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Peter Brook. By Albert Hunt and Geoffrey Reeves. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995; pp. 288; illustrations. $20.95 paper.
Directing is an evanescent art form. Like all theatre work, the director's art passes quickly into the complexly mingled realms of memory, commentary, and documentation. So writing about directing is necessarily complicated. The critic of directing, like all critics of performance, must negotiate a highly mediated relationship to an absent object. But writing about this elusive art form poses an even more fundamental challenge. What, exactly, is the director's work? The tasks of the director are both indistinct and endless. One might focus on the director's dramaturgical functions and praise revelatory insights into shopworn plays. Or examine a director's working process and unpack interactions with various collaborators as they impact the event actually experienced by the audience. Or situate the work within its producing contexts and link particular directorial choices to broader institutional and ideological imperatives. Or, yet again, one might simply account for the sorely underappreciated details of directorial craft. How to explain the surprising force of that down-stage cross, the alarming clarity of that simple gesture, or the just-so fade of that lingering light cue? This is all the stuff of directorial work, and any comprehensive analysis of a contribution to the art form should surely traverse a ground as multiplicitous and embroiled as the act of directing itself.
Two recent studies of major directors illuminate the challenges of writing about the director's work. Peter Brook by Albert Hunt and Geoffrey Reeves and The Theatre of Robert Wilson by Arthur Holmberg both survey the careers of two hugely influential directors. On the surface, these books have much in common. They both issue from a series called Directors in Perspective published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Christopher Innes. In each case, the authors write in part from first-hand experience with their subjects: Hunt and Reeves worked with Brook on several groundbreaking productions in the late 1960s and early '70s; Holmberg was Wilson's dramaturg for a production of Heiner Muller's Quartet at the American Repertory Theatre in 1987 and observed him in rehearsal on a number of other productions. Both studies …