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Thursday, July 17, 2014

DVD Review: Peter Brook: The Tightrope

If you’re someone who is at all interested in theater, then you’re well aware of Peter Brook. He has an impressive list of accomplishments, including directing productions of Measure For Measure, King Lear, Marat/Sade and the incredibly influential 1970 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company (the last two of which earned him Tony Awards for directing).  And he’s had a career in film too, directing the excellent 1963 film version of Lord Of The Flies, as well as the film version of Marat/Sade. He’s the kind of person you want to learn from. And you can learn a certain amount by studying footage of his productions. And now, with the release of Peter Brook: The Tightrope, you can almost sit in on a class that he teaches.

The film, which was directed by his son Simon Brook, is mostly footage of the class, but it opens with a bit from an interview. Peter Brook says: “There’s always this terrible moment at the beginning of everything when people come together and all of them are saying, ‘What the hell is it about? What are we doing here? Why are we here?’ And here it’s to explore something that very few people really see…making theatre that is real, that is alive, that is alive at every moment, that touches one, and in which once held doesn’t let one go.” It’s a perfect opening, and it shows the joy and focus and determination with which he works.

He also talks a bit about receiving requests to sit in on rehearsals and requests to demonstrate his exercises. This film then can function in part as a fulfillment of some of those requests, focusing on the tightrope exercise.  And it really is like sitting in on the class. The film is not rushed, but allows itself the natural pauses and reactions of both teacher and students.

It’s interesting that there is musical accompaniment to the exercises. I’ve never experienced anything like that in any of my acting classes. And the music is used to help explain how pauses affect the honesty of sound. Peter Brooks says, “There is an ever-changing tempo, rhythm, in which life itself flows. And that’s what we’re always looking for.”

I became thoroughly engrossed in the process, and thus in the film. It’s interesting how almost immediately the imaginary tightrope becomes real. Peter Brook says the difference between an actor and a non-actor lies in that the “gift of an actor is a certain link between the pure imagination and the body itself.”

By the way, some of these actors had worked with Peter Brook before. Both Shantala Shivalingappa and Yoshi Oida acted in Brook’s 2002 television version of The Tragedy Of Hamlet.

Special Features

The DVD includes a couple of special features. A Balancing Act is approximately thirty minutes of interviews with some of those involved in this project, including musicians Toshi Tsuchitori and Franck Krawczyk, and actors Yoshi Oida, Micha Lescot, Shantala Shivalingappa and Lydia Wilson. The DVD also includes a photo gallery.

Peter Brook: The Tightrope was released on June 3, 2014 through First Run Features.

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