Catégorie : Théâtre

« Les murs parlent » 2016, échos d’un travail

bouffesnordCréation de Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne. Bouffes du Nord, 26-28 nov. 2016
« Nous allons essayer, pendant ces trois après-midi, de redécouvrir avec le public quelques secrets de ce que les murs du théâtre ont vécu depuis la création, en 1974, du Centre International de Recherches et Créations Théâtrales avec Micheline Rozan. Read more

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« Battlefield », on tour

Tournée 2016
3 au 27 février 2016 : Young Vic Theatre / Londres / Royaume-Uni
5 au 12 mars 2016 : Mumbai / Inde
16 au 20 mars 2016 : Hong Kong Arts Festival / Chine
6 et 7 mai 2016 : Teatro dell’ Aquila / Fermo / Italie
11 au 15 mai 2016 : Teatro Argentina / Rome / Italie
19 et 20 mai 2016 : Teatro Stabile dell’Umbria / Teatro Cucinelli / Sbattlefield-5olomeo / Italie
24 et 25 mai 2016 : Teatro della Pergola / Florence / Italie
29 et 30 mai 2016 : Teatro Storchi / Modène / Italie
3 au 5 juin 2016 : Printemps des Comédiens / Montpellier
9 au 12 juin 2016 : Teatros del Canal / Madrid / Espagne

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Special Screenings

Wed 17 – Thu 18 Feb. 2016 – Booking
On the occasion of his latest production Battlefield at the Vic Young Vic (3-27 Feb). Two special evenings will give you a privileged glimpse into the multifaceted career of one of the greatest and most prolific contemporary artists, whose rich body of work has kept the same power and commitment throughout the years. Peter Brook won’t be able to attend the screening of The Tightrope as previously announced (but will still attend the screenings on the 17th). The screening of The Tightrope will be introduced by Alexander Zeldin, former assistant to Peter Brook, author and director (Beyond Caring at the National Theatre) and now Associate Director at the Birmingham Rep.

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La responsabilité des vivants

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "battlefield Peter Brook"Interview de Peter Brook / La Grande Table – 16 septembre 2015 / © Photo : Simon Annand
à écouter sur le site de France Culture (clic!)

Que peut nous apprendre ce livre indien quinze fois plus long que la Bible, quelles questions éminemment contemporaines soulève-t-il ?
C’est ce que nous explique aujourd’hui Peter Brook en nous présentant sa pièce Battlefield dans laquelle les survivants d’une grande bataille se demandent quelle est leur responsabilité, comment faire face à la situation. Comment construire la paix après la guerre, ensevelir tous ces morts pour reconstruire la vie ? Dans un décor dépouillé, où quatre acteurs jouent successivement une mère, un roi, un ver de terre, la mort, Battlefield soulève des questions existentielles, actuelles et pressantes.

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« Le Mahabharata, c’est pour nous, maintenant »

5055437_a7492bae32f4c18d1b9b91e84a1a3935ec654e4e© Le Parisien – 2 septembre 2015   – Bertrand Gay/AFP
Peter Brook crée « Battlefield »: « Le Mahabharata, c’est pour nous, maintenant »

Face aux « massacres, à la cruauté, au terrorisme », le maître anglais du théâtre Peter Brook, 90 ans, revient à l’épopée du Mahabharata pour créer « Battlefield », une pièce autour de quatre comédiens aux Bouffes du Nord à Paris  avant une tournée mondiale. Read more

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Battlefield

A partir du 15 septembre 2015 – Bouffes du Nord – Paris

cote-slide-battelfieldLe Mahabharata n’est pas seulement un livre, ou une série de livres, c’est un champ immense, qui couvre tous les aspects de notre existence. On y trouve les questions essentielles qui concernent notre vie, des questions qui sont à la fois contemporaines et urgentes. Le Mahabharata a été écrit il y a des milliers d’années, et pourtant il nous indique toujours, d’une manière inattendue, comment ouvrir nos yeux à ce que la réalité de nos vies demande. Read more

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Fragments (version 2015)

fragmentsAux Bouffes du Nord- Paris, du 6 au 24 janvier 2015

« Aujourd’hui, avec le passage du temps, nous voyons à quel point toutes les étiquettes qu’on a attribuées dans le passé à Samuel Beckett – un Beckett triste, négatif, désespéré – sont fausses. Ses pièces nous plongent dans la réalité de l’existence humaine, avec humour.

« Today, with the passage of time, we see how untrue are all the labels that have been attributed to Samuel Beckett in the past – a sad, negative, desperate Beckett. Read more

Un voyage dans le cerveau

© Le Nouvel Observateur – 5 mai 2014, par J.-P. Thibaudat

Le pas feutré a gagné en lenteur, le filet de voix en légèreté, homme-oiseau Peter Brook s’avance devant le public du théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. C’est un soir, peu de jours avant la première de son nouveau spectacle « The valley of Astonishment » (la vallée de l’étonnement), un titre puisé dans « La conférence des oiseaux » d’Attar qui inspira au plus français des metteurs en scène anglais, l’un des spectacles pivots de sa longue carrière.
Read more

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Dans « les monts et vallées du cerveau »

© Le Parisien – 30 avril 2014
Peter Brook embarque le public dans « les monts et vallées du cerveau »

Le grand metteur en scène britannique Peter Brook est de retour dans « son » théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, qu’il a dirigé de 1974 à 2010, pour une nouvelle création, « The Valley of Astonishment », sur les secrets du cerveau.
On pense au cinéaste Alain Resnais réalisant en 1980 « Mon oncle d’Amérique », sur les travaux du scientifique Henri Laborit. Et comme Resnais, Peter Brook, 89 ans, explore avec une curiosité d’enfant et une liberté totale. Read more

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The Valley of Astonishment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recherche théâtrale de Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne
29 avril – 31 mai 2014 : Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris
20 june – 12 july 2014 : Young Vic, London


« Le théâtre est là pour nous étonner et il doit réunir deux éléments opposés – le familier et l’extraordinaire. Dans L’Homme Qui, notre première aventure à l’intérieur des cerveaux de malades neurologiques – qui dans le passé étaient souvent relégués au rang de fous – nous avons trouvé en face de nous des êtres humains comme nous dont le comportement, à cause de la maladie, devenait imprévisible. Read more

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The Suit

© La Provence – 22 mars 2013 par Jean-Rémi Barland
Au Jeu de Paume, son adaption d’une tragédie poétique sur fond d’adultère, brille par le contraste entre gravité du propos et légèreté de sa mise en scène et musicale
Afrique du Sud , Sophiatown… Les fenêtres des maisons n’ont pas de vitres, l’alcool coule à flots et les talents fleurissent dans les bars clandestins. On nous parle de « La maison de la vérité », où l’on examine le passé et le présent du pays, et on découvre un couple : Philemon et Matilda. Read more

Un costume enchanté

© Le Point – 7 avril 2012 – Par Valérie Marin La Meslée
Le costume, The suit, est de retour aux Bouffes du Nord, mais tout nouveau, tout beau, avec une nouvelle adaptation, dans sa langue « natale », l’anglais, de l’œuvre du Sud-Africain Cam Themba. Read more

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Costume royal

© Les Echos – Vendredi 6 avril 2012 – Par Philippe Chevilley
Elle pose sur le sol le costume de son amant, cuisant vestige de son adultère, se débarrasse de ses bijoux, s’assoit lentement sur une chaise à côté… et sa tête tombe sur sa poitrine. C’est ainsi, sans un cri, que meurt de chagrin l’héroïne de « The Suit », monté par Peter Brook au Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. Read more

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Le «costume» sur mesure de Peter Brook

© Le Figaro – 6 avril 2012 – Par Nathalie Simon
Le metteur en scène reprend avec finesse The Suit en anglais.
Peter Brook, 87 ans, semble toujours tout réinventer à chaque nouveau spectacle. Il symbolise l’essence du théâtre. The Suit (Le Costume), inspiré d’une nouvelle de l’écrivain sud-africain Can Themba (1924-1968), illustre cette idée. Read more

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« quelque chose se passe… et puis le silence… »

© Rue89.com – 3 avril 2012 –  Par JP Thibaudat
La femme est assise sur une chaise. Mais le public ne voit pas ça. Depuis le début du spectacle, dans cette complicité de convention qui fait la force du théâtre et que Peter Brook appelle « le naturel propre au théâtre », il sait que les deux chaises accolées figurent un lit, que la femme, bien qu’assise, est allongée sur ce lit. Read more

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Win A Trip To Paris

The Young Vic, Time Out and World Stages London are hosting a competition to win a trip for two to Paris to see The Suit before it comes to London. Win a weekend break for two with round-trip Eurostar tickets, two nights’ stay in a 4 star hotel, and tickets to the world premiere of The Suit at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord.  See here (Time Out add)

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6 avril 2012 à 23h15

France Inter – « Studio Théâtre » animé par Laure Adler, reçoit Peter Brook, le vendredi 6 avril 2012 (23h15 à minuit)

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The Suit – Le Costume 2012

Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord – du 3 avril au 5 mai 2012.
« Qu’est ce qui nous pousse à reprendre « Le Costume », un spectacle qui a tourné dans le monde entier en français pendant des années ? La réponse est sans doute que rien n’est jamais fixé au théâtre – certains sujets s’épuisent – d’autres, au contraire, mûrissent, changent d’aspect, éprouvent le besoin de revenir. Read more

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Peter Brook chez Baryshnikov

© The New Yorker – par Elisabeth Guedel.
Une scène dépouillée en contrebas, des murs noirs à la tuyauterie apparente, un plafond haut, très haut, truffé d’éclairages. La salle du Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) est aussi anguleuse que celle des Bouffes du Nord est tout en rondeur. Read more

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Brook still finding his moments on stage

Laura Collins © Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.
Beckett, Dostoyevsky projects reflect his embrace of the life in classic texts

« Beckett worked until a phrase’s ‘shape, its imagery, word pattern, and, in the end, its music all corresponded to his deep wish to make something absolutely perfect.' » Peter Brook, who is directing Samuel Beckett’s « Fragments » in Boston.

Read more

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And for my next trick …

By Michael Billington © guardian.co.uk – Wednesday 16 March 2011
At 85, Peter Brook shows no sign of compromising his radical theatrical vision. Here, he tells Michael Billington why a Mozart masterpiece deserved a makeover. Read more

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Théâtre de Caen

Eric Vautrin, maître de conférences en Arts du spectacle, animera une rencontre d’avant-spectacle autour de « Une Flûte enchantée » d’après Mozart, mis en scène par Peter Brook, au Théâtre de Caen mercredi 9 février à 19h, au Café Cour.

