Peter Brook from Archive to Action: Schools’ Outreach Project

The ‘Peter Brook Archive to Action’ Schools’ project, generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, formally began this term on the 2nd October when the 18 project partners were all invited to the V&A for a Twilight session. We were delighted to see so many teachers, museum educators and theatre practitioners attend, each of whom brought a unique set of skills and insight with them to the discussion.

The group met with the curators and cataloguers who worked on the Peter Brook collection to learn more about the huge variety of materials included in it. They toured the Theatre galleries to get a sense of their scope and diversity and then all took part in a series of exercises exploring the relationship between museums and theatres and how they respond to and interact with their audiences.

Each group was asked to take one object from the collection of a partner museum and to design an exhibition around that object. They devised a name of the exhibition, discussed other famous objects that could be included in it and the kinds of objects from their own lives, their own personal archives, that could also be placed in it. The group then went on to use the same object to create a piece of performance; again they devised a name for the piece, thought about famous objects or performances that could be used as a source of inspiration, and then discussed personal items they could bring into their fictitious rehearsals to galvanise the performance.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream rehearsal. Photo by Douglas H Jeffery © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Peter Brook’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ rehearsal. Photo by Douglas H Jeffery © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Over the course of the evening we discussed how these processes of creation were incredibly similar; they relied upon the same kinds of thinking and a focus on creating engaging narrative in order to make them successful.  The group spoke about the similarities between museum and theatre spaces; that they ought to be democratic, free and inspiring. They need to be open to change and the influence of the community around them. They need to allow audiences to respond in their own way and to challenge the representations of life they see around them.

The session yielded fascinating conversations and we hope that the partners left feeling they understood how blending practical performance work with museum learning could be a fruitful and inspiring combination.

Since October, all of the partners have been working to set their schedules for the project and sessions have begun in classrooms across London. Students have begun to visit the archive and look through the Peter Brook collection to gather inspiration for their work. Students from Chiswick School were the first people to view the collection and their session was incredibly dynamic; as well as discussing Brook’s production of Lord of the Flies and the masterful way he elicited performances from his young cast, the students also challenged the notion of archiving and discussed the ways in which they archive their lives today.

Over the course of next term each group will be guest-blogging about their experiences working on the project. We will hear from students, teachers and directors and find out more about how their processes are developing and how they are devising new and exciting work ready to be shown here at the V&A in April 2016.


We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their generous support of this project.

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