Innovations and predecessors Essay
Innovations and predecessors
At a first glance, this seems a very spiritual statement from Brook, but through reading it again it shows him trying to replace honesty (from the character) with words spoken with deep meaning (from the actor). Although this is only my personal interpretation. Throughout this chapter in The Shifting Point, I noticed that he is constantly asking us, the reader, questions about acting and the theatre. At times he answers with his ideas, telling us his methods and ideas, when he does answer you can almost hear him shouting, preaching the answers to the reader, which just shows how passionate he is about his theatre.
“Grotowski is unique. Why? Because no one else in the world, to my knowledge, no one since Stanislavsky, has investigated the nature of acting, its phenomenon, its meaning, the nature and science of its mental-physical-emotional processes as deeply and completely as Grotowski. ” (Brook, 1987:37) This extract shows that although Brook has much in common theatrically with Stanislavsky, he has now met someone who uses similar methods but in Brook’s eyes, uses these methods in a better way. Brook goes on to explain that both his and Grotowski’s work has ‘points of contact’ and with these they came together.
They both need a crowd on stage and off stage, on stage actors showing their ‘most intimate truths’ to the crowd (audience) off stage, to share an experience with them. In The Shifting Point, Brook remembers that Grotowski left behind a daily challenge with ‘the intensity, the honesty and the precision of his work’. This practitioner is obviously one that Brook looked up to and shared his knowledge with. “Grotowski was infamous for retreating from theatre and creating a space for an exhaustive investigation of the basic, physical truths of acting…
” (The Guardian, 2004:4. 10. 2003) “Perhaps the most significant development influenced by Artaud was the ensemble theatre movement of the 1960s. Exemplified by the Polish Laboratory Theatre of Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook’s Theatre of Cruelty Workshop… ” (“Drama and Dramatic Arts”, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2004) These productions, which usually came out of months of work, relied on physical movement, unclear language and sound, and often unusual arrangements of space.
The Theatre of Cruelty derived from the work of the French actor, poet and theoretician, Antonin Artaud. Artaud was a member of the Surrealist movement and “had a vision of art as a means of galvanising society and effecting social change”. (Halfyard, 2000:http://www. maxopus. com/essays/8songs_m. htm) “Artaud used the word ‘cruelty’ not to evoke sadism, but to call us toward a theatre more rigorous, or even, if we could follow him that far, pitiless to us all. ” (Brook, 1987:56)
The vision of changing society and effecting social change leads to another practitioner who has inspired Peter Brook’s theatre, Bertolt Brecht. Brecht felt that drama could instruct and change society; therefore, it should be political. He believed that effective theatre should bring the audience to the point of decision and action. “No one seriously concerned with the theatre can by-pass Brecht, Brecht is the key figure of our time, and all theatre work today at some point starts or returns to his statements and achievement. ” (Brook, 1968:71-72)
Brecht wanted a type of theatre in which the audience could focus on a play’s themes rather than becoming emotionally involved with its characters. With this, he developed the ground-breaking epic theatre, where his actors would read their lines without emotion, allowing the audience to concentrate on the planned moral messages of the play. For Brecht’s actors, their aim was to create a response from the audience, the ‘alienation’ that Brecht created. “… Alienation is cutting, interrupting, holding something up to the light, making us look again.
Alienation is above all an appeal to the spectator to work for himself… ” (Brook, 1968:72) Going against Stanislavsky and Grotowski, Brecht introduced the idea that ‘fully’ did not mean ‘lifelike’ for him, Brecht wanted every actor to go with the action of the play, but understand the true purpose from the author’s point of view; to the needs of the changing world. “Brook is less inclined to believe that it is possible to change things merely by pointing things out to people. ” (Mitter, 1992:64)
Brecht desires the outcome to be social change, whereas Brook wants the end product to go beyond ‘alienation’ and reveal what we, as a society, want to forget. Brook requires his actors at once to be their characters, and then not to be their characters. Confusing as it may sound, we must recognise that Brook wants his actors to play their characters, but not lose themselves in the action so it seems untrue to real life; he needs a sense of reality, their own personalities to come through. “…
It must be conceded that in Brook this is achieved by the fact that his actors are represented in their drama not by their opinions merely as in Brecht, but by their courageous portrayal of their every evasion, hypocrisy and untruth. ” (Mitter, 1992:76-77) Brook does get his inspiration from all of the above practitioners, as well as Meyerhold and Reinhardt through researching Brook’s Theatre of Cruelty. I noticed that Brook has more similarities in relation to his theatre to Jerzy Grotowski, they have the same objectives but differing methods in reaching them.
Perhaps because this was a close friendship as described in The Shifting Point: “Grotowski’s work and ours have parallels and points of contact. Through these, through sympathy, through respect, we came together. ” (Brook, 1987:38) Brook utilises various methods from Stanislavsky and Brecht, but there are also disagreements with their methods: “There is so much of Brecht’s work I admire, so much of his work with which I disagree totally. ” (Brook, 1987:26-27)
Like anybody who has a passion for something, whether it is art, sport or theatre, Brook has looked to his passion, theatre, and it’s innovations and predecessors. Brook has took the essential elements from these practitioners and made them his own. The way Brook regularly asks the questions in his books to the reader, does bring the whole text to life as if he is testing the reader on what they have just read; you could even compare it to an exam revision textbook.
Obviously this is not what the genres of his books are about, both The Shifting Point and The Empty Space are autobiographies of his life in theatre; part of the title of The Shifting Point even says forty years of theatrical exploration. I feel all of his works in text are learning resources, not just for drama students, but also for anybody who enjoys the theatre to show them the hidden depth of performance, not just linked with the acting- all the elements that make an ideal, true-to-life or alienating performance.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 July 2017
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