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A life in the vanguard

© Michael Coveney – 15th December 2010.  ©Photo : Pascal Victor
Peter Brook will celebrate his 86th birthday in March with a Barbican production. The most original of theatrical titans tells Michael Coveney why the time for banging the drum is over Read more

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Peter Brook passe le flambeau

©AFP – Peter Brook tourne la page. Après une aventure de plus de 35 ans avec le théâtre parisien des Bouffes du Nord, le metteur en scène britannique Peter Brook passe le flambeau. Pour lui succéder, il a choisit d’en confier la direction à «deux Olivier», Olivier Mantei et Olivier Poubelle, avec lesquels il travaillait déjà. L’un, Olivier Mantei, 45 ans, également directeur adjoint de l’Opéra comique, est plus proche du théâtre et de la musique. L’autre, Olivier Poubelle, 50 ans, qui exploite à Paris deux salles dont le Bataclan, vient de la production des musiques actuelles. Read more

« Tout est parti de là »

Warum Warum

© Rue89.com – Jean-Pierre thibaudat.
« Warum, warum », c’est le titre du dernier spectacle de Peter Brook, ce sont aussi les premiers mots que prononce l’actrice « brookienne » Miriam Goldschmidt. « Warum, warum » c’est moins une question (« pourquoi » en allemand) qu’une onde sonore, une incantation, un mystère. « Tout est parti de là, me dit Peter Brook. Je cherchais quelque chose après avoir fait “ Oh les beaux jours ” avec Miriam Goldschmidt. Read more

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Warum, Warum

© ABC – Julia Amezua.
Peter Brook (1925) es, sin duda, uno de los grandes teóricos y directores teatrales contemporáneos, un creador siempre en busca de nuevas y originales creaciones. Su último montaje, estrenado el 17 de abril en el Festival de Zurich, ha llegado a Salamanca, al Festival de las Artes. «Warum. Warum» (¿Por qué? ¿Por qué?), en alemán, con subtítulos en castellano, es una magistral lección de teatro, una profunda reflexión sobre dramaturgia y formación del actor, un análisis de cómo el proceso creativo se nutre de las preguntas que surgen entre actor y espectador, de los «warum, warum». Read more

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L’étoffe des rêves

© Les Echos 24/06/10  – Article de Philippe Chevilley

Warum Warum de Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne
« Un foulard de soie rouge qui tombe en spirale pour figurer la mort. Une lumière bleutée qui évoque un ciel peuplé d’esprits invisibles. Un siège fantôme qui roule sur la scène comme un bateau ivre. Read more

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About Eleven & Twelve

© Photo David Sandison

Interview by Paul Taylor © www.independent.co.uk
Wittgenstein once said that one way of looking at a man’s name is as « like piece of jewellery hung round his neck at birth ». But when practitioners and an awed public affixed the word « guru » to the name of Peter Brook, they hung an albatross round his neck rather than the garland they had intended. Read more

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Eleven & Twelve, Festival di Spoleto

Festival Di Due Mondi Spoleto – Italia Friday 2 july, Saturday 3 july, Sunday 4 july

« For Christians and Moslems alike, God through his Prophets has given to mankind a clear and simple commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Today we see that no rational thought, no intelligent debate, no social analysis has ever influenced nor can explain the endless current of hatred that pours through History. Read more

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¿Por qué? (Warum, Warum)

Teatro de la Abadia (Madrid) – Del 4 al 8 de noviembre 2010. Idioma: alemán, con sobretítulos en castellano
¿Por qué el teatro? ¿Cómo puede haber verdad en la mentira, autenticidad en el artificio? ¿Cómo interpretar sentimientos que uno no tiene, el dolor, la melancolía, la ira…? A partir de escritos de Artaud, Gordon Craig, sobre todo Meyerhold y -cómo no- Shakespeare, el maestro Brook va en busca de la esencia de esta efímera forma de arte. Será su cuarto montaje en tres años que recala en La Abadía y de nuevo será en un registro totalmente distinto, el de la ceremonia, de lo espiritual.

Read more

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Warum, Warum aux Bouffes du Nord

A partir du 22 juin 2010 au Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord.
Spectacle en allemand, surtitré en français. Texte de Peter Brook et Marie Hélène Estienne d
’après les textes d’Antonin Artaud, Gordon Craig, Charles Dullin, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Zeami Motokiyo et William Shakespeare.
Mise en scène Peter Brook. Avec Miriam Goldschmidt et Francesco Agnello (musique) Read more

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Eleven and Twelve, en tournée

D’après Amadou Hampaté Bâ. Mise en scène Peter Brook -> dates…

Read more

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Love is my sin, en tournée

Sonnets de William Shakespeare. Mise en scène de Peter Brook -> dates… Read more
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Archive

1979 – Festival d’Avignon – « La conférence des oiseaux » – interview, 4mn – ina.fr -> voir

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Warum, Warum, 2010

Texte de : Peter Brook et Marie-Hélène Estienne
D’après les écrits de : Artaud, Gordon Craig, Dullin , Meyerhold, Motokiyo, William Shakespeare
Traduit en allemand par : Miriam Goldschmidt
Mise en scène : Peter Brook
Lumière : Philippe Vialatte
Collaboration artistique : Lilo Baur
Musique : Francesco Agnello
Avec : Miriam Goldschmidt, Francesco Agnello musicien

L’amour, le beau pêché de William Shakespeare

10 avril 2009 – Le Monde – Fabienne Darge

Ici, Shakespeare est chez lui. Il pourrait presque sortir de ces murs à la peau blessée par le temps, tel le fantôme d’Hamlet. Histoire de nous faire un peu voir s’il ressemble à son prétendu seul-portrait-peint-de-son-vivant, réapparu comme par enchantement et dévoilé à Londres, le 9 mars. Il la hante, cette caverne magique dont la beauté louche et décatie lui va comme un gant, depuis plus de trente ans. Depuis qu’avec lui, et son Timon d’Athènes, Peter Brook a fait du Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord un antre porteur de rêves, que l’on nous envie dans le monde entier.
Mais aujourd’hui, l’énorme Will ne s’invite pas avec son « grand théâtre du monde », rempli de bruit et de fureur. C’est son visage intime, bien plus parlant que celui du fameux portrait, qu’il dévoile devant le haut mur rouge Pompéi du théâtre, devenu villa des mystères shakespeariens.
Ce mystère tient en 154 Sonnets, « chefs-d’œuvre au-dessus des chefs-d’œuvre », comme l’écrit Philippe Sollers, que Shakespeare a dédiés à un jeune homme inconnu. Peter Brook en a choisi vingt-sept, regroupés sous le beau titre de Love is my Sin.
L’amour, le beau péché de Big Will, ouvre les portes de son art magique, qui défie les lois du temps, ce temps « dévorant » comme « les griffes du lion ». « Malgré ton œuvre, écrit Shakespeare, mes vers garderont pour toujours à l’aimé sa jeunesse. » Et dans le dernier sonnet : « L’amour ne s’altère pas en heures ou en semaines, mais survit jusqu’à la pointe de la fin du temps. Et si ceci est faux et qu’on me le prouve, je n’ai jamais écrit, et personne n’a jamais aimé. »
Peter Brook les a confiés, ces poèmes incomparables, à deux fidèles compagnons : son épouse, la comédienne Natasha Parry, et l’acteur Bruce Myers, qui a été de toutes les aventures brookiennes depuis le temps – un autre temps – où le metteur en scène dirigeait la vénérable Royal Shakespeare Company. Tous deux viennent s’installer sur de simples tabourets, posés sur un grand tapis persan. Ils disent ces sonnets en anglais, qui est leur langue maternelle, et d’emblée l’on est, profondément, dans la respiration de cette écriture inouïe.

Le goût du péché
C’est beau, d’autant plus qu’ils sont magnifiquement accompagnés par Franck Krawczyk, qui a adapté à l’accordéon et au piano des pièces de Couperin. Mais cela reste un peu éthéré. Notamment parce que les deux acteurs gardent leur texte à la main, plutôt que de se laisser complètement habiter par lui. Dommage, car on sent bien que Bruce Myers, en tout cas, vieux lion à la voix profonde, ne demanderait qu’à incarner le poème avec plus de puissance. Il manque à ce Love is my Sin le goût du péché, l’avidité du désir, la noirceur de la jalousie. L’ensemble, qui coule comme une eau paisible, laisse cependant tout loisir de méditer devant les murs écorchés et patinés par les ans des Bouffes du Nord : oui, Shakespeare a gagné, son œuvre a surpassé celle du Temps.

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Souffrir ou ne pas souffrir et l’écrire

©L’Humanité – 2009

Peter Brook adapte au théâtre des sonnets de Shakespeare : en anglais surtitré, Love Is My Sin, avec Natasha Parry et Bruce Myers.
En ce lieu qu’il dirige depuis 1974, les Bouffes du Nord, théâtre qui tombait alors en lambeaux devenu essentiel par la force de son talent, le metteur en scène britannique Peter Brook a déployé nombre de spectacles mythiques : Timon d’Athènes ou le Mahabharata, pour ne citer qu’eux. En décembre dernier, l’homme, âgé de quatre-vingt-trois ans, a annoncé avec sa codirectrice Micheline Rozan qu’il passerait les rênes en douceur, à l’horizon 2010, à Olivier Poubelle et Olivier Mantei.
En attendant, résonnent jusqu’au 9 mai, en anglais surtitré, des sonnets de Shakespeare, adaptés au théâtre par Peter Brook sous le titre Love Is My Sin. Soit, dit en français, L’amour est mon péché. Combien il se tourmente en effet, l’auteur de Macbeth, à se dire et se dédire sur fond d’indéfinition sexuelle : tour à tour absolument épris, clamant son absence de valeur, ou oeuvrant à sa propre indifférence…
Parmi ces 154 sonnets, dont Shakespeare envisagea peut-être la publication dès l’année 1600 alors que d’autres furent, on le suppose, rédigés ultérieurement, vers 1604 (période de Mesure pour mesure ou du Roi Lear), difficile d’initier un parcours. Le travail de Peter Brook, épaulé par Marie-Hélène Estienne, fait surgir des préoccupations majeures, où s’engouffrent, mais toujours abondent les vers de Shakespeare qui, étrangement, nous évoquent cette expérience : sous l’eau, capturé par les rouleaux sans répit de vagues folles, avides, ne savoir où, ni comment reprendre souffle. En effet, chaque vers, chaque sonnet semble ici se repaître de l’insatisfaction née du précédent, et ne jamais s’autoriser la respiration, l’apaisement. Une réponse. C’est là aussi, en filigrane éreintant, l’impétueuse écriture qui va sa recherche. Sa course.
Tout commence par le Temps dévorant. Quels autres murs que ceux des Bouffes du Nord, criblés de blessures, creusés de fissures, où l’éclat de la peinture s’est lassé depuis longtemps, pouvaient recueillir ces mots sur le temps ? L’accordéoniste longeant le fond de la scène en trace comme la fuite, avant que Natasha Parry et Bruce Myers, qui connaissent le grand William jusqu’en ses méandres, s’emparent de sa poésie avec justesse. Le décor est ici dans son simple appareil : deux chaises de bois clair tournées vers le mur, deux autres semblables, accompagnées d’un menu pupitre, font face au public.
De l’une à l’autre, avec pertinence, iront le comédien et la comédienne qui tressent ici un dialogue amoureux prenant forme épistolaire, et dévoilent pour chaque vers une écoute rigoureuse, respectueuse mais sans emphase ni gravité. Laissant le texte enfanter des convulsions, courant de l’éloignement à la jalousie en passant par la trahison et le rejet de la chair, parfois toutes de distorsions ou de confusion, leur présence se prodigue par touches. Natasha Parry se suggère piquante, charmante, triste, excédée ou d’une fureur que seul délivre son regard. Crinière blanche, Bruce Myers offre une distinction douce toute britannique et un détachement par endroits glacé, mais l’air de rien. Très rarement ces deux-là se font face : pour tout dire, on le sait, la souffrance du sentiment amoureux ne peut que s’écrire, loin. Souffrance qui n’a pas d’âge : cet homme et cette femme en sont le frémissement pur.

