According to an hour-glass


On June 6 and 7, Moscow hosted the premiere of “The Tightrope” by Simon Brook. The film captures Peter Brook’s trainings for actors. The film director arrived to Moscow personally to introduce his film and at length and wittily answered questions from the audience.

It took many years for Simon Brook to receive his father’s permission to film his rehearsals – nothing helped: either their immediate relationship or his profession of documentarian. There have always been those interested to come to a rehearsal of one of the world’s most respected directors of the 20th century, to watch a sacrament: “But I’ll be like a fly on the wall” – “Well, that’s even worse because a fly is really irritating”, Peter Brook answered. Yet after some time, a permission to film an exercise with iPad for 8 minutes was granted, and Simon grasped at this straw. 8 minutes extended to three weeks, and iPad turned into 7 hidden cameras and 45 people of the film crew. “We made something without a genre”, Simon Brook says. Thanks to filming from different angles, Peter Brook himself could see the rehearsal process much better than from his seat.

The director invites his actors to imagine being on a tightrope, to feel its structure with their feet (in reality, they walk on Peter Brook’s favorite many-colored carpet), to sense vibration of the air and balance of the body. To count till twenty and back – without arranging the order for those counting to be the first one and the last one to speak up, to avoid mistakes, speaking together or falling back. To go through raging fire and then through devastating cascades of water towards the joy of liberation. Exercises are based on excerpts from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, “The Magic Flute” by Mozart and “The Suit”, the play where a heroine learned shocking news and died soon afterwards. It was very interesting to watch Brook watching his actors – with intent eyes - “dying out”, if an actor did something wrong and “lighting up” when an actor not only walked on a tightrope and fulfil a task but as if was soaring over it.

Albert Filosov, actor: “We also used to do this kind of training with Anatoly Vassiliev. We also had some basic work – before the rehearsal and even during one if something was going wrong: than we put the text away and started improvisation (there is even a film based on rehearsals for “Serso” under the name of “It Goes Amiss”). For Russian theatre school, discussing at length productions, ideas and subjects is traditional. I am curious if Peter Brook undertakes an analysis or the production emerges from random exercises. Still it has been very interesting for me to watch this film and find out that different theatres take the same route in order to make an actor alive”.

Victor Ryzhakov, director: “Peter Brook is my idol; I am in an endless dialogue with him, and “The Tightrope” became a live part of this dialogue. Film “The Tightrope” is important not only as some theatrical experience but, first of all, as a human one. This film is worthy to be shown for people to get some understanding about life, the core of life. It is not just about theatre, since theatre itself is only a play or a model of a play of life itself.”

Konstantin Raikin, artistic director, Satirikon Theatre: “The film is a very specific and in some sense elite material, which is priceless for me. I have very personal and intimate feelings with regards to the name of Peter Brook. Once I watched his absolutely brilliant production “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and was overwhelmed by it like a real son of the Soviet era, one who lived under the burden of such definitions as “one must not”, “it is not allowed”, and “it is not possible”. All of a sudden I saw such a luxury of creative freedom, absolutely divine permissiveness, theatre I have never seen before - as if representatives of a different planet. After such performance it was not possible to continue your usual way of life. Later I read his book “The Empty Space”, which is, in my opinion, after Stanislavsky’s books, is the second one in order of importance, theatre book of the 20th century. Aphoristic, thin, easy-to-read, nearly fiction – so good and clear for reading. The most useful pleasure.

The film is unique because it presented us with a very precise creative process. We see that the famous director does the exercise with wonderful experienced actors of different age. It is like ballet bar for ballet dancers. It doesn’t occur to a ballet dancer to come from the food store straight to the stage to dance “Swan Lake” without warming up, and for a dramatic actor is quite possible to play Hamlet as soon as he gets to the theatre. Brook is busy with warming-up, adjusting actors’ instrument and this is a real creative process.

I myself was struck by courage and meticulousness of Simon, who persuaded his father to make such film. This 90-year old wise man is more amazing than his actors are. He himself is a learner, and this is so lovely. He lacks any banality and aplomb of a maitre – he is busy exploring. All the time he is on his way going somewhere – farther and farther. He is the main director of the 20th century - Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook – I could argue about other ones. The fact that we live at the same time with him is a great advantage of our life”.


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