Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate” as Want to Read:
The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  3,294 ratings  ·  141 reviews
From director and cofounder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Peter Brook, The Empty Space is a timeless analysis of theatre from the most influential stage director of the twentieth century.

As relevant as when it was first published in 1968, groundbreaking director and cofounder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Peter Brook draws on a life in love with the stage to explore
Paperback, 144 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Scribner (first published 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Empty Space, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Empty Space

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,294 ratings  ·  141 reviews

Sort order
Rosanna Threakall
This was suggested reading for my acting class and I was told it would probably be too deep for our standards but I actually really enjoyed it and got a lot from it. I must read for any fellow drama nerd.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nandakishore Varma
I am abandoning this. Nothing to do with the book or Brook's erudition, though - I am stuck in a reading slump and this is not the ideal book for revival.

Not rating It, either.
Jamie Grefe
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dramatic-arts
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
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Pats autorius ir knyga su visom nuorodom į teatro pasaulio grandus gal ir nėra iš lengvųjų, ypač žmogui, tiesiog įšokusiam į teatro teorijos lauką, bet knyga visai susiskaitė. Gal buvo kiek sudėtinga relate'inti, nemačius kokių tai klasikinių pastatymų ir vertinti autoriaus įžvalgas. Ir ne tik dėl to, kad jaučiuosi gan žalia teatro reikaluose, bet ir todėl, jog parašytos prieš pusę amžiaus tos įžvalgos gali pasirodyti nebe tokios auktualios. Bet vis dėlto, įstrigo kai kurie momentai, liečiantys ...more
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Brook organiza sus ideas sobre el teatro con una metafísica de entrecasa. La aprovecha muy bien. No se molesta en aclarar si lo mortal, lo sagrado, lo tosco y lo inmediato son etapas o aspectos. Pero no le impide apelar a casos, y algunos de esos elementos se pueden llevar a otras formas de expresión. Lo mortal, por ejemplo, parece un peligro al que está expuesto el principiante que imita, y el profesional asimilado a un capital cultural decadente. Escribiendo desde el corazón de la tradición sh ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, essays
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,
May 19, 2011 added it
I like my theater like I like my men: deadly, rough, holy, and immediate.
Jason Griffith
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
What I found most interesting was Brook's examination of the role of the audience/spectator in theatre and how a "good house" can empower and participate with performers while a "bad house" can spoil a performance. While much of the book is more advice for actors and directors from the performance side, the parts which spoke to the connection between performers and audience members helped me to imagine what can be socially constructed between both groups within and during a live performance.
It is very difficult, maybe even impossible, to write a book like this and not sound pretentious at times. I rolled my eyes quite a bit along the way; but the final chapter, in which Brook finally admits he doesn't actually have any answers, but that he's just trying to ask the right questions, managed to endear itself to me. It turned what could easily have been a dated, forgettable book into an essay on the wonder and magic of the theatre. It reminded me of why I fell in love with it in the fi ...more
Elliot Huxtable
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dramatic-theory
A concise yet erudite opinion of the theatrical condition, albeit in the 60s.
Initially NO
A funny provocative dated sociological text on theatre that has spawned a billion student essays.

I think I read this chap-book manifesto 25 years ago. I know it was talked about a great deal by teachers of drama who got their degrees/ diplomas in the 1970s.

It is very much a sales spiel, and, the author admits to making up 'successful productions' that didn't actually happen, when he first started directing theatre. It's on this basis, you've got to regard Peter Brook's enthusiasm and social acti
May 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Holly Weiss
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Read as course work for Helen Mirren’s Master Class on acting. Peter Brook, director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and several operas at The Metropolitan Opera, gives us a tour of the role of theater, past and present. Theater presides as the main character with Brook expounding on its various aspects and its importance in our culture. For actors, theater goers, and all interested in the arts.
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
British theater and film director Peter Brook (still living though retired) is primarily known as an influential Shakespearean, though he has plenty of other credits.