Jusqu’au 9 mai 2009
au Théâtre des Bouffes
du Nord, 37, bis boulevard de la Chapelle 75010 Paris. Métro La Chapelle.
Du mardi au samedi
à 19 heures (relâche
le vendredi 1er mai). Réservations : 01 46 07 34 50.
Aude Brédy

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Eleven and Twelve, 2009

Texte de : Marie-Hélène Estienne et Peter Brook
D’après les écrits de : Amadou Hampaté Bâ
Mise en scène : Peter Brook
Avec : Makram J. Khoury, Nyasha Hatendi, Tunji Lucas, Abdou Ouologuem, Jared McNeil, Khalifa Natour, César Sarachu, Maximilien Seweryn

Fragments

Friday, 5 September 2008 – ©The Independent

Peter Brook wrote the bible for 1960s theatre’s revolutionaries with ‘The Empty Space’ and, at 83, is still relentlessly pushing boundaries. He tells Paul Taylor why he has to live in the moment

Peter Brook is shouting at me. Loudly. And he’s shouting at me about Shakespeare. Not that he’s angry. It’s just that the world’s greatest theatre director is talking to me on his mobile from Heathrow Airport and the competition is cacophonous.
He is on his way back home to his base in Paris after a trip to London, where he has mounted a triumphant production of five short Beckett plays, under the collective title Fragments, at the Young Vic. We had met earlier in the week for a conversation over lunch at the theatre. I had confronted him with a thought experiment in which he participated with fascinating results. But, afterwards, I realised that I could have made the hypothetical situation sharper and more revealing. He had therefore agreed to a further bout of questioning.
The phone conversation climaxed in a moment of pure Brook. « For the first time in my life, » he said, « I feel like Shakespeare. Here I am with a small instrument – a mobile phone – through which I am using heightened language to lift the human voice and make it heard through all the life going on around me in these noisy shops and queues and cafés. The small instrument Shakespeare used was the Globe, which transmitted language and the human voice so that it was heard through the babble of the stews and the shops and the brothels crowded on Bankside. »
This analogy is quintessential Brook – the man whose 1968 book The Empty Space became the seminal text for modern theatre-makers and for lovers of the art form. It’s characteristic in the way that the image is plucked, on the instant, from the present circumstances, improvised with real-life props near to hand, or, in this case, literally in hand. No one, in conversation, can make his interlocutor more aware of the shared experience and charged possibilities of the current moment than Brook. He’s a living advertisement for the theatre, and for its special and tonic properties.
True, his analogy breaks down in various respects (obviously, a mobile phone communicates with an individual rather than with a community). But these considerations pale beside what is really important: the rinsed clarity Brook gives here to the perception of Globe as a piece of custom-built technology, and to a sense of the primacy of voice in Shakespearean drama.
« I see a voice… », cries Bottom, and only a pedantic fool would fail to see the deep, if semi-inadvertent, wisdom of that remark in relation to the dramatic medium in Shakespeare’s day. The analogy is typical, too, in its suggestion of trans-historical continuity. There are similar problems, by and large, through the ages – it’s just the solutions that are different. And theatre constitutes a particularly interesting instance of this.
When we met for lunch at the Young Vic, Brook was in the last stages of rehearsal for Fragments, which ranges in tone from existential slapstick to the mesmerising monologue Rockaby – pitch-dark but implying a lost radiance, just as the presence of a shadow entails a light source.
The show began life at Brook’s Paris theatre, Bouffes du Nord, two years ago, and last year visited the studio space at the Young Vic. In the current, highly recommended run, it has colonised the main house. The great mistake most people make with Brook is to suppose that he is a rarefied guru, interested only in dispensing the distillate of 83 years’ wisdom, in carefully rationed drops, to grateful disciples and uncomprehending journalists. In fact, he’s as world-savvy and also as pragmatic as they come.
The thought experiment that I had devised for the great director as a possible framework for our conversation is as follows. Imagine that you are given the use of a time-machine and permission to travel back to three theatrical events anywhere in the past. If your aim was to deepen your understanding of the nature of theatre, which of the myriad possibilities would you choose, and why?
I had tested the question out on a couple of clever, learned friends. One said that it would be easier for him to decide than for Brook, as one of the occasions he would choose would be Brook’s 1970 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the momentous white-box staging with trapezes, spinning-plate flowers and fist-clenched phalluses. This was the last production Brook mounted in this country before leaving for France, a country where they are prepared to fund mavericks.
There are innumerable moments in Brook’s long, packed, and amazingly varied career that would be worth le détour for theatre aficionados in an imaginary cultural Tardis. In fact, you are spoilt for choice – particularly if you are under 40 and therefore unable to have seen some of his greatest triumphs. Would you travel back to see Laurence Olivier in his Stratford production of Titus Andronicus, which he directed in 1955 as a veteran of 30? Or would you touch down in one of those African villages where – with just a carpet, a few simple props, and an international company of actors that included Helen Mirren – he tried to find the spark that could ignite a theatrical event between anyone, anywhere. Would you travel to a production from the post-England years (in Afghanistan or Persepolis or in South Africa) or would you, say, want to have a gawp at one of the early succès de scandale, such as the notorious staging of Strauss’s Salome, with designs by Salvador Dali, that saw Brook’s brief career as resident producer at Covent Garden over before he was 25?
After granting the problem a few seconds’ close consideration, Brook replies that he would choose to go to « absolutely none of them, for the simple reason that theatre exists only in the present moment ». His remark establishes the theme that runs through our talk – the tension between theatre as a present-tense medium and as a repository of its own heritage of accumulated wisdom and practices; between theatre as the intersection of the here-and-now and as a medium of revival, where plays are constantly resurrected for reinterpretation.
I try to raise objections to his purist approach – saying that, without wishing to be part of any time-hopping dirty-mac brigade, I would be fascinated to witness one of the plays put on by the Elizabethan/Jacobean boys’ companies. They were obliged to enact very « adult » V C fare – psychologically kinky and bloodthirsty tragedies. I’d like to get a sense of the sort of taste that was being catered for, and to try to work out how it overlapped, if at all, with the taste Shakespeare created. Brook implies that such an interest is too narrowly sociological.
To give me an insight into why he thinks the thought experiment has deep flaws, he says: « Let me give you two examples from my own experience. I remember seeing film clips of Sarah Bernhardt, and thinking that there is no way that we could properly re-enter the perception of her held by the cameraman who had her in his viewfinder. I also remember seeing a theatre ceremony in a Bengali village, and then seeing it again when they brought it over to London as part of an international festival.
« It wasn’t the same thing at all, at the matinée with nice Kensington ladies who looked on politely. They brought the dances; they brought the mise-en-scène. But they couldn’t bring the earth or the people of the village who gave the ceremony meaning. Yet, at the same time, it’s true that the present moment is hard to capture even in one’s own culture. Gertrude Stein said, about Picasso, that none of us can see the present directly with the eyes of the present. »
So time-travelling to a production in the past would, though a live experience, be akin to watching the video of a party to which one had not been invited, or to which one had turned up massively late and with the wrong gifts for the hosts? « Yes, » he answers. But the past, as embodied within plays, surely sends a great blood transfusion into the present, which is always in danger of becoming parochial in its self-absorption. The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there. And what they do and how they do it is food for thought.
There’s a recently published series of aperçus by the English director Simon Usher. He takes several amusing pot-shots at directors who try to invest the past with the values of the present on the grounds that it would been better for people back then if they had been more like us now. Or, as Usher pithily puts it: « Today’s theatre says: we know better than people in the past, and sets out to correct their mistakes; so Hamlet rejects Ophelia, Angelo rapes Isabella, and so on. »
Sometimes Brook highlights this tricky trade-off between present and past via international casting. In his third and most recent production of Hamlet, starring Adrian Lester as the Prince, he assigned the role of Ophelia to an Indian actress who was able to lend a note of contemporary urgency to the character’s oppression by her overbearing, intrusive father.
Or, as is the case in the current production of Fragments, he is creatively free with the playwright’s stage directions in order to give the spirit of the piece a fresh lease of dramatic life. Instead of being rocked mechanically in her mother’s chair, Kathryn Hunter’s protagonist in Rockaby manually rocks an ordinary chair and sits down on it only in the final movement. This brilliantly emphasises an insight – that the character has for so long perceived herself in the third person that the end feels less like suicide than auto-euthanasia, and more like the product of pity than of despair.
The Beckett estate has developed a reputation for uncompromising rigidity over productions of his work (notoriously, it put a stop in 1994 to Deborah Warner’s radical staging of Footfalls). But Brook reveals that, if you explain your intentions beforehand, they give you a fair hearing. He thinks that the writer’s words are always sacrosanct, but that the stage directions can legitimately be modified.
« The two things come from different sources, » he argues controversially, rather as Warner did when explaining her departure from the exact stage directions in Hedda Gabler. In her production, Gabler did not feed Lovborg’s manuscript to the stove in melodramatic instalments. Instead, she shoved the whole thing in at once, then instantly panicked. This, argued Warner (and Brook would agree) communicates more sharply to a contemporary audience the cardinal point: that she is a coward. It’s an instance, so their reasoning goes, where Ibsen was held back by the « stagey » conventions of his time. The modern director’s duty is to be true to the spirit, even if this means violating the letter of stage directions.
It was only after lunch was over and Brook had been left for an interview for Channel 4 News that I realised that I should have given the thought-experiment a further twist. The question could have been posed in the form: if you could travel back in time and sit in on three rehearsals, which would you choose and why?
It turns out that he had already sat in on a few historic rehearsals, and that they were eye-openers, though often not in the manner anticipated. In 1951, he went to East Germany and watched Bertolt Brecht in action with the Berliner Ensemble. What he saw convinced him that the doctrinaire approach to this dramatist elsewhere was more pious and constricting abroad than in his heartland.
« The great Brecht actors nourished by the rich Central European tradition of dense and psychologically fed naturalism just didn’t listen to Brecht’s abstract theories, and he respected this. He intoned those theories mainly for disciples, who were easier to manage. »
In general, though, he argues, the same flaws that are inherent in the notion of time-travelling back to public theatrical events would be found if you gatecrashed, in your temporary Tardis, directors’ private rehearsals. Brook says that he finds it hard to mentally reconstruct his own productions, and that a lot of what gets into the history books is approximate, to say the least. For example, it’s untrue to claim that the impact of the epochal Midsummer Night’s Dream was dependent upon the celebrated white-box set. The company once did a run at the Roundhouse where the surround was entirely dispensed with. But, by that stage, the show was so was much part of the actors’ bloodstream and instincts that the production flew as never before.
A historic figure, Brook has a principled suspicion of theatre history as a main subject. People who weren’t born at the time of the Dream are now annotating studies of it, he remarks with some horror, and their high-minded speculations can be wide of the mark. He reveals that it was simply watching the way a dancer wearing cowboy boots had got to his feet in a Jerome Robbins ballet that gave him the idea, exploited in the Dream, that a show could be both classical and modern at the same time.
The irony is that our greatest living theatre director began by wanting to make films. His extraordinary theatrical career must count as one of the most prodigiously fertile detours in the history of art.
« Fragments » is at the Young Vic, London SE1 (020-7922 2922) to 13 September

Tags :

The director who wrote the book

©Independent – 5 September 2008

Peter Brook: The director who wrote the book
Peter Brook wrote the bible for 1960s theatre’s revolutionaries with ‘The Empty Space’ and, at 83, is still relentlessly pushing boundaries. He tells Paul Taylor why he has to live in the moment.

