The Empty Space. Peter Brook
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The Empty Space. Peter Brook

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,831 ratings  ·  86 reviews
First published in 1968, "The Empty Space" is a timeless analysis of theatre, from perhaps the most influential director of the twentieth century. In "The Empty Space," groundbreaking director Peter Brook draws on a life in love with the stage to explore the issues facing any theatrical performance. Here he describes important developments in theatre from the last century,...more
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Published June 1st 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 1968)
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Jamie Grefe
Having seen Brook's televised "The Tragedy of Hamlet," and his filmed version of "King Lear," not to mention, the idea of his most recent "Love is My Sin," I take his word for what it is: clear thoughts from one perspective of what the theater could be, how it should be, and what is should not be.

Brook separates theater into four slices: Deadly, Holy, Rough, and Immediate. In doing so, he opens up possibilities for the Dramatist and gives us a solid grounding in the more metaphysical aspects of...more
Cari
This book is excellent, but it's hampered by two things. One is Peter Brook's fault and one isn't:

1. It's a book about the current state of theater, written in 1968. As I was born in 1984, the author has literally no knowledge of any performance I have ever seen in my life, nor have I seen any of the performances he describes. So it's hard to relate his opinions about the state of theater to today, not knowing if I agree with his assessment of 1968.

2. The book is inscrutable and high-minded to a...more
Cecilia
I've only been trying to get around to reading this book for 7 or 8 years...

Brook explores his experience of theatre, though is very specific to state that it is only his experience so far and that everything will change, as theatre is always changing. He breaks theatre down into 4 categories, Deadly, Holy, Rough and Immediate. These, of course, can overlap and interplay at any time. Deadly theatre is theatre that is predicable, set in its ways, repetitive, passionless. It is theatre that does n...more
Casper
Many people can easily go through life reading nothing but novels. I admit that is better than not reading at all, of course, but it wouldn’t do for me. While the novel is still my favourite genre, I always need to mix it with other reading matter: history, travel, short stories, graphic novels, essays, drama. I don’t think I’ve ever read a collection of essays on theater before, though.
The empty space is apparently an essential text for drama students; I’d never heard of it. Its idea is simple,...more
Josh
Um, good... I don't know. I've only been slightly exposed to Peter Brook. I wanted to know more about his experiments with the Theatre of Cruelty but the book offered not much in the way of information. He organizes it around types of theater: deadly, which means empty; holy, which means transcendent maybe but also not necessarily possible; rough, which means accessible and effective, but lacking a bit in polish/grace; and immediate, which while its discussion formed the book's longest chapter,...more
Bt
Dec 19, 2013 Bt rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only people who are super interested in theater
Shelves: acting-books
I liked the first and last chapters but found the middle rather dry. There were some interesting tidbits here and there throughout, but a lot of it was just stuff I've heard before.

Some of my favorite parts:
-When he moved the cardboard cutouts around to plan out his show and then found that the actors were completely different. I've done that!
-The idea that all the blocking and designs (sets, costumes, etc.) should always be a work in progress
-The show where all the actors got to costume themsel...more
Brad
I first read this book right after I graduated from college and have revisited it time and time again since. It is dense and Brook, as with his other books, is accessible and clear, but passionate. And he never dumbs down his thoughts and concepts for passive readers.

In a nutshell, Brook explores what was (is) wrong with the professional theatre by breaking it down into overlapping categories: The Deadly, The Holy, The Rough and the Immediate. The Immediate, or a theatre that genuinely lives in...more
Rolls
Nobody who ever has or ever will stride upon a stage should be ignorant of this book. It is as essential to you as your next breath.
Jonathan Chuang
This is one of the best and most incisive books i've read concerning the arts

I'm not even vaguely knowledgeable about theatre but his living language brings what's normally dense and difficult onto the stage of relatable experience, almost... poetically

Looking back, it changed many of my perspectives on what art should strive for and how it should present itself. Mostly for how it articulated so clearly the visceral quality of experience, and how that experience is shaped by social dynamics. Thr...more
Phillip
Although Brook praises Artaud throughout this book, and I'm not a fan of Artaud, I liked Brook's book. It was a fun, informative read, though I felt he often fell into one of the same traps that Artaud does--namely, presenting sweeping emotional reactions and transcendent experiences as though they were shared by either an entire audience or somehow by theatre goers everywhere. I'm somewhat skeptical of the communal reaction approach.
But even as I say that I recognize the validity of most of the...more
Erinina Marie
The Empty Space by Peter Brook

This book was very hard to get into for me, but after the first section, I couldn’t put it down, it was very inspiring. The book is divided into four sections about modern theater: Deadly, Holy, Rough and Immediate. I believe the problem in getting into it is Mr. Brook’s decision to begin with Deadly theater, which is essentially a tirade against all of the crap that most theater artists hate about popular, commercial theater. While I can empathize with this tirade,...more
Caitlin Mininger
I stand by a sentiment that has been expressed in other Goodreads reviews of this book- it's dense. Brook packs a lot of analysis of theatre of his time and theatre in general into a limited space, and often it can be difficult to follow if one is unfamiliar with the work of the directors and writers he references. Still, The Empty Space is a must read for anyone with more than a passing interest in the art of theatre for the reason that it seeks to answer the question that is a constant plague....more
Michelle
Admittedly, I devoured this book in less than 24 hours and I was not motivated by pleasure or a desire to learn for my own edification. I needed to help one 16 year old child understand it so she could write a cherent paper on the book. Apparently this is a seminal work in understanding 4 types of theater. Ok, I do understand something about theater now that I previously didn't even know existed.

