The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate
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From director and cofounder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Peter Brook, The Empty Space is a timeless analysis of theatre from the most influential stage director of the twentieth century.
As relevant as when it was first published in 1968, groundbreaking director and cofounder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Peter Brook draws on a life in love with the stage to explore the issues facing a theatrical performance—of any scale. He describes important developments in theatre from the last century, as well as smaller scale events, from productions by Stanislavsky to the rise of Method Acting, from Brecht’s revolutionary alienation technique to the free form happenings of the 1960s, and from the different styles of such great Shakespearean actors as John Gielgud and Paul Scofield to a joyous impromptu performance in the burnt-out shell of the Hamburg Opera just after the war.
Passionate, unconventional, and fascinating, this book shows how theatre defies rules, builds and shatters illusions, and creates lasting memories for its audiences.
theatre. The aim is not how to avoid illusion—everything is illusion, only some things seem more illusory than other. It is the heavyhanded Illusion that does not begin to convince us. On the other hand, the illusion that is composed by the flash of quick and changing impressions keeps the dart of the imagination at play. This illusion is like the single dot in the moving television picture: it only lasts for the instant its function demands. It is an easy mistake to consider Chekhov as a
THEATRE 102 realm of politics and political ideas; but where there is a constant re-examination in process that varies from the most intensely honest to the most frivolously evasive: when the natural common-sense and the natural idealism, the natural debunking and the natural romanticism, the natural democracy, the natural kindness, the natural sadism and the natural snobbery all make a mishmash of intellectual confusion, it would be no use expecting a committed theatre to follow a party
scenes there is a denial of life in Lear’s rusty ironclad power; Gloucester is tetchy, fussy and foolish, a man blind to everything except his inflated image of his own importance; and in dramatic contrast we see the relaxed freedom of his bastard son. Even if in theory we observe that the way he leads Gloucester by the nose is hardly moral, instinctively we cannot but side with his natural anarchy. Not only do we sympathize with Goneril and Regan for falling in love with him, but we tend to side
will see his own clichés. There is a THE IMMEDIATE THEATRE 144 dangerous trap in the word sincerity. First of all, a young actor discovers that his job is so exacting that it demands of him certain skills. For instance, he has to be heard: his body has to obey his wishes: he must be a master of his timing, not the slave of haphazard rhythms. So he searches for technique: and soon he acquires a know-how. Easily, knownow can become a pride and an end in itself. It becomes dexterity without any
necessarily go hand in hand; often the actor, as his career grows, begins to turn in work that gets more and more similar. It is a wretched story, and all the exceptions blur the truth. How does the average actor spend his days? Of course, it’s a wide range: from lying in bed, drinking, going to the hair-dresser, to the agent, filming, recording, reading, sometimes studying; even, latterly, toying a bit with 33 THE EMPTY SPACE politics. But whether his use of time is frivolous or earnest is