Peter Brook is shouting at me. Loudly. And he’s shouting at me about Shakespeare. Not that he’s angry. It’s just that the world’s greatest theatre director is talking to me on his mobile from Heathrow Airport and the competition is cacophonous.
He is on his way back home to his base in Paris after a trip to London, where he has mounted a triumphant production of five short Beckett plays, under the collective title Fragments, at the Young Vic. We had met earlier in the week for a conversation over lunch at the theatre. I had confronted him with a thought experiment in which he participated with fascinating results. But, afterwards, I realised that I could have made the hypothetical situation sharper and more revealing. He had therefore agreed to a further bout of questioning.
The phone conversation climaxed in a moment of pure Brook. «For the first time in my life,» he said, «I feel like Shakespeare. Here I am with a small instrument – a mobile phone – through which I am using heightened language to lift the human voice and make it heard through all the life going on around me in these noisy shops and queues and cafés. The small instrument Shakespeare used was the Globe, which transmitted language and the human voice so that it was heard through the babble of the stews and the shops and the brothels crowded on Bankside.»
This analogy is quintessential Brook – the man whose 1968 book The Empty Space became the seminal text for modern theatre-makers and for lovers of the art form. It’s characteristic in the way that the image is plucked, on the instant, from the present circumstances, improvised with real-life props near to hand, or, in this case, literally in hand. No one, in conversation, can make his interlocutor more aware of the shared experience and charged possibilities of the current moment than Brook. He’s a living advertisement for the theatre, and for its special and tonic properties.
True, his analogy breaks down in various respects (obviously, a mobile phone communicates with an individual rather than with a community). But these considerations pale beside what is really important: the rinsed clarity Brook gives here to the perception of Globe as a piece of custom-built technology, and to a sense of the primacy of voice in Shakespearean drama.
«I see a voice…», cries Bottom, and only a pedantic fool would fail to see the deep, if semi-inadvertent, wisdom of that remark in relation to the dramatic medium in Shakespeare’s day. The analogy is typical, too, in its suggestion of trans-historical continuity. There are similar problems, by and large, through the ages – it’s just the solutions that are different. And theatre constitutes a particularly interesting instance of this.
When we met for lunch at the Young Vic, Brook was in the last stages of rehearsal for Fragments, which ranges in tone from existential slapstick to the mesmerising monologue Rockaby – pitch-dark but implying a lost radiance, just as the presence of a shadow entails a light source.
The show began life at Brook’s Paris theatre, Bouffes du Nord, two years ago, and last year visited the studio space at the Young Vic. In the current, highly recommended run, it has colonised the main house. The great mistake most people make with Brook is to suppose that he is a rarefied guru, interested only in dispensing the distillate of 83 years’ wisdom, in carefully rationed drops, to grateful disciples and uncomprehending journalists. In fact, he’s as world-savvy and also as pragmatic as they come.
The thought experiment that I had devised for the great director as a possible framework for our conversation is as follows. Imagine that you are given the use of a time-machine and permission to travel back to three theatrical events anywhere in the past. If your aim was to deepen your understanding of the nature of theatre, which of the myriad possibilities would you choose, and why?
I had tested the question out on a couple of clever, learned friends. One said that it would be easier for him to decide than for Brook, as one of the occasions he would choose would be Brook’s 1970 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the momentous white-box staging with trapezes, spinning-plate flowers and fist-clenched phalluses. This was the last production Brook mounted in this country before leaving for France, a country where they are prepared to fund mavericks.
There are innumerable moments in Brook’s long, packed, and amazingly varied career that would be worth le détour for theatre aficionados in an imaginary cultural Tardis. In fact, you are spoilt for choice – particularly if you are under 40 and therefore unable to have seen some of his greatest triumphs. Would you travel back to see Laurence Olivier in his Stratford production of Titus Andronicus, which he directed in 1955 as a veteran of 30? Or would you touch down in one of those African villages where – with just a carpet, a few simple props, and an international company of actors that included Helen Mirren – he tried to find the spark that could ignite a theatrical event between anyone, anywhere. Would you travel to a production from the post-England years (in Afghanistan or Persepolis or in South Africa) or would you, say, want to have a gawp at one of the early succès de scandale, such as the notorious staging of Strauss’s Salome, with designs by Salvador Dali, that saw Brook’s brief career as resident producer at Covent Garden over before he was 25?
After granting the problem a few seconds’ close consideration, Brook replies that he would choose to go to «absolutely none of them, for the simple reason that theatre exists only in the present moment». His remark establishes the theme that runs through our talk – the tension between theatre as a present-tense medium and as a repository of its own heritage of accumulated wisdom and practices; between theatre as the intersection of the here-and-now and as a medium of revival, where plays are constantly resurrected for reinterpretation.
I try to raise objections to his purist approach – saying that, without wishing to be part of any time-hopping dirty-mac brigade, I would be fascinated to witness one of the plays put on by the Elizabethan/Jacobean boys’ companies. They were obliged to enact very «adult» V C fare – psychologically kinky and bloodthirsty tragedies. I’d like to get a sense of the sort of taste that was being catered for, and to try to work out how it overlapped, if at all, with the taste Shakespeare created. Brook implies that such an interest is too narrowly sociological.
To give me an insight into why he thinks the thought experiment has deep flaws, he says: «Let me give you two examples from my own experience. I remember seeing film clips of Sarah Bernhardt, and thinking that there is no way that we could properly re-enter the perception of her held by the cameraman who had her in his viewfinder. I also remember seeing a theatre ceremony in a Bengali village, and then seeing it again when they brought it over to London as part of an international festival.
«It wasn’t the same thing at all, at the matinée with nice Kensington ladies who looked on politely. They brought the dances; they brought the mise-en-scène. But they couldn’t bring the earth or the people of the village who gave the ceremony meaning. Yet, at the same time, it’s true that the present moment is hard to capture even in one’s own culture. Gertrude Stein said, about Picasso, that none of us can see the present directly with the eyes of the present.»
So time-travelling to a production in the past would, though a live experience, be akin to watching the video of a party to which one had not been invited, or to which one had turned up massively late and with the wrong gifts for the hosts? «Yes,» he answers. But the past, as embodied within plays, surely sends a great blood transfusion into the present, which is always in danger of becoming parochial in its self-absorption. The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there. And what they do and how they do it is food for thought.
There’s a recently published series of aperçus by the English director Simon Usher. He takes several amusing pot-shots at directors who try to invest the past with the values of the present on the grounds that it would been better for people back then if they had been more like us now. Or, as Usher pithily puts it: «Today’s theatre says: we know better than people in the past, and sets out to correct their mistakes; so Hamlet rejects Ophelia, Angelo rapes Isabella, and so on.»
Sometimes Brook highlights this tricky trade-off between present and past via international casting. In his third and most recent production of Hamlet, starring Adrian Lester as the Prince, he assigned the role of Ophelia to an Indian actress who was able to lend a note of contemporary urgency to the character’s oppression by her overbearing, intrusive father.
Or, as is the case in the current production of Fragments, he is creatively free with the playwright’s stage directions in order to give the spirit of the piece a fresh lease of dramatic life. Instead of being rocked mechanically in her mother’s chair, Kathryn Hunter’s protagonist in Rockaby manually rocks an ordinary chair and sits down on it only in the final movement. This brilliantly emphasises an insight – that the character has for so long perceived herself in the third person that the end feels less like suicide than auto-euthanasia, and more like the product of pity than of despair.
The Beckett estate has developed a reputation for uncompromising rigidity over productions of his work (notoriously, it put a stop in 1994 to Deborah Warner’s radical staging of Footfalls). But Brook reveals that, if you explain your intentions beforehand, they give you a fair hearing. He thinks that the writer’s words are always sacrosanct, but that the stage directions can legitimately be modified.
«The two things come from different sources,» he argues controversially, rather as Warner did when explaining her departure from the exact stage directions in Hedda Gabler. In her production, Gabler did not feed Lovborg’s manuscript to the stove in melodramatic instalments. Instead, she shoved the whole thing in at once, then instantly panicked. This, argued Warner (and Brook would agree) communicates more sharply to a contemporary audience the cardinal point: that she is a coward. It’s an instance, so their reasoning goes, where Ibsen was held back by the «stagey» conventions of his time. The modern director’s duty is to be true to the spirit, even if this means violating the letter of stage directions.
It was only after lunch was over and Brook had been left for an interview for Channel 4 News that I realised that I should have given the thought-experiment a further twist. The question could have been posed in the form: if you could travel back in time and sit in on three rehearsals, which would you choose and why?
It turns out that he had already sat in on a few historic rehearsals, and that they were eye-openers, though often not in the manner anticipated. In 1951, he went to East Germany and watched Bertolt Brecht in action with the Berliner Ensemble. What he saw convinced him that the doctrinaire approach to this dramatist elsewhere was more pious and constricting abroad than in his heartland.
«The great Brecht actors nourished by the rich Central European tradition of dense and psychologically fed naturalism just didn’t listen to Brecht’s abstract theories, and he respected this. He intoned those theories mainly for disciples, who were easier to manage.»
In general, though, he argues, the same flaws that are inherent in the notion of time-travelling back to public theatrical events would be found if you gatecrashed, in your temporary Tardis, directors’ private rehearsals. Brook says that he finds it hard to mentally reconstruct his own productions, and that a lot of what gets into the history books is approximate, to say the least. For example, it’s untrue to claim that the impact of the epochal Midsummer Night’s Dream was dependent upon the celebrated white-box set. The company once did a run at the Roundhouse where the surround was entirely dispensed with. But, by that stage, the show was so was much part of the actors’ bloodstream and instincts that the production flew as never before.
A historic figure, Brook has a principled suspicion of theatre history as a main subject. People who weren’t born at the time of the Dream are now annotating studies of it, he remarks with some horror, and their high-minded speculations can be wide of the mark. He reveals that it was simply watching the way a dancer wearing cowboy boots had got to his feet in a Jerome Robbins ballet that gave him the idea, exploited in the Dream, that a show could be both classical and modern at the same time.
The irony is that our greatest living theatre director began by wanting to make films. His extraordinary theatrical career must count as one of the most prodigiously fertile detours in the history of art.