I have to agree with the kid when she said, "The book is dense." It's a slim volume but yes, there i...more
Elise
I re-read this again last night. My first reading was in high school and then again in college. Having worked in the field for a decade now, my perceptions and ideas have changed significantly. Brook seems to be writing in a meandering form that requires much prior knowledge of his contemporaries. This seems almost like a document that is a critics look at what else is going on, with the exceptions of his ideas on Deadly Theatre. The Holy Theatre chapter is worth re-reading annually alone and th...more
Sarah
The holy grail of theatre texts. I've read The Empty Space a few times, and on this read, I found myself really appreciating the latter half of the book, where Brook gets more into the nature of creating living theatre. Starting the book on a negative note somehow tells me things I've already learned instinctually, and I wonder now if it's the best tack to take, if it's best to draw people into the theatre world by telling them how badness abounds and what to avoid. But I can't really look at th...more
Hélder Magalhães
Numa análise à sua vasta e longa carreira, o mais aclamado encenador da atualidade percorre apaixonadamente a vida no teatro: o desafio, as regras, as ilusões e as memórias que perduram.
B
Brook's passion for the "theatre" is engaging, especially in a package this short.

Ultimately his argument does not really go anywhere. He's looking to inspire an extraordinary emotional reaction in an audience. Everything that does not do that is "deadly" or rubbish. There are a lot of ways to do that, which Brook approves of when it works. But it's clear that no way is foolproof. Or no way works with any real consistency. It starts to feel like his system for roulette. Also a lot of theatre-bo...more
Roisin O'Brien
What shines through is the wealth of knowledge and experience Peter Brook has. And so what is most interesting about this book is not just his theories on theatre but the examples he uses from his own history to illustrate his points. A passionate director, his ardent belief in the power of the theatre to change people's lives and to challenge social norms is inspiring. I would slightly disagree with the review on the back saying that anyone could read this book; while not inaccessible, I found...more
Matt
A beautiful book from a beautiful mind. all that is right and wrong with American theatre in one place... And Shakespeare shows up to play!
Kyle
I enjoyed this book, but mostly the section on Deadly theatre. A lot of the text is dated/historical, but some of its truths are eternal. Peter Brook understands this as its clearly stated in the text that this will be the case, but self-understanding doesn't make for change or necessarily a well-written book.

At the best of times it was riveting with great story examples. At the worst of times it was bluntly indecisive, a compendium of Brook vaguely and ineffectively telling the reader "'A' and...more
Jinger
When we read this in college during our history of drama class, we were asked to underline passages that seemed to ring true or that we wanted to further discuss. I know I wasn't the only one to cover my copy with underlines, jotted notes in the margins, and page references.

I don't agree with everything in here, in fact some of it reads like self-indulgent drivel, but it really doesn't matter. It provokes discussion and serious thought about the theatrical craft and reinforces the idea that, at...more
Héctor Toledo
Libro clave para entender todo el teatro desde los 60 hasta nuestros días.
Kate
Reading it again for the first time in ages. Dated - frozen in time - but brilliant. It's a modern poetics of the theatre.
Elisabeth M
Alternately brilliant and boring. I think that Peter Brook is actually a profound man, but his writing on the theory of theatre gets tedious when he starts soliloquizing and forgets to include any means for the reader to put his abstractions into practice. At those times the book gets a self-infatuated tone, and loses believability. I spent most of the book slogging through, one paragraph at a time. That said, there are penetrating insights lodged within, and many times I felt he had unearthed a...more
Derek Fraser
This book is always highly recommended by theater folks, but I wasn't as personally impressed by it as I had hoped. Maybe my expectations were too high. Regardless, the book categorizes theater into deadly, holy, rough, and immediate, terms which I will not bother to expound upon here, but make for an interesting and recognizable classification in the world of theater today. These four terms along with the directing exercises he shares, make this book a good read for theater artists.
Talya Rubin
This classic of theatre aesthetics and theory written from a highly practical point of view from the great theatre director Peter Brook, is an essential teaching on what theatre can aspire to and a developed warning of where theatre can die and go terribly wrong. The book does not seem to date 40 years on (despite a sometimes holier than thou tone and an archaic theatre world that Brook was coming from - the essence is there loud and clear!)
David
In my mind this is the book, the word on dramatic theory, and there isn’t a close second. Even when I don’t agree with Brook’s points, I have to concede that he is spot on in his approach to the creation of theater. This should be mandatory reading for anyone remotely connected with the business of theater, dance, performance art, etc.
Darius
This book asserts everything I feared was so about doing theater, but makes it feel worthwhile anyway. "Compared with the cinema's mobility, the theatre once seemed ponderous and creaky, but the closer we move towards the true nakedness of theatre, the closer we approach a stage that has a lightness and range far beyond film or television."
Matt
A thoughtful discussion of the theatre from one of its masters. Brook's views on what makes theatre relevant, effective, and necessary are just as powerful now as when first written. The division of Deadly, Holy, Rough, and Immediate Theatre allows his discussions to be specific and clear with the broadest possible topics. Highly recommened.
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brook: political and aesthete at the same time! 1 6 Nov 01, 2007 12:29PM  
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Peter Brook (born 1925) was a world renowned theater director, staging innovative productions of the works of famous playwrights.

Peter Brook was born in London in 1925, the son of immigrant scientists from Russia. A precocious child with a distaste for formal education but a love of learning, Brook performed his own four-hour version of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the age of seven. After spending two...more
More about Peter Brook...
The Open Door The Shifting Point: Theatre, Film, Opera 1946-1987 Threads of Time: Recollections There Are No Secrets Between Two Silences: Talking with Peter Brook

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“Reality' is a word with many meanings.” 13 likes
“A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.” 9 likes
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