterpieces of different eras; Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, The Glass Menagerie, and Tartuffe are prime examples of classic theatrical productions. Peter Brooks is a modern director who likes to reproduce classic plays; using artistic license to give them new meaning. Brooks avant-garde techniques, unparelled minimalism, and his own unique directing insights make him a world renown producer.
To begin with, avant-garde is a sector of the arts that draws its inspiration from the invention and application of new or unconventional techniques and is on the vanguard or cutting edge of new styles. Some of the differences of a play writer, like Peter Brooks, that use this method are as follows. There is an emphasis on nonverbal theater, reliance on improvisation by performers and directors, definite interest in ritual and ceremony, stress on the physical environment of the theater, and stress on each individual audience member. (The Lively Art. p 167) Peter Brooks is a modern director who emphasizes his actors and actresses abilities to create a dramatic performance with actions, and expressions as well as words. Nothing in a theater performance is more important than the people of whom it is composed. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 1998 p 5) In his Production of Hamlet, which opened at the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, is a prime example of this. In this particular play, Brooks cut out about one third of the original text. Adrian Lester, Hamlet, said of Brooks, when Peter looked at it (meaning the play), he could see what we were trying to achieve and he could feel that we achieved it. So for him the scene was dead. He would always move the goal posts so that you re always walking towards something that you can t quite get. (The New York Times, Dec. 10, 2000 p 5L) Brooks definitely requests a lot out of his actors, which is probably the main reason why his plays are compelling.
Rearranging the order, or sequence of events in a play is yet another avant-garde technique that can be attributed to Peter Brooks. In his recent production of Hamlet, Brooks has the famous line, To be or not to be, occurring later then Shakespeare intended. He inserted this line in the play at this particular time because he believes it to be a more realistic suicidal juncture in the play. It now is said after the closet scene and Hamlet s murder of Polonius. Laertes is not even in Brook s version of Hamlet. This shows Peter s ability to omit people or scenes from classic plays and still be able to bring new light to these productions. In this production of Hamlet there is also more emphasis placed on Horatio. For example, Horatio is the key player in both the opening and closing scenes. He meets the ghost in the first act alone, and at the end of the play he represents the passing of the flame from Hamlet, not Fortinbras. Oddly enough this play of Hamlet ends before the final slaughter with Hamlet s readiness in all speech. Awareness, self-awareness, acceptance, renunciation, everything is in that phrase; says Brooks. (International Herald Tribune, March 9, 1996 p 24) As you can see, Brooks has some unique incites to the final impact of the work.
Another way that Brook s uses the contemporary avant-garde approach is by using the stage in a less is more manner. He likes to produce at the Bouffes du Nord because of the stark d cor and intimacy. This brings us to Brook s main goal; to have each audience member obtain something from the performance itself that they have never seen or thought before. Listen, and probe and dig as deeply as possible. (The New York Times, Dec. 10, 2000 p 5L) This is ultimately what Brook s asks of each individual audience member. He wants them to find their own personal meaning and insights in the production.
One way that Peter Brooks does this is by being as minimalistic as necessary. As its name implies, minimalism cuts away at any excesses. This approach to theater demands a stripping away of anything that is not absolutely necessary to the ultimate message of the play. He uses only the bare essentials for props and scenery. In Brook s production of Alexander Loria s I am a Phenomenon, he uses bareness in the set to help support the eternal theme of adultery and excessive revenge. In all, he uses a few chairs, a table, a bed, and a coat rack. These props are so simple, but the artistry is sophisticated. This is shown by Matilda having to feed, and walk her lover s suit because of her infidelity. Another example would be Brook s version of Hamlet. In the play he uses minimal props, but with quite vibrant colors. Brooks also cuts out about one third of the text as well as some key players in the original version of Hamlet. This minimalism runs hand-in-hand with avant-garde. In avant-garde, the director usually has more focus on underlying meaning, which Peter Brooks definitely achieves with his bland set. Yet another example of Brook s minimalism would be his production of Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni was originally written by the great opera writer and pianist; Mozart, to be sung, not acted. In this play there is not any d cor at all, Brooks relies solely on his performers skills. And he achieves this by taking many of the non-literal scenes and enacts them with resourceful stagecraft so that one can identify immediately with what is happening. Brooks definitely takes minimalism to new heights and indirectly fulfills much of the criteria of the new contemporary avant-garde directors.
After taking in to consideration Brooks other techniques, there is definitely a uniqueness or purity in his overall style. Brooks has decades of experience rereading literary classics onstage. Of his version of Hamlet he said, In all Shakespeare s plays, there are things which were so much written for the styles and audience of their time that they don t necessarily carry the same weight today. Underneath, there is very often a purer and stronger and deeper work that today is more relevant. And you can reveal it by delicately removing the superstructure. (The New York Times, Dec. 10, 2000 p 5L) Brooks has also been known to bring young children into his Theatre des Bouffes du Nord and ask them for their opinions on how the play should be performed. Both by removing the superstructure of the play for the people of the twentieth century and by asking for juvenile input, Brooks creates a simplistic play with extraordinary internal worth.
Overall, Peter Brooks can be seen as a contemporary, philosophical, modern director. In an interview in his office in the Bouffes du Nord Theater, Brooks was quoted, I think the whole mystery and the whole question of directing can be resolved in the relations between two questions, why and how. (International Herald Tribune March 9, 1996 p 24) Brooks believes that the, more you face the question of why the more one is open to the vastness of the theater potential. (International Herald Tribune. March 9, 1996 p 24) Therefore, just by keeping in mind the reason why you want to produce a particular play you are opening many doorways to new aspects and implications. Basically, Brooks how of theater is rhythm. You can act without rhythm, strong actors in a bad play can be quite striking and yet you are unsatisfied because there is no rhythm. (International Herald Tribune, March 9, 1996 p24) Therefore, a play is a very exact set of rules. And yet the playing is a complete circulation around these rules. (International Herald Tribune. March 9, 1996 p24) So by taking a classic play and enacting it with such vigor and love, Brooks creates a masterpiece of entirely new meaning and he wants each audience member to perceive their own personal ideas in the mystery of the play.
Directing allows each individual producer to have his or her own specific philosophies or procedures on producing. Peter Brooks has many philosophies that he underscores in his productions. He relies on the strength and skill of his actors. It is ultimately their performance, which he believes must carry the play. Brooks also approaches a play in a realistic vantage point. He takes the necessary elements of each production and he manipulates them with outstanding skill to achieve a play that anyone can watch. And from this production Brooks wants the audience to derive their own feelings. Peter Brooks: Avant-garde at its best!
The How and Why of Peter Brook. Mary Blume.
International Herald Tribune March 9, 1996 p 24
Peter Brook Prefers His Hamlet Lean. (Arts and Leisure Desk) Alan Riding.
The New York Times. December 10, 2000 p 5(L)
Improvising a Life/ Director Peter Brook s extraordinary career has spanned theater, opera
And film. (Review) Steven Winn.
San Francisco Chronicle. June 14, 1998 p 5
The Arts: The tragedy of Horatio and Hamlet. (Features) Paul Taylor.
The Independent (London, England) December 8, 2000 p 9
Edwin Wilson/ Alvin Goldfarb. The Lively Arts. 3rd edition. Copyright 1999