«Fragments» is at the Young Vic, London SE1 (020-7922 2922) to 13 September

Tags :

Sizwe Banzi est mort, théâtre 2006

D’Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona
Adaptation française Marie-Hélène Estienne
Mise en scène Peter Brook
Lumière Philippe Vialatte
Eléments scéniques Abdou Ouologuem
Avec Habib Dembélé, Pitcho Womba Konga

« Qu’est-ce qui se passe dans ce foutu monde ? Qui veut de moi, mon ami ? Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas avec moi ? Je suis un homme – j’ai des yeux pour voir – des oreilles  pour entendre les gens quand ils parlent- j’ai une tête pour penser des choses bien – qu’est-ce qui cloche avec moi ? Regardez-moi – je suis un homme – j’ai deux jambes – je peux courir avec mes deux jambes – je peux courir avec une brouette pleine de ciment ! Je suis fort ! Je suis un homme !… » Sizwe Banzi est mort (Extrait)

Tags :

Fragments, théâtre 2006 et 2015

MarcelloMagniSamuelBeckettFragments
© Photo Pascal Victor / ArtComArt

Fragments (d’après « Berceuse/ Fragment de théâtre I / Esquisse radiophonique / Immobile ») de Samuel Beckett
Première : octobre 2013 aux Bouffes du Nord
Mise en scène Peter Brook
Collaboration à la mise en scène Lilo Baur, Marie-Hélène Estienne
Lumière Philippe Vialatte
Son Pierre Bénichou
Avec Jos Houben, Marcello Magni, Geneviève Mnich (version 2006)

——–
fragments_

Avec Jos Houben, Kathryn Hunter et Marcello Magni (version 2015 – Janvier 2015 aux Bouffes du Nord, Paris)
Aujourd’hui, avec le passage du temps, nous voyons à quel point toutes les étiquettes qu’on a attribuées dans le passé à Samuel Beckett – un Beckett triste, négatif, désespéré – sont fausses. Ses pièces nous plongent dans la réalité de l’existence humaine, avec humour. Cet humour nous sauve. Beckett rejette les théories, les dogmes. Il est à la recherche de la vérité, il observe les gens, dans l’obscurité, il les plonge dans le vaste inconnu de la vie. Ils découvrent leur vérité à travers des fenêtres en eux-mêmes, dans les autres, le regard tourné tantôt vers l’extérieur, tantôt vers l’intérieur, vers le haut, vers le bas, « to and fro », « de long en large », comme le dit si bien le personnage de Rockaby. Beckett et nous, partageons leur incertitude, leur recherche, leur peine.
On ne « reprend » jamais un spectacle – on le « refait » et c’est un nouveau Fragments qui va voir le jour avec ses interprètes Kathryn Hunter, Jos Houben et Marcello Magni.
Peter Brook et MH Estienne

Today, with the passage of time, we see how untrue are all the labels that have been attributed to Samuel Beckett in the past – a sad, negative, desperate Beckett.  His plays draw us into the reality of human existence, with humour.  This humour saves us.  Beckett rejects theories, dogmas. He seeks the truth, he observes people, in the darkness, he swoops them into the vast unknown of life.  They discover their truth through windows that appear in themselves, in the others, looking now outwards, now in, upwards, down, ≪ high and low ≫, ≪ to and fro ≫,as the Rocakby character says so well.  We share with Beckett their uncertainty, their search, their anguish.This is not a revival, it’s Fragments’ revisited we will bring with its performers – Kathryn Hunter, Jos Houben and Marcello Magni.
Peter Brook et MH Estienne

Réouverture des Bouffes du Nord

Le Figaro, 21 septembre 2006 – Article de Marion Thébaud

Consolidée, la salle rouvre ses portes après un an de fermeture pour travaux. La programmation ménage une large place à la création.

Le tandem mythique Peter Brook-Micheline Rozan s’est reconstitué. Ensemble, ils annoncent la réouverture des Bouffes du Nord fermés pour travaux toute l’année passée. Que les nostalgiques du lieu parisien se rassurent. Les Bouffes restent conformes à nos rêves. On retrouve cette salle inchangée dans son aspect mais consolidée, solidifiée là où le péril menaçait. Il y a deux ans déjà, le théâtre avait annexé la boutique de farces et attrapes, permettant d’agrandir l’espace et de transformer le hall d’accueil en lieu digne de ce nom. Finies les attentes venteuses dans la rue aux portes d’une billetterie installées dans un recoin de fortune. Le public peut même arriver en avance et prendre un verre au bar attenant.

Femme de caractère Micheline Rozan a épaulé Peter Brook depuis la création, en 1974, du centre international de création théâtrale aux Bouffes du Nord. Ensemble, ils visaient à créer un «théâtre simple, ouvert, accueillant avec un prix de billet unique, aussi bas que possible», se souvient Peter Brook. Il y a neuf ans, Micheline Rozan avait laissé sa place à Stéphane Lissner estimant qu’elle avait bien oeuvré et qu’il était temps de lever le pied. «J’ai commencé ma carrière en réussissant quelques bons castings. Je crois mettre un point final à cinquante ans de métier en réussissant mon dernier casting : le choix de Stéphane Lissner.» Invité à diriger la Scala de Milan, Stéphane Lissner a dû quitter ses fonctions aux Bouffes du Nord et Peter a très vite rappelé Micheline. «J’aime sa rigueur, reprend Peter Brook. Elle est exigeante sans raideur.» Entrée en action, le nez dans les chiffres, Micheline Rozan a fait la grimace, puis s’est attelée à la tâche : «Il y a du travail. Avant tout il fallait s’inquiéter de la cohérence de la programmation. C’est essentiel.»

Des spectacles à 19 heures
Micheline Rozan au gouvernail, le théâtre reprend un cap ferme. Première révolution, elle inscrit des spectacles à 19 heures. Des petites formes qui permettent à des personnalités proches de la galaxie «brookienne» de s’exprimer. Un jour par semaine, le lundi, le théâtre propose des récitals, car la salle bénéficie d’une acoustique inégalable. Bien naturellement, il s’inscrit dans l’hommage rendu à Beckett dont on fête le centenaire de la naissance. À cette occasion, Brook lui-même mettra en scène Fragments composé de trois courts textes dont Berceuse que jouera Geneviève Mnich. «Respecter l’auteur ce n’est pas seulement respecter sa musique c’est aussi respecter son humanité. Nous nous y efforçons avec mes comédiens.» Un Hollandais, Jos Houben, et un Italien, Marcello Magni, tous deux issus de l’école de Jacques Lecoq, viennent rejoindre la troupe.

On retrouvera Michael Lonsdale qui reprendra son spectacle monté à la création en 1963, Comédie, féroce satire du mariage, avec Éleonore Hirt, Laurence Bourdil. Enfin, une pièce phare de Beckett Fin de partie sera programmée dans une mise en scène de Pierre Chabert qui a travaillé avec des comédiens turcs. Une affiche originale dans la grande tradition d’un théâtre qui s’autorisera de temps en temps un projet grand public comme ce Misanthrope prévu la saison prochaine, joué par Fabrice Luchini

Le Grand Inquisiteur, théâtre 2006

De Fedor Dostoïevski
Adaptation Marie-Hélène Estienne
Mise en scène Peter Brook
Lumière Philippe Vialatte
Avec Maurice Bénichou, Ken Higelin

« L’action se passe en Espagne, à Séville, au seizième siècle – à l’époque la plus terrible de l’Inquisition. Le Christ revient parmi les hommes sous la forme qu’il avait durant les trois ans de sa vie publique. Le voici qui descend vers les rues brûlantes de la ville où justement la veille, en présence du roi, des courtisans, des chevaliers, des cardinaux et des plus charmantes dames de la cour, le Grand Inquisiteur a fait brûler une centaine d’hérétiques. » Le Grand Inquisiteur, extrait (In Les Frères Karamazov) traduction française de Henri Mongault, éditions Gallimard.

Un festival de polémiques

© Libération 14 juillet 2006. Par René Solis

Le Festival d’Avignon, une histoire en mouvement, au gymnase du lycée Saint-Joseph, 12 h-13 h et 15 h-18 h. Jusqu’au 15 juillet. Entrée libre.

C’est hier matin au gymnase Saint-Joseph, que Peter Brook a donné le lancement de trois jours de rencontres entre artistes, universitaires et grands témoins sur «l’histoire en mouvement» du Festival depuis sa création en 1947. Cette manifestation, organisée en collaboration avec la Maison Jea Vilar à l’occasion de la soixantième édition, n’est pas réservée au spécialistes, mais, au contraire, largement ouverte au public
La première journée était consacrée à «l’évolution des formes esthétiques théâtrales». On a pu notamment y entendre le philosophe et philologue Heinz Wismann, professeur à l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, dont la présentation de la communication telle qu’elle figure dans le programme donne une idée de la hauteur des débats : «L’écoulement régulier d’un temps homogène et vide fait partie des perceptions constitutives de la conscience moderne. Scandé par les horloges, réduit aux échéances et consigné dans les archives, ce temps abstrait se substitue ainsi à celui de l’expérience vécue, l’accélération vertigineuse des événements n’étant que la trace fugitive de son passage monotone. Or, parmi les pratiques dérivées de l’observance religieuse, les rituels de l’art servent désormais de principal antidote à la déréalisation existentielle. Plus particulièrement, les arts de la scène sont appelés à restituer la plénitude spatio-temporelle du rapport entre le cours des choses et le destin des êtres. En jouant sur la diversité convergente des rythmes et des lieux, le Festival instaure une sorte de cosmogonie singulière, dont chaque avatar fait signe vers la promesse d’un sens partagé.»
Au programme d’aujourd’hui, «Le public à la rencontre des œuvres», avant la conclusion de samedi consacrée au «Festival témoin et acteur citoyen».

Peter Brook: all the world’s his stage

January 23, 2005 – © Times

At 80, Peter Brook is bringing his genius back to London. And, though he doesn’t want to be seen as a messiah, says Dominic Dromgoole, this is one director who’s still working miracles
How do you rescue a saint from sanctity? There is something about the theatre director Peter Brook that suggests whispering in Vatican corridors and the papal nod. Except that, if he is to be canonised, it would be outside any organised religion. Like Nelson Mandela, like Muhammad Ali, like Arthur Miller, he is a saint of a new type. There is no pope to legislate for these communicants of a new connected global consciousness.

It’s a cliché, but there is something saintly about Brook, who is 80 this year. He has a power of sight, both within to the spirit and without to the world, given to few and maintained through a lifetime by even fewer. Like all saints, he is also surrounded by some rather creepy acolytes, who help create a highly unfortunate aura of sanctity. When his Hamlet opened in London in 2001, there was a programme note of such uber-unctuousness that it encapsulated most of the problem. It said, with manufactured awe: “Peter Brook is theatre.”

Every nerve in your body shrieks “No!” when you read something like that. There is a terrifyingly airless exclusivity to it. Peter Brook alone is not theatre. Roy “Chubby” Brown is theatre. Berwick Kaler’s York panto is theatre. An ageing touring production of Ayckbourn is theatre. They are all theatre equally. Yet there is a pious, snobbish strain among the acolytes that wants to raise Brook up to an Olympian height that all other drama must aspire to. It’s a hierarchy that doesn’t make sense. The school Nativity play can reach greater poetry than any star vehicle in the West End. An amateur group of farmers having a laugh playing the mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream can hit the same dignified warmth that the actors strove for in Brook’s celebrated production 35 years ago. It’s unlikely they could do it night after night in a production that travels and stuns the world, as Brook’s actors did. Nor is it likely that their amateur director could ever achieve the effortless intermingling of romance, magic, poetry and rough humour that Brook wove together. But on any given night, it is impossible to say where true dramatic virtue will appear. It’s too democratic a spirit.

