Peter Brook Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of material relating to Peter Brook and his career in theatre, television, film, and opera. The material also covers his writing career and includes his notes and research used for his articles, scripts and books. The collection contains both personal correspondence and correspondence relating to his productions in theatre, film and opera. Other material includes photographs, scrapbooks, press cuttings, programmes, notebooks, audio material, film reels, awards, books, sketchpads, drawings, costume designs and other artworks.

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Brook's directing career has spanned more than six decades, three arts forms and three continents. He is renowned for producing landmark films, plays, operas and literature.

Peter Stephen Paul Brook was born in Chiswick, London on 21 March 1925, the son of Latvian scientists, Simon and Ida Brook, who invented Brooklax, a chocolate flavoured laxative. Excused from military service due to childhood illness, he studied English and Modern Languages at Magdalen College, Oxford. There, Brook revived the Film Society and in 1943 directed his first film A Sentimental Journey. After graduation, he went to work as writer/director on films for the Ministry of Information. He directed his first theatre production of Dr Faustus at the Torch Theatre, London, in 1943. Barry Jackson 'discovered' Brook at the age of 21 and invited him to direct at Birmingham Rep. From 1947-1950, he was director at the Royal Opera House. His contract was not renewed after the scandalous opera production of Richard Strauss' Salome (designed by Salvador Dali). In 1951, Brook married the actress, Natasha Parry, and they had two children, Irina and Simon. He continued to work successfully in theatre in London, Europe and the United States. In 1955, he took his production of Hamlet to Moscow. In 1962, Brook was made a director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and held this position for twenty years. He directed notable productions including Titus Andronicus (1955) starring Laurence Olivier, The Tempest (1957) starring John Gielgud, King Lear (1962) with Paul Scofield, Marat/Sade (1964), US (1966) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1970). In 1963, Brook earned international acclaim when he directed the film Lord of the Flies. In 1964, he persuaded the RSC to fund the Theatre of Cruelty season, based on the theories of Antonin Artaud. In 1968, he wrote The Empty Space where he discussed his theories on theatre and staging. By 1970, Brook was developing a more experimental style. He moved to Paris to establish the International Centre of Theatre Research, where he assembled an international company to produce work which explored non-verbal dramatic forms, such as mime, circus skills, and dance techniques. In 1974, the Centre found a performing home at the Bouffes du Nord, a run down theatre behind the Gare du Nord in Paris. The Centre experimented with movement and sound and travelled to Persia, Africa and India. Notable productions with this group have included Ubu aux Bouffes, The Conference of the Birds, and The Mahabharata which toured internationally. Brook has also composed music, designed sets and costumes for his productions and has written extensive articles and books about performance. In 1998, he published his autobiography, Threads of Time.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged as follows:

  • THM/452/1 - Material relating to the life of Peter Brook, ca. 1930 to ca. 1970
  • THM/452/2 - Artworks by Peter Brook
  • THM/452/3 - Personal correspondence to and from Peter Brook
  • THM/452/4 - Production correspondence
  • THM/452/5 - Production photographs
  • THM/452/6 - Research photographs
  • THM/452/7 - Personal photographs
  • THM/452/8 - Production material
  • THM/452/9 - Production scripts
  • THM/452/10 - Professional correspondence
  • THM/452/11 - Writing
  • THM/452/12 - Notebooks, notes and research files
  • THM/452/13 - Books
  • THM/452/14 - Programmes
  • THM/452/15 - Press cuttings
  • THM/452/16 - Awards, honorary degrees, distinctions and ceremonies
  • THM/452/17 - Personal paper and material relating to Peter Brook
  • THM/452/18 - Audio material
  • THM/452/19 - Audio-visual material
  • THM/452/20 - International Centre for Theatre Research material
  • THM/452/21 - Theses
  • THM/452/22 - Artworks and designs
  • THM/452/23 - Correspondence to and from Simon Brook
  • THM/452/24 - Correspondence to and from Natasha Parry
  • THM/452/25 - Posters
  • THM/452/26 - Material related to Valentin Plouchek, 1955
  • THM/452/27 - Material related to Aleksej Kozlovsky
  • THM/452/28 - Glass plates of Peter Brook's correspondence 1936-1942

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant. .

Acquisition Information

Purchase with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, 2014.

Separated Material

The following items have been integrated into the Theatre and Performance Collections:

  • S.2944-2015 Engraving block of Peter Brook, 1943.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Peter Brook in general may be found in several collections, including biographical, production, company and photographic files. Material relating to Peter Brook and his stage career can also be found in further collections including:

  • THM/271 - Round House and Open Space, theatre companies : records
  • THM/319 - Christopher Fry, playwright: papers
  • THM/321 - Oliver Messel Archive
  • THM/397 - Paul Scofield Collection
  • THM/401 - Owen Hale Collection
  • THM/428 - Sally Jacobs Collection

Books:

  • Brook, Peter, The Empty Space, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972.
  • Brook, Peter, The Shifting Point, London: Methuen, 1988.
  • Brook, Peter, Threads of Time: a memoir, London: Methuen Drama, 1998.
  • Williams, David (ed.), Peter Brook and the Mahabharata, London: Routledge, 1991.

Video recordings:

  • King Lear, 1971
  • Meetings with Remarkable Men, 1979
  • The Mahabharata, 1994

See also the National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) recordings for productions recorded:

  • The Valley of Astonishment, 2014

Bibliography

Kustow, Michael, Peter Brook: A Biography. London : Bloomsbury, 2005.