Every child knows that one person can only be really good at something if they enjoy what they are doing. But to really enjoy what one is doing, it is important to know at least the very basic of what is to be done.
So, every person who likes theatre and sees in the theatre a possibility for a career development should be able to try to answer the following questions: “Why theatre at all? What for? Why do we applaud, and what? Has the stage a real place in our lives? What function can it have? What could it serve? What could it explore? What are its special properties?” Funny thing is that these are Peter Brook’s own questions that he does not answer, at least not like a questionnaire. If anyone studies Peter Brook and watches his performances, some of the answers of the questions will be found, while others won’t and this is simply for the fact that rarely a writer or a director, or any other artist, answers questions but rather makes them, inciting people to give it a thought.
As for my attempt to answer them, here we go…
WHY THEATRE AT ALL?
Because theatre is the invitation to a magical world, even if this world is the mirror of reality or the contrary, a carnivalesque experience. Why would anyone want to miss that?
Theatre is a service for the people, although animals and plants would be welcome, too.
WHY DO WE APPLAUD, AND WHAT?
There are people who applaud because they feel they must. There are those who applaud standing on their feet to show the carefully picked outfit to the entire auditorium, including the artists on stage. There are people who applaud because they want to give the artists something back, and there are those who applaud because they truly feet that every penny that they have spent in the ticket was worth it. They would even be prepared to pay more if they had to, because the escape from reality was nourishment to the starving soul. Some applaud to the courage of the artists to mount a production, because they know that the business of writing leaves the playwright bare naked, the director anxious, the actors in the verge of a nervous break-down and the producers biting off their nails. If all this does not take courage, I don’t know what does, because more than often the result of a production is unsatisfactory for those who made it. Still, despite feeling ashamed, or embarrassed, they show up for the rest of the run.
HAS THE STAGE A REAL PLACE IN OUR LIVES?
Of course! We are actors because we act in our real lives. Act does not mean to pretend or to fool someone, although there are so many people who do that, but to act is to dance according to the music. We adept, we move, we improvise. We make decisions. We act. The stage we see is the streets we live in, with or without adornments.
WHAT FUNCTION CAN IT HAVE?
To instruct, to entertain, to enchant. To enable escapes, travels, love stories, war and peace…
WHAT COULD IT SERVE?
Theatre serves as a tool to differentiate humans from plants, as humans need more than just water, food and shelter. Humans need to feel and to experience things. Humans need to grow out of their bodies, minds and souls. Art and especially theatre could be a ticket for that.
WHAT COULD IT EXPLORE?
The unspeakable. The unseen. The undone. Life and death.
WHAT ARE ITS SPECIAL PROPERTIES?
The invitation for another world is one special property, even though the portrayed world might seem so close to the one we know. Another property could be the expected yet unexpected exchange with other human beings that might or might not be familiar.
Well, having attempted to answer Brook’s questions without analysing too much, really trying to answer them on a snap, in the heat of the moment, I might regret some answers tomorrow or feel that I have to at least explain myself better in a more elaborated fashion, but for one, it was somewhat fun to search for answers that are so difficult to find, despite the questions sounding to ease to make.
Luciana B. Veit