It doesn’t suit Brook, either. When I spoke to him recently, we were talking about the genius of Shakespeare and his special capacity for disappearing, for making his own personality evaporate in the process of creating. I asked Brook if it was hard to remain self-effacing when the whole world was so keen to memorialise you. “It’s important not to take oneself too seriously,” he said. “When I am treated as an expert or a specialist or a guru — I hate that. It is useless and destructive for anyone to follow someone else’s path. We mustn’t encourage the cult of the personality.” Yet in this age of kitschily perfect plastic messiahs, it is hard to shake off the desire of many to scrub their heroes clean of all human mess. And in a theatre culture that has largely given itself over to the values and aesthetics of the boutique, Brook is uncomfortably held up as the ultimate gilded artefact.

The audience are as responsible as the acolytes. If you go to the Bouffes du Nord, Brook’s own theatre in Paris, you find the lively bounce of excitement that the French delight in to help create an event. If you bring the same show to London, it is surrounded by a cultish, hushed reverence. Words and actions are observed as if they had a divine authority. This is not an environment in which theatre can happen. When Shakespeare pitched Hamlet out at 2,000 spectators, he had a restless mob to manage. So, beside the delicate introspection of the hero, he stuffed in jokes, sword fights, shouting and a rampant story. If he hadn’t, he would have been shouted off. His crowd was hungry for dramatic meat. And he enjoyed that element of the contract. If he saw the subdued, squashed spirits I was surrounded by, watching Brook’s meditative distillation of Hamlet, he would have been horrified. Theatre can’t take place without some rough and tumble, without some resistance. There is no magic of silent attention to achieve if the audience have been practising their silent attention in yoga classes for the past two months.

Brook seems aware of this, and uneasy. Speaking of his new show, Ta main dans la mienne (Your Hand in Mine), which he is bringing to the Barbican, he said: “I don’t want people to see it as something representative of my work. Nothing I do is representative. Nor is it a demonstration of the experimental impulse. It simply is what it is.” The play is a sparse and simple account of the love maintained between Chekhov and Olga Knipper through their correspondence. “There was a special quality of feeling that Chekhov was trying to evoke through those letters. We are trying to match it.” He is at pains to demystify his work: “Ever since I began in Paris, I have stopped being interested in directing as an art in itself. I now feel a director is simply a person taking responsibility to help a group produce a quality of experience in the moment. That can mean being showy with fires and water, as in Mahabharata, or it can mean being spare and minimal, as we are with the Chekhov piece.”

After almost 60 years of unbroken achievement, he can be allowed a little modesty. He is, first and foremost, what it says on his passport: a theatre director. And a great one. He has an exquisite sense of beauty. This has shifted from the Watteau-esque decoration of his Love’s Labour’s Lost in the 1940s, through the lurid pop-art colours of his Dream, to the russety reds and browns of his more recent, autumnal work, such as Hamlet and Le Costume, both seen at the Young Vic. He has moved with the shifting colours in the world and in himself, but has always had a steady eye for unearthing truth’s partner, beauty. He is also a genius at casting. He spends years picking his actors, and it shows. From right across the world, he finds and chooses the actors closest to the essence of each part. His internationalism is not an ideology — it is the people he works with. He began this process with his expeditions to Africa in the 1970s, and it reached its culmination with Mahabharata, an Indian epic performed by an international cast all around the world. In this, as much as anything, he points the way to the future. In rehearsals, somehow, he digs deep and mines the heart of each scene, but not for a display of demonstrative emotion. Having discovered the deepest truths, he confects with his actors a light dance around the essence of each moment.

If he has a signature, it is in his unique ability to evoke a sense of the numinous just beyond the world we see. The mysterious third, who walks always beside us, seems to whisper his way into the theatre during a Brook show. He is more and more conscious of this presence, as he has been working recently on African plays with a powerful spiritual presence. “Theatre must bring out what is ignored or for-gotten in the present day. It must respect that behind the lies, the monstrosities and the persecutions that go with religion, there is something beyond all that, something that binds us all together and something that, in the theatre, can be tasted in direct experience. Theatre is not a religion, not a temple, a philosophical forum. We use mechanisms of legitimate entertainment — story and rhythm and humour and fun — to create openings.” Openness is the crucial virtue for Brook — not in the glasnost sense, nor in the lazy pluralism we all give a nod to. He means in the Shakespearian sense, the openness Lear tumbles terrifyingly towards and Hamlet discovers: openness to the reality of the world and of all others.

I ask him about the latest incident of closedness in our world: the riots that closed Behzti in Birmingham. He asserts the impertinence of talking on a subject he has little knowledge of, but goes on to say: “All our lives are balance, boundaries and limits. Socially and politically, we have to stretch barriers and sometimes crash through them, but sometimes you have to respect them. There is an absurdity level to religion one cannot respect. There are conventional taboos one cannot respect. But there is a fine line where there is a precious place in people that we must respect. We can’t go and kick someone in the arse just for the fun of it.”

He develops his theme to reveal a gentle impatience with some of the shock theatre of recent years. “Theatre is always on the move, and its job is to go against whatever is obvious. In a moment of absolute chaos such as now, with no faith, no belief and no conviction, there is a role to reveal something else. When we’ve had 150 years of smashing through barriers, then the theatre of protest and outrage has become conventional. Denouncing capitalism was great in the 1960s, but it’s boring now. Theatre mustn’t be a Don Quixote, charging at windmills that are no longer dangerous.”

This is where he parts company with some of us, partly over the present dangers of religion and capitalism, and partly over the role of theatre. The English theatre has an art tradition, a holy tradition and a kick-ass punk tradition. From Vice in the Mysteries, through Falstaff, to Jimmy Porter and on, there have always been yobbos happy to cause as much needless offence as possible. It is part of what makes us ghastly and glorious. The exemplar of that tradition was our other great loss to France, Joan Littlewood. She and Brook went on almost perfectly contrary journeys. Littlewood, the working-class girl, went from street theatre out of a van to the sophisticated wildness of Stratford East, and retired to the fine wines of the Rothschild vineyards. Brook, the Chiswick émigré, began in the fineness and decadence of the opera world and Binkie Beaumont’s West End and finished in a rough district of Paris doing pure theatrical research. Both were glorious; neither was right.

To understand the full glory of our theatre, we have to celebrate both.

I worked with two good actors once, one who had acted extensively with Littlewood, the other with Brook. After a long and wild night on tour, I saw them sitting on a bench. The Brook actor had got up at dawn, after a good night’s sleep. The Littlewood actor had been drinking, rowing and flirting all night. They sat there, one with a cup of green tea, the other with the fag end of a bottle of whisky. They talked, as one wiped sleep away and the other fell towards it. The Brook actor started doing t’ai chi, carving out clean lines in the pink sky. The Littlewood actor rose and imitated him. The trained actor hit his groove quickly; amazingly, the one with no training also found his zone, his calm place. They were elegant together in their field. As Brook knows, though his acolytes often forget, there is more than one way to grace.

Your Hand in Mine, Barbican, EC2, from Wednesday until February 12; Peter Brook is in conversation with John Tusa after Wednesday’s performance

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Peter Brook: The grand inquisitor

©Independent Digital (UK) Ltd – 26 November 2004

After a lifetime spent using drama to examine the human condition, Peter Brook talks to Paul Taylor about theatre’s power to shine a light in the darkness.

