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Showman v. Shaman

David Edgar: Peter Brook, 12 November 1998

Threads of Time 
by Peter Brook.
Methuen, 241 pp., £17.99, May 1998, 0 413 69620 0
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... exile. But the most noted instance of the prophet rejecting his own country is the director Peter Brook who, having forged a glittering career in the British theatre, from a consummate King Lear to a definitive Midsummer Night’s Dream, decided to up sticks and set up an international company of actors abroad. ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... man himself on directors such as Komisarjevsky, Michel Saint-Denis (more fully treated by Croall), Peter Brook and Peter Hall. They are, of course, purely theatrical. Gielgud had an abnormally long theatrical life, appearing in or directing a great many plays in a great many places and also making dozens of movies, so ...

Anthropology as it should be

Robin Fox: Colin Turnbull, 9 August 2001

In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin Turnbull 
by Roy Richard Grinker.
St Martin’s, 354 pp., £19.75, August 2000, 0 312 22946 1
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... rose to popular fame (and fortune) with his work on the gentle Mbuti and the abominable Ik, and Peter Brook added to his fame with the theatrical version of the latter (Les Iks, to be exact). Anthropologists were tolerant of The Forest People (1961) despite its naive romanticism, since it was an engaging account, which illustrated the role of the ...

Exit Humbug

David Edgar: Theatrical Families, 1 January 2009

A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... and concluding that it could go either way. Formally, too, he errs on the side of prudence. Unlike Peter Ackroyd, Holroyd doesn’t insert fictional passages; nor does he emulate Edmund Morris’s insertion of himself – as a schoolboy – into a life of Ronald Reagan. But he’s there nonetheless. It’s been possible to detect Holroyd’s presence in his ...


Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... and solemn nonsense’ are however assailed, reasonably enough, in the persons of directors like Peter Brook and John Barton whose productions are determined by Kott’s or some other’s attempts to find in Shakespeare 20th-century ‘relevance’. Next man up is Stanley Fish, author of Surprised by Sin, Self-Consuming Artefacts and Is there a text in ...
... fanfare, like an elephant cry. At nightfall in this quarry a few kilometres outside Avignon, Peter Brook’s staging of Jean-Claude Carrière’s adaptation of The Mahabharata begins. Wisdom-book and story-repository, fifteen times the size of the Bible, The Mahabharata was written in Sanskrit, but the words you hear are French, spoken with a ...

Late Capote

Julian Barnes, 19 February 1981

Music for Chameleons 
by Truman Capote.
Hamish Hamilton, 262 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 241 10541 2
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... connection with her and with ‘many gifted men attached to that endeavour: the director was Peter Brook; the choreographer, George Balanchine; Oliver Messel was responsible for the legendarily enchanting decor and costumes.’ Fey, Warholish asides about literature just can’t be shut out (‘I like Agatha Christie, love her. And Raymond Chandler ...
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
edited for the Arden Shakespeare series by Harold Brooks.
Methuen, 164 pp., £8, September 1979, 1 903436 60 5
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... into the open. The opponent is Jan Kott, who wrote Shakespeare Our Contemporary (1967), and the Peter Brook production (1970) which dramatised his findings. I take my stand beside the other old buffers here. Kott is ridiculously indifferent to the letter of the play and labours to befoul its spirit. And yet the Victorian attitude to it also feels ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... I Ching seems unlike the man I knew. Lambert reveals that at Oxford he himself had a fling with Peter Brook whom I had thought a model of heterosexuality but who seduced Lambert via a silk dressing-gown and Chopin nocturnes on the gramophone. It’s something to be remembered nowadays when the sage of dthe modern theatre is taking himself too seriously ...

The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... turn of Joan Littlewood at Stratford East and George Devine at the Royal Court. In recent years, Peter Brook has taken up the baton in Stratford and in Paris. All of them demonstrated, implicitly or explicitly, that the theatre is an art, a forum, a faith, something to be fought for. At the Royal Court George Devine instilled a system of values that ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden, 22 May 2003

Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... president and governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre over many years and supported both Peter Hall and Peter Brook at a time when their avant-garde work frequently brought storms of criticism. He had a voracious appetite for both English and French literature and liked to hunt down French novels on the Left ...

Revolution strikes the eye

John Willett, 19 January 1989

Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde 
by Constantin Rudnitsky, translated by Roxane Permar.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £40, April 1988, 0 500 01433 7
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The ‘Golden’ Twenties: Art and Literature in the Weimar Republic 
by Bärbel Schrader and Jürgen Schebera, translated by Katherine Vanovitch.
Yale, 271 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 300 04144 6
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... and Exter, let alone such important directors of Russian descent as Pitoeff, Komisarjevsky, Peter Brook and Jacques Tati, all of which is surely relevant to the modern reader’s view of the subject. He also virtually omits the cabaret and the ‘Blue Blouse’ agitprop movement, though he gives a useful account of the latter’s successor, the ...


Jenny Diski: Doing what we’re told, 18 November 2004

The Man who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram 
by Thomas Blass.
Basic Books, 360 pp., £19.99, June 2004, 0 7382 0399 8
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... dedicated to Milgram: empowerment … taking responsibility), as well as being the source for a Peter Gabriel song entitled ‘We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)’. A French punk rock group called Milgram put out a CD called Vierhundertfünfzig Volt (‘450 Volts’). A British band called Midget issued The Milgram Experiment. Plays have been written ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... of the two images he would have found all that was wrong with England. 2 October. Finish Peter Nichols’s Diaries, a good read and hard to put down. He’s blessed, as Osborne was, with droves of relatives to whom he seems far more attentive and considerate than ever I managed to be to my few. Still they repay the attention and are a good source of ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... a new idea. It is easiest to make such changes when the playwright is dead. John Osborne and Peter Nichols did not want Miller to alter their plays, but he was more fortunate when he directed Robert Lowell’s version of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. Since Miller did not want to set this play in the Caucasus, with an actor tied to a rock, he ...

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