At the apogee of his impressive career, the illustrious director Peter Brook, along with his colleague Marie-Hélène Estienne, divests the theatre of artifice to ask an essential question: Why?
At the apogee of his impressive career, the illustrious man of the theatre Peter Brook continues to delve deeply into stagecraft. With his colleague Marie-Hélène Estienne, he questions the very foundations of the art form to which he has devoted his life. Like Prospero relinquishing his magic, he divests in uncompromising fashion all artifice to focus on the essential: Why theatre at all?
On an almost completely bare stage three exceptional actors dismantle the mechanics of theatre, revealing with incredible simplicity how their art is constructed. They then summon the heroic figure of the Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold. A fervent early 20th century revolutionary deeply committed to the cause, he changed the concept of stage presence with a new form of theatre that was playful, radical and even dangerous, until Stalin, in the name of the revolution, had him executed. Why believe in the truth of theatre if it means your own death? Why?
Written and directed by Peter Brook + Marie-Hélène Estienne
Performed by Hayley Carmichael + Kathryn Hunter + Marcello Magni
Music Laurie Blundell
Lighting Design Philippe Vialatte
Images Gabrielle Lubtchansky
Costume Assistant Alice François
Coproduced by Theatre for a New Audience (New York) + Grotowski Institute (Wroclaw) + National Performing Arts Center – National Taichung Theater (Taiwan) + Centro Dramatico Nacional (Madrid) + Teatro Dimitri (Verscio) + Théâtre Firmin Gémier / La Piscine (Châtenay-Malabry)
Thanks to Oria Puppo
Presented with the support of Institut Français (Paris) + Service de coopération et d’action culturelle du Consulat général de France à Québec in association with Carrefour international de théâtre (Quebec City) + Monument-National
Written by Paul Lefebvre
Traduction Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, on June 19, 2019
Peter Brook (Paris)
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
Born in London in 1925, Peter Brook is among those who revamped contemporary theatre by directing it towards its essential core, revealing the underlying depths of the texts and employing his exceptional mastery of the art of narration.
After a career in the grandiose theatre of London and New York, Brook moved to Paris in the early 1970s to focus on a simple, unadorned theatrical style nourished by the analytic rigour of Brecht, the shock tactics of Artaud and a Shakespearian sense of theatricality. In 1974 he established the Centre International de Créations Théâtrales (CICT) in a magnificently decrepit theatre in the Bouffes du Nord area of Paris where, working with artists from diverse cultures, he created plays that increasingly zeroed in on the essence of storytelling. He presented Chekhov’s La cerisaie (1981), Le Mahabharata (his most ambitious and celebrated work, 1985) and Sizwe Banzi est mort (2006). He went on to produce with Marie-Hélène Estienne Fragments (five short Beckett texts, 2007), The Suit (2012) and Battlefield (2015, presented at Place des Arts in 2017). His 1968 essay The Empty Space, a cogent point of reference, continues to influence contemporary theatre creation.
Marie-Hélène Estienne (Paris)
Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord
Born France in 1944, Marie-Hélène Estienne reported on culture for Le Nouvel Observateur when in 1974 Peter Brook asked her to work with him on Timon d’Athènes.
Three years later she joined CICT and quickly became an important Brooke collaborator, acting as assistant director on La conférence des oiseaux and La tragédie de Carmen (1981). Their collaboration continued with La tempête, Woza Albert! and La tragédie d’Hamlet (2000), and for the past dozen years she has co-created works with Peter Brook. Why? marks Brook’s third appearance at the FTA, after Oh les beaux jours in 1996 and Le costume in 2000.