Peter Brook’s first ambition was to be a film director. But he was a young man in a hurry and did not relish the prospect of serving a long apprenticeship. So he fell into theatre, a move he saw at the time as «a detour through an old-fashioned province [that] could eventually lead me back to the highway I wanted to take». It must count as one of the most productive and eventful detours in cultural history.
Widely recognised as the greatest theatre director to have emerged since the Second World War, Brook will be 80 next March. He’s a man who – in mid-life and at the pinnacle of success with his historic white-box-and-trapezes A Midsummer Night’s Dream – kicked away the careerist ladder, turned his back on England and moved to France in search of working conditions conducive to profound, long-term theatrical research. The French, in happy contrast to Brook’s fellow Brits, are prepared to fund gifted individuals as well as institutions. The veteran director is currently celebrating his 30th year at the Bouffes du Nord, the wonderful disused music hall with the mysterious proportions of a mosque that he discovered and reopened in all its battered beauty in 1974.
From this Paris base, Brook led his multinational company (which originally included Helen Mirren) on a succession of epic journeys. They travelled through West Africa, with the aim of seeing what could be learnt about theatre by throwing away all the customary props of shared reference and by performing stories outdoors on a carpet to audiences who had neither a language nor social and cultural conventions in common with the actors. On a mountaintop in Iran, they delivered Orghast, a version of the Prometheus legend in an invented language that Ted Hughes had conjured from some Jung-meets-Chomsky level of the brain. In California, they improvised sketches for strikers. They mounted an astonishing nine-hour trilogy of plays derived from The Mahabharata, the longest narrative poem in existence and a touchstone of Hindu thought. Premiered through the night in a quarry in Avignon, this story of two warring clans in a tottering universe ended with a vision of paradise, timed to coincide with the first light of dawn breaking over the cliff.
Brook’s journeys have been a constant search for deeper ways of discovering «what is the essence of theatre» and «what can theatre uniquely do?». In their hunger for meaning, they have also been spiritual quests.
Religion becomes an explicit theme in the remarkable three plays that he has just unveiled at the Bouffes du Nord. It forms a fervent response to the post-9/11 world, but one which is different from the head-on documentary-drama approach of David Hare’s Stuff Happens or Guantanamo or the boisterous agit-prop of Embedded. Religious extremism, a travesty of true spiritual feeling, is tearing the planet apart. So Brook’s trio fastens on situations where a figure in whom the religious impulse is still pure offers heartening resistance to the institutional corruption or political exploitation of faith. The central piece (which will visit England next year) is the hauntingly beautiful Tierno Bokar, adapted by Marie-Hélène Estienne from Amadou Hampaté Bâ’s book about the eponymous real-life village sage. Set in French-occupied Mali in the first half of the 20th century, the play charts how, for its own political ends, the colonial administration inflamed an initially peaceable doctrinal dispute among the Muslims over whether a particular prayer should be recited 11 or 12 times. From these modest, almost banal beginnings, the situation escalated into massacres and martyrdom, linking a small African village to key policy decisions in the Second World War. The charismatic oppositional figure here is Tierno Bokar, a humble teacher who achieved the spiritual humility to switch sides in the now violent doctrinal dispute, an exemplary act that leads to his ostracism and death.
The piece is flanked by two one-man plays, both performed by Maurice Benichou. In La Mort de Krishna, a postscript to The Mahabharata, the divine hero comes to accept the wisdom that there are times when even a god must consent to die, while the third section, Le Grand Inquisiteur, dramatises the scene in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in which Christ returns to earth and is arrested by the Spanish Inquisition. The redoubtable Inquisitor informs Christ that the Catholic Church has had to rectify His unfortunate mistake of giving man the intolerable curse of freedom of thought. How dare the Redeemer come back and threaten to disturb the totalitarian set-up that has been created? It’s the wordless Christ, though, who delivers the coup de grâce in the kiss of forgiveness he plants on the astonished old man’s cheek.
I went to Paris to see the three plays and to talk to Brook, who is as formidably alert and attentive as ever. He winces at being described as a «guru» and if that’s how he comes across in some interviews, it’s not his fault but a failure in the writing to convey the sly humour which frequently gives a curly twist to those high, wiry tones of his. For example, I once met him in London a few days before he was due to be invested as a Companion of Honour. «I’m not sure,» he grinned impishly, «which spot the Queen touches you on for this.» On another occasion I interviewed him over tea at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford. Brook took great delight in recalling how, when he was an undergraduate, he persuaded the notorious Aleister Crowley (then known as «the Wickedest Man in the World») to hide in his bedroom so that he could create a sensation by suddenly producing him at the height of a college party. (Brook was evidently a precocious director offstage as well as on.) Crowley had stayed at the Randolph where he had scandalised a waiter who asked him for his room number by roaring, «The number of the Great Beast, of course – 666!» Brook can always see the funny side. During our recent conversation in Paris, my tape ran out with a loud, insolent click, just as Brook was explaining some point of Hindu philosophy and bewailing how the word «spiritual» has become a dirty word in our culture. «See,» he flashed, «even the machine won’t have it. It’s Western; it doesn’t want to know.»
The director expands on the thinking behind the three plays. «The 20th century was based on two clear-cut things – capitalism and communism – and one knew where one stood. What is terrifying now is that this century is a confrontation of religions, because Bush has been elected very largely as a ‘man of God’. With religious extremist versus religious extremist, the precious thing that religion is all about is lost.» I suggest that similarities with the current situation in Iraq must have struck them while they were rehearsing Tierno Bokar. «The more we worked on it, the more we saw that you can substitute ‘American’ for ‘French’ and ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shi’ite’ for the adherents of 11 and 12. But at the same time for us the great interest is not to do that literally. I’m sure that if we did exactly the same play spelling out the equivalents, it would be unable to go beyond what everyone is receiving day after day from television and newspapers.»
What then, for Brook, is theatre’s true role at this time? It can, he says, help us «to catch glimpses of what our lives have lost and give us a fleeting taste of qualities long forgotten». Read on the page in Dostoevsky’s novel, the Grand Inquisitor’s logic rolls on like a relentless juggernaut. Embodied on the stage, though, in Brook’s production, the unsettling power of Christ’s impassive presence is palpable. The more implacably Maurice Benichou’s Inquisitor makes his case, the more he looks as though he is coming unravelled inwardly. «He’s one of those people,» says Brook, «who can persuade anyone of anything – except, of course, himself.» The final line of the scene, «The kiss glows in his heart, but the old man sticks to his idea», suggests that under the ideological stubbornness the doubt has intensified.
Brook seems to be arguing that theatre should intervene in the current turmoil rather in the manner of Dostoevsky’s Christ who declines to enter into debate but reaches beyond it with an eloquent and subversive gesture. «The answer is not discussion but direct experience and that is something theatre can offer,» Brook proclaims. Theatre is there to go against the tide and «when times are negative, there is only one current that goes secretly against the tide. The positive.» You can be a keen admirer (as I am) of the theatre of fact, splendidly represented by the Tricycle’s reconstructed «tribunal» dramas, and still agree with Brook that the art form is capable of providing far more than food for thought.
The director is aware that the very word «positive» sets up a negative reaction because of its vagueness and its grating Pollyanna-ish associations. His deeply moving production of Tierno Bokar is positive not in any shallow sense of being falsely consoling or determinedly optimistic or by peddling pious uplift. A play with a hero who says, «I pray to God that at the moment I die I have more enemies to whom I have done nothing than friends», and who expires in just such a terrible, rejected state can’t be accused of an unduly rose-tinted perspective on life. No, what the production does is flood the theatre with a fortifying sense of human goodness (it kept reminding me of Iris Murdoch’s comment that goodness is much more interesting that evil), even as it piercingly dramatises the personal cost of a virtuous stand. Staged with a glowing simplicity and underscored with the sound of ancient instruments, the event is irradiated by the performance of Sotigui Kouyaté as Tierno. Long and bony like a Giacometti statue, and with an entrancingly gentle presence, this actor has the ability to convey a rare and convincing combination of simplicity and depth. The tolerant wisdom of the Sufi sage – as when he crucially preaches that «There are three realities. My truth, your truth and Truth» – might sound a touch coy coming from anyone else, but such words seem to be underwritten by a lifetime’s weathered experience and rigorous contemplation when uttered by Kouyaté.
Brook has always cast his net wide in assembling his company. You can see this humane eclecticism again in the casting of the younger roles here where the performers range from a Belgian who is also a rap and slam singer (Pitcho Womba Konga) to a man (Dorcy Rugamba) who lost all his family in the Rwandan massacres. He recently went back there to take part in an eight-hour dramatisation of those events. This had, according to Brook, an extraordinarily cathartic effect on the audience in which murderers and the families of their victims sat side by side. Both actors are superb in Tierno. I have never seen the currents of feeling between a loving master and his devoted pupil or the faction-transcending respect between two men of wisdom communicated with such rapt, breathtaking beauty.
Brook was born in London in 1925 to Russian émigré parents and was educated at Westminster and Gresham’s schools, then at Magdalen College, Oxford. He made his directing debut in London with Dr Faustus when he was just 18. In 1944, he joined a film company, but in 1945 left to direct Jean Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine. He then directed several plays at Birmingham Repertory.
In 1947, he went to Stratford where his Romeo and Juliet met with a less than rapturous welcome. Between 1947 and 1950 he worked at the Royal Opera House and mounted numerous productions in the UK, Europe and US. He married Natasha Parry in 1951 and they had one son and one daughter.
In 1962, he returned to Stratford, to the newly started Royal Shakespeare Company, of which he was made a co-director, and where he directed Paul Scofield in King Lear. In 1970, with Jean-Louis Barrault, he set up the Paris-based International Centre for Theatre Research, the aim of which was to explore the fundamentals of historical and worldwide drama. He worked with the centre throughout the Eighties, travelling to Asia and Africa, and presenting experimental productions, including Ubu Roi (1977), The Cherry Orchard (1981) and The Mahabharata in 1985. In 1978, he returned to Stratford to direct a widely praised Antony and Cleopatra starring Glenda Jackson and Alan Howard.
His film work includes Lord of the Flies (1962), Marat/Sade (1967) and Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979). He has written several books on the theory and practice of the theatre, as well as a memoir, Threads of Time: Recollections, which was published in 1998.
As Brook approaches his 80th birthday, it’s good to recall some of the many ways in which he has been a pathfinder and inspiration. He virtually invented the idea of the Fringe when, for his 1964 production of Genet’s The Screens, he moved theatre out of the theatre, so speak, and commandeered the Donmar – in those days an enormously tall, bare converted warehouse – to give him the freedom and room he needed for the amazing four-level action of the final scene. Likewise, it would be hard to overestimate the influence of his 1968 classic, The Empty Space. He’s modest about this, pointing out that he assembled these lectures in book form for the pragmatic purpose of funding a trip to Afghanistan. What pleased him most, though, was that in the worst days of apartheid in South Africa, the book penetrated through to the townships. «There were all these people dying to make theatre, but theatre buildings didn’t exist. At the start of the book, I say that you can take an empty space and call it a bare stage; you don’t need red curtains, spot-lights and tip-up seats. To hear this idea from someone far away with all those supposed advantages – that was useful for them, which is my only criterion.»
Of the generation of directors that includes Deborah Warner, Simon McBurney, and Declan Donnellan, a great many were fired with the desire to work in theatre by the revelatory A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a production which they saw as teenagers in 1970. For practitioners, Brook is the magician who can stage diametrically opposed theatrical techniques in the same show, as when he thrillingly rammed together the violent immediacy of Antonin Artaud’s creed, with its analogy of theatre to a police-raid on a red-light district, and the cool, distancing scepticism of Brecht and his alienation technique in his celebrated production of Marat/Sade, the Peter Weiss play-within-a-play performed by the inmates of a lunatic asylum. He excites as a director who can constantly reinvent himself, moving, say, from the vast mythic canvas of The Mahabarata to the interior of the brain for The Man Who, his immaculate meditation on neurological disorders and what they tell us about what it means to be human. Brook also stands as an eloquent indictment of this country’s reluctance to fund brilliant mavericks. «The Bouffes du Nord would not have existed without the support we have now had for 30 years from the French Ministry of Culture who have never asked to see our programme in advance or to justify it. That simply could not happen in England.»
In January, at the Barbican, English audiences can see Brook’s staging of Ta Main dans la Mienne, an exquisite miniature derived from the letters between Chekhov and his actress wife Olga Knipper, and beautifully performed by Natasha Parry and Michel Piccoli. Funny, sad, and at moments strangely mystical, the production makes delicate play with the paradox of the actors’ shifting proximity to each other on stage and the regular aching distance between the correspondents – Chekhov in Yalta because of his tuberculosis and Olga busy creating roles in his new works in Moscow and St Petersburg. «This theme touches people very much,» says Brook, «because today, with equal careers, it’s not just theatre couples who have this problem – coming together and being torn apart, one with the in-laws while the other’s on a plane to Hong Kong.»
Brook himself was just about to fly to New York to prepare for the visit of Tierno Bokar. He shows little sign of slowing down. It remains to be seen what he has in store for us in his ninth decade but we can be confident that he will continue to extend the possibilities of the art form and confirm the truth of one of his own sayings: that «theatre reopens what definition closes».

Peter Brook/CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, ‘Ta Main dans la Mienne’ (‘Your Hand in Mine’) Barbican Centre, London EC2 (0845 120 7550) 26 January to 12 February 2005

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Peter Brook, Dostoïevski et la soumission aveugle au mystère

© LE MONDE – 15.11.04 par Michel Cournot

«Le Grand Inquisiteur», d’après «Les Frères Karamazov», aux Bouffes du Nord, à Paris.
Dostoïevski , dans Les Frères Karamazov, imagine qu’au XVIe siècle, à Venise, Jésus revient ici-bas. Au milieu de la foule en adoration, il rend la vue à un aveugle, puis ressuscite une fillette.
L’Inquisiteur apparaît, fait arrêter et enfermer Jésus, et lui dit :»Pourquoi nous déranger ? Demain tu seras brûlé comme le pire des hérétiques, et ce même peuple qui aujourd’hui te baisait les pieds se précipitera demain, sur un signe de moi, pour alimenter ton bûcher.»
Puis il lui tient un long discours : c’est le célèbre texte Le Grand Inquisiteur, texte fondateur, en Russie, d’un certain «récit philosophique».
«Les peuples ont forgé des dieux, et se sont défiés les uns des autres – quittez vos dieux, adorez les nôtres, sinon malheur à vous et à vos dieux ! – et il en sera ainsi jusqu’à la fin du monde !»LA PEUR DE LA LIBERTÉ. L’Inquisiteur dit que Jésus avait donné aux peuples la liberté, la liberté de la foi, et que l’Eglise a supprimé cette liberté qui leur faisait peur, «car il n’y a jamais rien eu de plus intolérable pour l’homme et la société». Ce n’est pas la libre décision des cœurs ni l’amour qui importeraient aux peuples, mais le mystère, auquel ils doivent se soumettre aveuglément, même contre le gré de leur conscience, «et c’est ce que nous avons fait, quinze siècles durant», dit l’Inquisiteur.
La liberté serait inconciliable avec le pain. En recevant leurs pains, les hommes verront que nous prenons les leurs, qu’ils ont gagnés par leur travail, pour les leur redistribuer, sans aucun miracle. Ils comprendront la valeur de la soumission définitive, nous leur donnerons un bonheur doux et humble, adapté aux faibles créatures qu’ils sont.
Quand l’Inquisiteur se tait enfin, Jésus l’embrasse sans dire un mot et s’en va. Peter Brook a tenu à nous faire entendre les propos de l’Inquisiteur, car ils ne sont pas sans lien avec ce que nous vivons aujourd’hui : «Ceux qui ne croient pas en Dieu (…) discourent sur le socialisme, l’anarchie, sur la rénovation de l’humanité ; or ces questions sont les mêmes, mais envisagées sous une autre face.»
Marie-Hélène Estienne a adapté la traduction d’Henri Mongault. Peter Brook a dirigé l’un de ses acteurs fidèles, Maurice Bénichou, qui donne de l’air et de la clarté à un texte d’une extrême ambivalence. C’est un «théâtre» on ne peut plus dense, qui demande une lecture ou une relecture des Frères Karamazov, le plus beau livre de Dostoïevski.

