Ground-breaking France-based British theater director Peter Brook, who revolutionized 20th-century theater, has died at the age of 97-years-old in Paris.
The director, who pioneered taking theater outside of traditional theatre houses, mounting productions in unexpected venues such as gymnasiums, abandoned factories and old gas works, was renowned for his experimental and out-of-the box approach to staging classic and new works alike.
He was born in West London to parents of Lithuanian Jewish heritage on March 21, 1925. After attending Westminster School and Oxford, he put on his first production, Dr Faustus at the Torch Theatre in London in 1943.
By his early 20s, he had been appointed director of production at the Royal Opera House, where he distinguished himself with an experimental production of Richard Strauss’s Salome featuring sets by Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
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In the 1950s, he started working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, directing Sir Lawrence Olivier in Titus Andronicus at Stratford in 1955.
Brook spent the late 1950s and 1960s, working between London and New York. His most famous productions of this period include his Tony Award-winning production of Marat/Sade by German playwright Peter Weiss, which was seen as daring at the time for its use of nudity and violence.
He moved to France permanently in the early 1970s to set up his International Centre for Theatre Research (ICTR) in the French capital.
In the early days of the ICTR, he famously took its company – which included British actress Helen Mirren and Japanese actor Yoshi Oida – on a tour across the Middle East and Africa to test out his ideas around theater.
On his return, he restored the rundown Bouffe du Nord music hall as a permanent home for the centre. It opened on October 1974 with a production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, adapted by late French playwright and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière.
Later landmark ICTR productions included 1985 The Mahabharat, a nine-hour version of the epic Hindu poem, adapted with Carrière, and the 2005 work Tierno Bokar about a Malian Sufi, which became the basis for a wider worldwide discussion on his life and message of religious tolerance.
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