The illustrious theater and film director Peter Brook, whose works include Lord of the Flies and a stage adaptation of the Mahabharat, passed away at the age of 97. The British director by birth has lived in France for several years. His death has led to tributes from the worlds of art, film and even world leaders. Also read: Mahabharat: When Nitish Bharadwaj, Roopa Ganguly comforted a crying Arjun on the last day of shooting

In a statement released on Sunday, Peter Brook’s publisher Nick Hern Books said he leaves behind “an incredible artistic legacy.” According to French media sources, the director died in Paris on Saturday.

Born in London in 1925, Peter studied at Oxford University and, when he was still young, directed his first London production, Doctor Faustus. He later served as production director at London’s famed Royal Opera House before partnering with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

A scene from the promotional poster of The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.
A scene from the promotional poster of The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.

He won the prestigious Tony Award for Best Director twice: in 1966 for his staging of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade and in 1970 for the staging of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In addition, during his seven-decade career, he also won an Olivier Award, an Emmy and an international Emmy.

In India, he was best known for directing his multi-ethnic nine-hour stage adaptation of the Mahabharat. The grand show, which included large-scale sets and trapeze work, was praised by critics. Premiered at the Avignon festival in 1985 (staged in Adelaide in 1988 and filmed in 1989), the Mahabharata saw cast from around the world, including Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi and Ciaran Hinds as Ashwatthama.

Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi in The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.
Mallika Sarabhai as Draupadi in The Mahabharata by Peter Brook.

However, many also criticized the production for cultural appropriation. Brook himself acknowledged that the Mahabharata “would never have existed without India”, but at the same time stated that “we had to avoid the suggestion of India being so strong as to hinder human identification too much.”

In addition to his many stage productions, Peter also directed the 1963 film adaptation of Lord of the Flies, which made him popular in cinemas as well. The Mahabharata was also released as a five-hour film in 1989.

The director founded the International Center for Theater Research after moving to Paris in the 1970s. For this organization he would breathe new life into the dilapidated Bouffes du Nord theater in the French capital.

He was married to actor Natasha Parry from 1951 until her death in 2015 from a stroke. Irina and Simon, their two children, are both directors.

(With input from agencies)

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