Le Grand Inquisiteur, d’après Les Frères Karamazov de Dostoïevski. Marie-Hélène Estienne (adaptation), Peter Brook (mise en scène). Avec Maurice Bénichou et Antonin Stahly (musique).
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, 37 bis, boulevard de La Chapelle, Paris-10e. Métro La Chapelle. Tél. : 01-46-07-34-50. Le vendredi et le samedi à 19 heures. Le dimanche à 14 h 30. 12 € et 16 €.

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Les trois vérités de Brook

Par Jean-Pierre Thibaudat
26 octobre 2004 – © Libération

Quelle que soit la scène (théâtre du Nord à Lille, Bouffes du Nord à Paris), le spectacle (La Mort de Krishna, Tierno Bokar le sage de Biandiagara etle Grand Inquisiteur), on reconnaît le lieu. Des tapis d’Orient ou d’Afrique, une estrade où sont posés tissus, sièges, instruments de musique lointains. On sait que la lumière, la musique et les voix seront douces comme les lignes de cet espace proche de l’horizon où les hommes vont monnayer leur verticalité quand cela sera leur tour ou bien s’asseoir et écouter comme nous. Le tour de passe-passe de Peter Brook consiste en ceci, que ce n’est pas la troupe qui va de ville en ville mais la place du village qui voyage de théâtre en théâtre.
C’était en 1972, Brook et ses acteurs partaient pour trois mois d’Afrique. Non une tournée, une quête. Au bout du Sahara, à In-Salah, au marché, improvisant à partir de chaussures sur un tapis. «Nous ressentions une attention, un accueil et une reconnaissancefoudroyante, raconte Brook. Quelque chose qui, l’espace d’une seconde peut-être, changeait pour chaque acteur, le sens des relations avec un public.» (1) Là commence Tierno Bokar.
Dans un livre (2), Amadou Ampaté Bâ a raconté l’histoire de ce «père spirituel». Enfance, arrivée à Bamako dans les années 1900, école française, l’Afrique de l’Ouest sous le joug français. Tout cela conté avec une simplicité théâtrale aussi souple que drôle (adaptation de Marie-Hélène Destienne, collaboratrice de Brook). L’histoire de Tierno Bokar se resserre autour d’un litige entre deux branches de la confrérie soufie Tidjani à propos d’une prière : les partisans du Cheik Chérif Hamallâh, les hamallistes jurent qu’elle doit se dire avec onze grains de chapelet, les omariens, partisans du Cheikh el Hadj Omar, assurent qu’il en faut douze. C’est une guerre coranique où les potentats de l’Afrique occidentale française jouent un rôle, sale il va sans dire. Tierno Bokar appartenait à la famille d’El Hadj Omar, mais, en 1937, il alla voir le Chérif Hamallâh, ensemble ils parlèrent des nuits entières. Convaincu, il changea de camp, ses cousins virent en lui un traître, et l’administration français un bouc émissaire, trop contente de nuire à cet empêcheur de tourner en rond qu’était le «sage de Bandiagara».
Tierno Bokar est mort sur sa natte le 19 février 1940. En scène c’est Sotigui Koyaté qui endosse ses habits et ses mots, lui offrant ses gestes et ses silences de griot burkinabé, dans une bouleversante fusion. Au soir de sa vie, quand on lui rapportait les propos de ses ennemis, Tierno Bokar répondait : «Ils sont plus dignes de pitié et de prières que de condamnation et de reproche, parce qu’ils sont ignorants. Ils ne savent pas et, malheureusement, ils ne savent pas qu’ils ne savent pas.» C’est pour de telles réflexions, dictées par la tolérance, que Brook a monté ce spectacle.
«Où est la vérité ?» demande le jeune Ammkoullel à Tierno Bokar. «La vérité n’appartient à personnerépond le vieil homme, ma vérité et ta vérité sont deux croissants de lune.» S’ils convergent, on voit la nuit comme en plein jour, mais s’ils divergent, on n’y voit plus rien. C’est là que les deux autres spectacles que Brook présente, sur la même scène des Bouffes du Nord, façonnent avec Tierno Bokar un opportun triptyque.
Faciès. Avec Le Grand Inquisiteur, Brook rafraîchit la mémoire de ceux qui, au nom d’un Dieu qui ne serait que chrétien, entendent lutter contre l’empire du mal, ceux qui, Bush ou Poutine, voient un terroriste sous tout faciès oriental ou caucasien.
Il songe aussi à ces chefs religieux de tous bords qui, depuis des siècles, donnent de leur église une image qui n’est ni charitable ni fraternelle, faisant le lit du fanatisme. Dans ce chapitre des Frères Karamazov, le grand inquisiteur «presque nonagénaire» s’adresse à Jésus venu le déranger en plein autodafé à Séville, en ce jour du XVIe siècle. Avant de le faire exécuter, il vide son sac avec mépris et arrogance. Terrible discours, prophétique comme toujours chez Dostoïevski.
L’inquisiteur n’a de cesse de voir les hommes abdiquer leur liberté, après que «l’indépendance, la libre-pensée, la science» les ont égarés. «Nous leur prouverons qu’ils sont débiles, de pitoyables enfantsdit-il, suivant leur degré d’obéissance, nous leur permettrons ou leur défendrons de vivre avec leur femme ou leur maîtresse, d’avoir des enfants.» Fanatisme et totalitarisme font la paire. Sur la scène, un simple siège, emprunté à Tierno Bokar, rien d’autre. Et le musicien devenu Jésus, qui, sans avoir dit un mot, embrassera son bourreau comme l’aurait fait Tierno.
Krishna. L’acteur, c’est Maurice Bénichou, vieux compagnon de l’aventure et qu’on retrouve dans le dernier volet du triptyque : La Mort de Krishna(Libération du 26 décembre 2002), écho du mythique Mahabharata. Krishna, le dieu suprême, voit son peuple s’entre-tuer et, fou de colère, extermine tout le monde puis s’allonge sur la terre pour mourir à son tour. «Où est la vérité ?» Elle circule entre ces trois spectacles. C’est un triplé qui devrait faire halte sur la scène bombardée du Théâtre national de Kaboul, à Ground Zero, à Guantanamo, sur la place du marché de Grozny, au bord du Jourdain.
(1) Points de suspension, éditions du Seuil.
(2) Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar, Points.

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Tierno Bokar, théâtre 2004


Sotigui Kouyaté as Tierno Bokar in New York in 2005. Photograph: Pascal Victor/AP

D’après Amadou Hampaté Bâ (« Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar – Le sage de Bandiagara« )
Une recherche théâtrale de Peter Brook
Adaptation théâtrale Marie-Hélène Estienne
Musique Toshi Tsuchitori, Antonin Stahly
Lumière Philippe Vialatte
Avec Habib Dembélé, Rachid Djaïdani, Djénéba Koné, Sotigui Kouyaté, Bruce Myers, Yoshi Oïda, Abdou Ouologuem, Hélène Patarot, Dorcy Rugamba, Pitcho Womba Konga

Réalisation des costumes Jette Kraghede, abdou Ouologuem
Assistante aux costumes Samya Teboursouki
Régie Générale Florence Stahly
Direction technique Oria Puppo

« Tierno Bokar recherchait la difficulté pour savoir s’il possédait lui-même la patience et l’endurance qu’il enseignait aux autres. Un jour, il a dit: » Je demande à Dieu qu’au moment de ma mort j’ai plus d’ennemis à qui je n’aurai rien fait, que d’amis. » Parole terrible, lorsque l’on songe à la solitude de ses derniers jours. Il a dit aussi : « Personnellement, je ne m’enthousiasme que pour la lutte qui a pour objet de vaincre en nous nos propres défauts. Cette lutte n’a rien à voir, hélas, avec la guerre que se font les fils d’Adam au nom d’un Dieu qu’ils déclarent aimer beaucoup, mais qu’ils aiment mal, puisqu’ils détruisent une partie de son œuvre. » Ces paroles sont sorties d’une modeste case de terre séchée au cœur de l’Afrique noire en 1933.
Qui était Tierno Bokar ? C’est le grand écrivain peul Amadou Hampaté Bâ qui nous a transmis dans son livre, Le sage de Bandiagara, la vie et l’enseignement  de son maître, de cet homme humble et extraordinaire. A travers son récit nous entrons dans une Afrique secouée par le colonialisme et les luttes intestines. A partir d’une minuscule désaccord sur le sens du chiffre 11 opposé au chiffre 12, s’installent des conflits impitoyables qui amènent des massacres et créent des martyrs. Ces événements tragiques finissent par lier le petit village africain aux plus hautes décisions politiques de la deuxième guerre mondiale.
Ce thème éclaire plus que jamais une question qui concerne aujourd’hui le monde entier : la violence et l’intolérance.
Le théâtre doit être très proche de nous pour nous concerner et très inattendu pour éveiller notre imagination. Tierno Bokar réunit ces deux conditions. » Peter Brook

« … Je partais avec un trésor, ce trésor était en moi, c’étaient toutes les paroles vivantes que Tierno avait semées en moi comme des graines, elles allaient si bien devenir partie intégrante de mon être qu’aujourd’hui encore, lorsque je parle, il m’arrive de ne plus très bien savoir si c’est moi qui parle ou Tierno à travers moi.
Tout ce que je suis, je lui dois. C’est lui qui m’a « ouvert les yeux », comme on dit dans les initiations africaines, et qui m’a appris à lire le grand livre de la nature, des hommes et de la vie en ramenant toute choses à une Unité primordiale. Je lui dois ma formation, ma manière de penser et de me comporter, et cette « écoute de l’autre » qui est peut-être son plus bel héritage… » Extraits de Oui mon Commandant ! d’Amadou Hampaté Bâ, éditions Actes Sud

Bouffes du Nord, du 26 octobre 2004 au 15 janvier 2005