THE ROYAL Shakespeare Company (RSC) has paid tribute to ‘visionary director’ Peter Brook following his death at the weekend.
The RSC Honorary Associate Artist passed away aged 97 in France where he had lived since the mid 1970s.
Born in London in 1925, theatre was in his blood from an early age. He is reported to have acted out a four hour solo version of Hamlet for his parents when he was aged just seven.
It was the start of a career which saw him become one of the most influential and celebrated figures in theatre history.
When Peter Hall became artistic director of the RSC in 1960, he asked Brook to assist him.
During he 60s his artistry and experiment grew as he directed the likes of Paul Scofield in a 1962 staging of King Lear and productions such as US, a daring response to the Vietnam war which premiered at the Aldwych in 1966 with a cast including Glenda Jackson.
In 1970 he directed a revolutionary A Midsummer Night’s Dream, designed by Sally Jacobs with a cast including Frances de la Tour, Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart.
Shortly after he moved to Paris where he continued to create ground-breaking work, first setting up his International Centre for Theatre Research, and later opening the Parisian theatre Les Bouffes Du Nord.
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director Emeritus, said: “When Peter was last in Stratford in February 2019, he generously agreed to come and talk to the acting company.
“At 94, he still conveyed the boundless curiosity which has characterised his career. From the Watteau-inspired Love’s Labour’s Lost in Stratford in 1947, to the ground-breaking Titus Andronicus with Olivier in 1955, from the Theatre of Cruelty Season to the legendary A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1970, from the Marat/Sade to the Mahabharata, Peter defined the essential. We ‘shall not look upon his like again’.”
Erica Whyman, RSC Acting Artistic Director, added: “I was privileged to get to know Peter in the 1990s at the National Theatre Studio where he generously shared his practice with younger theatre-makers, and later when I presented his work at Northern Stage.
“He was a mesmerising person, fascinated by the potential of human beings to communicate the most delicate feelings and thoughts to one another, by respecting the commanding simplicity of an ‘empty space’.”
Brook married the actor Natasha Parry in 1951 and they had two children, Irina, who is now a director and Simon, who is a producer. Natasha died in 2015.