He outlines the major types of theater of the title - Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate - making clear that the distinctions are not new vs. old, or avant-garde vs. traditional, although the staging where
"Hamlet threw Ophelia on to the knees of the audience, while he swung above their heads on a rope" sounds like the kind of thing tha
Nick Jones
Last month I read Peter Brook’s book on Shakespeare and thought its mix of generalized comment, detailed responses to staging Shakespeare and anecdote was quite fun but unfocused. The Empty Space works in much the same way, but is a much more successful book. Its four chapters are based on four lectures and Brook’s voice can always be heard: intelligent, clear, reasonable. (It reminds me of John Berger.) The first three chapters discuss three forms of theatre: the Deadly, the Holy and the Rough ...more
Anastasia Chrysilla
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book is a record of Brook's lecture about 4 forms of theatre; the Deadly, Holy, Rough, and Immediate Theatre, which he defined based on its impact to audience.

The Empty Stage starts off interesting. It definitely made me appreciate the many abstract concepts that actors need to consider and continuously shape in doing their art. However I found Brook's ideas growingly hard to follow because he tends to use big hazy words and metaphors. Most sentences and paragraph are long, and he jumps from
Harding Young
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Empty Space seems as important a study in theatre today as it did so many years ago when I first read it. In his chapter on Immediate Theatre, Brook says of his his own writing: "As I continue to work, each experience will make these conclusions inconclusive again. It is impossible to assess the function of a book—but I hope this one may perhaps be of use somewhere, to someone else wrestling with his own problems in relation to another time and place." As true as this might be, this work rea ...more
Chris Serpentine
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very dense at times. Asks a lot of open ended philosophical questions.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a book make me think this deeply.

Theatre is living and breathing. It is never ACTUALLY within definition. Brooks offers four possible definitions. A pure theatre unattainable. We must attempt to be as pure as possible while understanding that “pure” is both without definition and defined by all - actor, audience, playwright, society (both current and timed).

Brooks says it best at the end: Even as he
Tim Baldwin
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book that every theatre practitioner should read from time to time. Consider a plumb line for keeping you honest in your work. I first read this book close to twenty years ago when I started in my theatre studies. I didn’t appreciate it then. What’s changed? Age, for one, and experience as another. I don’t consider myself a professional theatre artist by any means. The breadth of my director has been on the middle and high school level. But I’m beginning to broaden my experience by emb ...more
Julian Munds
One of the issues with a lot of writing about theatre is that can be abstract. Even spiritual to a degree. Spiritual in the sense that pseudo points are made through bonkers metaphor. Although this writing at times does fall into this trap. And has a tendency to sound sphinx like. It has some value in it. Esp. the first chapter which is still a major problem where I am in Canada. And important read for theatrical artists.... esoteric for others.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
I feel like this is one of those "Emperor's New Clothes" books. There are some really intriguing ideas but overall, I found it full of waffle and negativity. As a collection of speeches, essays and conversation that has been crafted into a book, I felt it lacked structure. It seems awfully dated too for the modern reader. That said, I did really enjoy the last chapter so I am glad I forced my way through as it contained many thoughts that I hadn't considered.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the seminal books on theatre by master theatre director Peter Brooke. I first read this in the 1970s and have re-read several times. A must read for any serious theatre or acting student. Brooke's work makes you realise how artistically impoverished most modern theatre and television productions are.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful read. In many ways, I find it represents a middle ground that I've been looking for in my personal journeys in theatre - it grapples with the contradictions inherent in theatrical work, and I think it does an adequate job providing potential answers to those questions. Altogether an engaging look at what makes theatre good, bad, and indifferent.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So much to ponder and consider from rereading this after studying it in college. The final chapter and the questions of immediate theater and its worth resound deeply, even/especially today. Competition is no longer just the cinema but all the online media too.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
brook: political and aesthete at the same time! 1 6 Nov 01, 2007 12:29PM  
  • Towards a Poor Theatre
  • A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre
  • Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic
  • Theatre of the Oppressed
  • The Theater and Its Double
  • Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing
  • The Dramatic Imagination: Reflections and Speculations on the Art of the Theatre
  • Respect for Acting
  • Playing Shakespeare: An Actor's Guide
  • Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays
  • An Actor Prepares
  • The Theatre of the Absurd
  • To the Actor
  • The Actor and the Target: New Edition
  • Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part
  • Voice and the Actor
  • True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
  • The Director's Craft: A Handbook for the Theatre
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
“A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.” 26 likes
“Reality' is a word with many meanings.” 25 likes
More quotes…