How do you think that Peter Brook has employed the ideas/techniques of the practitioners detailed in Mitter’s study? Please refer to Brook’s own writings, particularly The Shifting Point, in answering this question. Peter Brook is one of the world’s most famous directors and has much in-depth knowledge and experience of the theatre. “Brook is a key figure in modern theatre, building on the innovations of earlier practitioners … and continuing that uniquely twentieth century institution, the director’s theatre.
” (Halfyard, 2000:http://www.maxopus. com/essays/8songs_m. htm)
Brook is known as “the leading director of his generation” (Peter Hall) and he claims he can take any empty space and call it a bare stage, but where did he get his inspiration? Who are his influences? In this essay, I am going to try and find any similarities between Brook’s theatre techniques and those of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Bertolt Brecht and Jerzy Grotowski. I am looking for if he has more preference towards one of these directors or uses a combination of each of their rehearsal methods with his actors.
Shomit Mitter’s study, Systems of Rehearsal, looks at the process of rehearsal according to Brook, associating his rehearsal techniques with those created by Stanislavsky, Grotowski and Brecht. In Mitter’s introduction at first, I felt a sense of criticism towards Brook; “Brook seemed to me more a mimic than an inventor” (Mitter, 1992:30) and he mentions the extent of Brook’s ‘debt’ to each of the above directors.
Although in the latter part of Mitter’s introduction, he goes on to say that it is ‘extraordinary’ how Brook showed such a likeness with such completely different directors:
“I began to feel that his ability to absorb the influence of vastly dissimilar theatres could only be seen as an achievement. ” (Mitter, 1992:4) In Brook’s study The Shifting Point, looking back on his career in theatre, he speaks about a misunderstanding that exists in theatre which is the assumption that theatrical process falls into two stages; the first: making, and the second: selling. Brook then shows disagreement with Stanislavsky: “…
Even in the title of Stanislavsky’s great work Building a Character, this misunderstanding persists, implying that a character can be built up like a wall, until one day the last brick is laid and the character is complete. To my mind, it is just the opposite. I would say that the process consists not of two stages but of two phases. First: preparation. Second: birth. This is very different. ” (Brook, 1987:7) In one of the very few references to Stanislavsky in Brook’s book The Empty Space, Brook describes this same subject very briefly, explaining that “a character isn’t a static thing and it can’t be built like a wall.
” (Brook, 1968:114) This emphasis on how he wants to shape his actors, prove that he wants his actors to be constantly learning, encountering new approaches to acting and experiencing different practical exercises within the rehearsal process. Brook does not refer to Stanislavsky as often as I expected in both The Shifting Point and The Empty Space, whereas Mitter’s first chapter in his book shows immense comparison between Stanislavsky and Brook. “Like Stanislavsky, Brook believes that the entire corpus of objectively available material on the character… is insufficient.
The actors need a far more detailed picture of the world in which their characters live. ” (Mitter, 1992:28) This method Stanislavsky employed consisted of questioning each actor and asking each one about their character’s lives; the information that was not written in the text. The actors, for example, were asked to answer questions about their individual character’s family members, the character’s profession and where they lived. The questions were created to give a personal view into the character, thinking how they thought and recognising the depth of the character.
“In order to be, the actor must feel, and in order to feel, the actor must move from the self to the play via the mind. ” (Mitter,1992:11) Stanislavsky had accepted how set-design could play in creating emotion. Brook also uses the set to help create emotion; “… Instead of standing their ground four-square… they will now run up and down ladders… The life of these exchanges is, at the last, not to come from the actors’ words but from their actions. Rhythm and impulse, unfound in the lines, will be found in the ladders. ” (Mitter,1992:38, from ‘The Making of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’)
This meant that whilst the actors were physically climbing up and down the ladders, it was affecting the pace and the impact of the lines spoken; resulting in what Brook required from the start. He had found a way, physiologically rather than psychologically, to generate what he required from the actors. “… One would note Brook’s repeated insistence that he doesn’t want things ‘acted’. Echoing precisely Grotowski’s claim that acting is abandoned in his theatre. ” (Mitter, 1992:108) Here, Mitter is describing a similarity Brook has to Jerzy Grotowski; how both their ideal theatre performances are true to life.
Brook asked his actors not to perform, not to characterise and do a movement as an everyday person would without exaggerating. “… The actors ‘aren’t acting, they are being’. ” (Mitter,1992:109, from ‘Peter Brook: A Theatrical Casebook’, 1988) Brook’s association with these ideas returns in The Shifting Point: “A real person is someone who is open in all parts of himself, a person who has developed himself to the point where he can open himself completely- with his body, with his intelligence, with his feelings, so that none of these channels are blocked. “