The India of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata has changed
SummaryThe director staged this enduring epic in an engaging form that’s unlikely to find much favour now
The British-born theatre director Peter Brook, who lived and worked in France and died last week at 97, could create a mesmerizing experience on stage, reducing it to its bare essentials. Brook saw theatre in four forms: first, the commercial version, of Broadway and West End, which he called “deadly". It financed an industry and operated on a formula that responded to economic imperatives and not artistic impulses. Then, ‘holy theatre’, which made the invisible visible, where we discovered that the absurd movements of a conductor weren’t producing the magical sounds from the instruments in the orchestra; the sublime tones that elevated us came from elsewhere. There was the ‘rough theatre’ that got closer to the audience in coarse settings. Also, ‘immediate theatre’, where viewers would react to what they saw, but with each reaction different and hard to predict, as it was formed by the person’s own life experiences: some would laugh, some cry, some remained indifferent, some got angry and some felt transformed.