Peter Brook from Archive to Action: The Rose Theatre Kingston

This is a guest post by Jasmine Dunne, a member of The Rose Youth Theatre. The Rose Theatre Kingston is part of the Kingston Hub, working  with the  Kingston Museum on the Peter Brook Outreach Project. The group director is Rosie Jones. 

Upon arriving at the V&A, we discussed the three items we would personally choose to archive from the entirety of theatre history. A plethora of responses formed from this, from ‘the first script ever written’ to ‘a magical box of Shakespeare’s thoughts’. This discussion acted as a sort of mental warm up that was there to prepare us for the mad and awesome Theatre and Performance department at the V&A.

Through the maze of the world’s most expensive and beautiful historical costumes we found ourselves in an inventory of musical theatre history; Matilda’s books hanging from the ceiling and lighting design from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’s  shining from the floor showed off only a small percentage of the V&A’s enormous archive of theatre history.

A member of The Rose Youth Theatre looking at the Curtain Up Display © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A member of The Rose Youth Theatre looking at the Curtain Up display © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Amongst these collections was a case dedicated to Peter Brook, the man whose work inspired our devised piece to be performed at the V&A on 23rd April. A few scribblings, drawings, scrapbooks, letters and photographs of his were on display, showcasing the inner workings of the playwright’s processes and thoughts.

To expand on this, we traveled to Blythe House to explore the Peter Brook collection. The collection was more than impressive, revealing everything from public news clippings to personal rehearsal logs, this really gave us a deeper understanding of the type of practitioner Brook really was. Something that caught my eye personally was his use of photography for Marat/Sade. I think a darker side to mental illness was revealed in these, as the images were rather intense, expressing people in obscure poses and in stages of emotional distress. Unconventionally, these dark and difficult-to-look-at images were used to advertise the production of Marat/Sade in both film and theatre.

As a director, Brook used some unusual exercises with his cast to discover chorus style and build the cast relationships, for example carrying out rehearsals wearing masks, or even playing sports together. We found this in a log of rehearsal techniques and at first it seemed questionable to many of us exploring the archives, but considering the complexity of the characters and the intensity of the play, a little teamwork would make sense, and most likely be a vital element in the rehearsal process.

Overall, exploring the archives of Peter Brook allowed us to think and learn in ways we previously couldn’t have done, and gave us inspiration for new choices and changes in our adaptation of Marat/Sade.


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