Theatre and film director Peter Brook, known for The Mahabharata and Lord of the Flies, dies at 97

Published on Jul 04, 2022 02:44 PM IST

Peter Brook, the British theatre and cinema director whose illustrious career saw him win widespread praise and also backlash for his adaptation of Mahabharat, has died at 97.

In this file photo taken on February 27, 2018 British theatre and film director, playwright and actor Peter Brook poses during a photo session at the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)(AFP)
In this file photo taken on February 27, 2018 British theatre and film director, playwright and actor Peter Brook poses during a photo session at the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)(AFP)

Illustrious theatre and film director Peter Brook, whose works include Lord of the Flies and a stage adaptation of the Mahabharat, has died at the age of 97. The director, who was British by birth, had been living in France for several years. His death has seen tributes pour in from the world of art, cinema, and even from world leaders. Also read: Mahabharat: When Nitish Bharadwaj, Roopa Ganguly consoled a weeping Arjun on last day of shoot

In a statement released on Sunday, Peter Brook's publisher, Nick Hern Books, said that he "leaves behind an incredible artistic legacy." According to French media sources, the director died on Saturday in Paris.

Peter, who was born in London in 1925, attended Oxford University to study and, while still a youngster, directed his first production in London, Doctor Faustus. He later served as the production director at London's famous Royal Opera House before going to begin his association with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

A scene from the promotional poster of The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.
A scene from the promotional poster of The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.

He won the prestigious Tony Award for best direction twice--in 1966 for his staging of Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade and in 1970 for the staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. In addition, through his seven-decade career, he also won an Olivier Award, an Emmy, and an International Emmy.

In India, he was best known for directing his multi-ethnic nine-hour stage adaptation of the Mahabharat. The grand show, which included large-scale sets and trapeze work, drew praise from critics. Premiering at the Avignon festival in 1985 (it was performed in Adelaide in 1988 and filmed in 1989), The Mahabharata saw cast drawn from around the world, including Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi and Ciaran Hinds as Ashwatthama.

Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi in Peter Brook's The Mahabharata.
Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi in Peter Brook's The Mahabharata.

However, many criticised the production for cultural appropriation as well. Brook, himself acknowledged that The Mahabharata “would never have existed without India”, yet at the same time, stated, “we had to avoid allowing the suggestion of India to be so strong as to inhibit human identification to too great an extent.”

Apart from his many stage productions, Peter also directed the 1963 film adaptation of Lord of the Flies, which gave him mainstream popularity in cinema as well. The Mahabharata was also released as a five-hour film in 1989.

The director established the International Center for Theater Research after relocating to Paris in the 1970s. It was for this organisation that he would revitalise the dilapidated Bouffes du Nord theatre in the French capital.

He was married to actor Natasha Parry from 1951 until her death in 2015 due to a stroke. Irina and Simon, their two children, are both directors.

(With inputs from agencies)

 

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