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20th century innovators of theatre

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In this essay I will contrast and explore the key innovations and methodologies of the director/practitioner Peter Brook, and the Polish director/practitioner Wlodzimierz Staniewski and the workings of his theatre company, Gardzienice. One of Peter Brooks methodologies that I feel is key is his use of site specific work. Peter Brook felt a need to try and create theatre outside of 'traditional theatres'. So in the early 1970's he started the experimentation of acting in the street, in hospitals, carparks, anywhere there was a space big enough to hold a production. 'In the early seventies we began doing experiments outside what was regarded as 'theatre'. 'For the first three years we played hundreds of times in streets, in cafes, in hospitals, in the ancient ruins of Persepolis, in African villages, in American garages, in barracks, between concrete benches in urban parks.... We learned a lot, and the major experience for the actor was playing to an audience they could see, as opposed to the invisible audience to which they were accustomed.' This key innovation has helped both directors and actors all over the world, especially actors in third world/war torn countries who either don't have access to theatre buildings due to financial constraints, or who have no theatre buildings due to bombings. Peter Brook encountered a theatre director from Soweto in Africa. This African director explained that his theatre company had been helped greatly by Peter Brooks book 'The Empty Space', when Peter Brook asked 'how?' the African director replied "The first sentence", which is, 'I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all I need for an act of theatre to be engaged.' Peter Brook felt that the newfound relationship between actor/audience would create a new and different dynamic for the actors involved, mainly due to the proximity (closeness) ...read more.


So in Peter Brook's productions he takes elements of ritualistic traditions/forms that he has encountered by indigenous people, and he adapts them to suit western actors/audiences. For Peter Brook's production of The Conference of the Birds, he brought in a Balinese actor with a vast experience in the use of traditional Balinese masks, to work with his actors. Although the acting company was in awe of what they saw him do with these masks, they knew that it would be almost impossible to recreate. 'He used the mask as a Balinese tradition, with a thousand years of ritual behind it. It would have been ridiculous for us to try to be what we were not. Finally we asked him what it was possible for him to do.' Gardzienice has a similar methodology with regards to interculterallism but rather then heavily reforming the customs the Theatre Company try to translate the nature of the form that is shared with them whether in song or dance. 'Staniewski and his collaborators in Gardzienice translate what they explore and discover in their expeditions into their own highly complex and innovative theatre language'. Gardzienice take the use of interculterallism to a completely new level through their use of the 'Gathering'. This event not only involves sharing of cultural forms, it also takes the reactions of the spectators, or the sounds of the natural environment during a performance, and adds this to its theatre language, so it can be recreated in later rehearsals/performances. This innovation Staniewski calls 'interference in dialogue' 'For example, an actor speaks a monologue and a voice from the crowd is constantly adding something. This is when they interject with material belonging to their own lives.' So Gardzienice not only share and receive songs and rituals with these 'villagers', crossing the boundaries of culture, they also apply their natural reactions to aid the growth of their material. This innovation again bears similarities to Peter Brooks methodologies, although Brook does not directly involve the spectators in the action. ...read more.


In conclusion I have compared the methodologies of two key 20th century innovators of theatre. I started off talking about Peter Brook's use of site-specific spaces. I feel that this has been a key and revolutionary innovation in terms of the freedom it has given actors/theatre companies. It has in a way broken a barrier between the classes. Poorer companies of actors may not have been able to afford to hire out large theatre spaces. It has also encouraged the actors to be more creativity within the context of performance. Gardzienice's methodology is similar to Brook's in relation to using a non-theatrical space as a setting for a performance. But they take it one step further with the involvement of the people of the village within their performances also talked about actor/audience relationship and audience participation. Peter Brook believes that the spectators are active through their silent energies. Gardzienice wants the audience to directly participate in the action. With regards to inter/cross culturalism Gardzienice embraces other cultures forms and incorporates many of them into their unique theatre language. Peter Brook also embraces other cultures forms, but he constantly evolves them, retaining little of their original substance. Both Peter Brook and Staniewski have embraced de-urbanisation. Peter Brook during some of his rehearsal periods. Gardzienice indefinitely. Both practitioners were interested in ritual. Peter Brook felt that something is lost when these rituals are performed out of their original contexts. Gardzienice have a great respect for other cultures rituals, they rehearse these songs/dances so much that they become a part of them, thus becoming re-contextualised. The last topic discussed was music/musicality/song. Gardzienice have revolutionised the process of creating music within a performance. A new non-codified type of music has arisen that can work alongside the codified form. Peter Brookes' music as a background element in a performance to at times highlights the action. In my estimation all of these innovations have been important in the development of theatre, as we know it. But I believe that Garzienice on every level have taken Peter Brook's methodologies one step further. ...read more.

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