THE SHIFTING POINT 1946-1987 by Peter Brook

THE SHIFTING POINT 1946-1987

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Short essays, speeches, program notes, interviews, etc., from Brook's unique, monumental career as theater director-guru-prophet--repeating some of the points made in The Empty Space (1968), but devoting primary attention to his experimental work in recent decades. ""We need no longer be bound at all by time, character, or plot. We need not use any of these traditional crotches. . ."" Despite this radical line (Brook's credo since the late 1960's), many of the earlier pieces here are convincing in their embrace of vivid, truthful theater of all kinds, even traditional: ""For Artaud, theatre is fire; for Brecht, theatre is clear vision; for Stanislavsky, theatre is humanity. Why must we choose among them?"" A section on Shakespeare eloquently celebrates the ""endlessly moving, endlessly changing"" richness of his world--and the honesty beneath John Gielgud's vast technique. (""He is modern in his restless quest for truth and new meaning."") Reflections on past productions from Romeo and Juliet (1946) to the famous Midsummer Night's Dream and Gounod's Faust (in amusing collaboration with conservative Pierre Monteux) make it clear how effective Brook's strong, daring, yet basically traditional theater-work is. Still, the major emphasis is on Brook's work since he moved to Paris, founded the International Centre of Theatre Research in the 1970's, and used improvisation to develop primal, mythic theater pieces, performed in empty spaces around the world: Orghast, The Ik, The Conference of the Birds (which inspires a fascinating essay on masks), and The Mahabharata. A brief interview regarding Brook's recent, radical Carmen is less than persuasive. Elsewhere, however, he vividly describes his process, wryly chronicles some tours, and lucidly makes his case for theater that eschews all artifice: ""A performance has to become a meeting, a dynamic relationship between one group that has received special preparation and another group, the audience, that has not been prepared."" With hardly any annotations or explanatory material (re: dates, sources, contexts), this potpourri of occasional writings can sometimes become vague, puzzling, or downright misleading. But the mixture of everything from epic theorizing to chatty practicalities (the comic movie-biz doings behind Lord of the Flies) is engaging. And though neither as fully argued nor as timely as The Empty Space (1968), this collection of Brook-lets will be eagerly thumbed by anyone serious about acting, direction, and designing trends in contemporary theater.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row