Theatre and film director Peter Brook dies aged 97, says French media

Theatre and film director Peter Brook has died in Paris at the age of 97, according to French media reports (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)
Theatre and film director Peter Brook has died in Paris at the age of 97, according to French media reports (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)

Influential British theatre and film director Peter Brook has died at the age of 97, according to reports in French media.

Brook, who had lived in France since the early 1970s, won multiple awards including Tonys, Emmys and an Olivier across his seven-decade career in the arts.

He directed famous names including Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Adrian Lester.

The Le Monde newspaper said he died in Paris on Saturday.

Brook’s publisher, Nick Hern Books, also paid tribute, saying he “leaves behind an incredible artistic legacy”.

Brook was born in Chiswick, west London, on March 21 1925 to Lithuanian Jewish parents and attended Westminster School followed by Oxford University.

His first production was of Dr Faustus in 1943 at the Torch Theatre in London.

Between 1947 and 1950, he served as director of productions at the Royal Opera House, where he staged an experimental and headline-making version of Richard Strauss’s Salome with sets by Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

He directed Sir Lawrence as Titus Andronicus in Stratford for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1955 and was subsequently invited to assist its new artistic director, Sir Peter Hall, on further works.

These included a 1962 production of King Lear starring Paul Scofield.

In 1970, Brook moved to Paris, where he set up the International Centre for Theatre Research, which travelled widely in the Middle East and Africa as part of a three-year “pilgrimage”.

His troupe would perform for rural communities often with just a carpet as a stage.

Four years later he reopened a partially derelict theatre, Bouffes du Nord, close to the French capital’s central Gare du Nord station and transformed it into the new home of the ICTR.

Although the theatre was renovated, Brook decided not to redecorate the interior so it retained a distressed look that would become its hallmark.

Brook was also among the first in theatre to focus on increasing the diversity of his productions.

In an interview with the Evening Standard in 2019, he described his method of casting as “colour-rich” as opposed to “colour-blind”.

He continued to direct and write into his later years and was awarded both the prestigious Praemium Imperiale and the Prix Italia.

He was made a CBE in 1965 and a Companion of Honour in 1998.

In 1951, Brook married actress Natasha Parry and they have two children – Irina, an actress and director, and Simon, a director.

Parry died of a stroke in July 2015 aged 84.