The Development of Theatre: Peter Brook and the Human Connection

By Sawyer A. Theriault
2009, Vol. 1 No. 12 | pg. 2/2 |

This style of emotion-through-action took no consideration of the accretion that the last century's Theatre produced. No longer was emphasis on the spectacle. Brook had no interest in theatre that imitated reality: “we are” he claims “more conscious of what is imitative than what is real”(Brook, 34). If the production's goal is an imitation of reality, than it will never go beyond that. Instead, Brook insists, reality itself must be the goal. In his chapter “The Holy Theatre” in The Empty Space, Brook describes this theory as the “invisible”. The “invisible” is an act of communication between actor and audience produced out of the need to imp some emotion. The audience may not consciously acknowledge the fact that they are being moved by the emotion, yet they are still moved: the invisible. Brook says “it is like crossing an abyss on a tightrope: necessity suddenly produces strange powers”(Brook, 50). Through the invisible, the actors goal is to access the “hidden impulses of man”(Brook, 71), ultimately establishing a human connection that is inherent in the audience.

This is not to say that Brook did not use abstract methods to achieve this accessibility. In fact, abstractness in performance became a trademark for Brook's productions: Sensationalism in his production of “Marat/ Sade”; glamour in the 1970 Midsummer Night's Dream. These are the productions that Brook will be remembered for. New York Times critic Clive Barnes said that Brook's Midsummer Night's Dream is a “theatrical production that is going to be talked about as long as there is a theater”(Barnes, 1).

Brook forgot convention, and aimed to go beyond anything that audiences had already experienced. He changed, and not without controversy, the effect that the theatre can produce. In his own words, he attempted to “divide the eternal truths from the superficial variations” (Brook, 16): The “eternal truths” being the “invisible”–the inherent emotions in any human–and the “superficial variations” being the way in which to present those truths. “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage,” Brook says, “A man walks across this empty space while someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged” (Brook, 9). Thus he creates something honest: a human connection. And from that connection the audience's inner emotions are called forth–they are moved.


Aronson, Arnold. New York Times. NY Times, 25 May 2005. Web. 1 Dec. 2009. .

Barnes, Clive. "Historic Staging of a Dream." New York times [New York] 27 Aug. 1970. Print.

Brook, Peter. The Empty Space. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968. Print.

Kramer, Andreas. "Antonin Artaud." Ebsco Host. Web. 1 Dec. 2009.

AROUND THE WEB