92 YEAR OLD WRITER DIRECTOR, PETER BROOK IS BACK WITH RETELLING OF A FABLE OF WAR AND LIFE, A 2500 YEAR OLD STORY THAT HITS HOME TO PRESENT DAY
The sounds of color and spirit at the Geary theatre take us to a ghost like tale of BATTLEFIELD now on stage at the American Conservatory Theatre only until May 21. Thirty years after Peter Brook's perfect adaptation of the nine hour Indian epic The Mahabharata, he has now created a simple new interpretation and staging of this timeless tale in perhaps his best work. Presented like a fairy tale of sorts a newly crowned king surveys a post-war battlefield. His army has won him the crown, but at huge cost of life. Written as a fable 2,500 years ago, The Mahabharata's magical story of finding peace in the midst of war and death brings this tale home to present time.
Some call Peter Brook “the most pioneering theatre director of the twentieth century with his 9-hour adaptation of the Mahabharata.” The production began life at an outdoor venue of bed of rocks and then toured. Making theatrical history with the able sweep of its storytelling as presented as a tragic tale of importance. Brook is now in his 90’s and he has teamed with his long-time collaborator, Marie-Helene Estienne, and returned to the original material for this 70 minute piece that takes a look at the aftermath of the near-apocalyptic war.
The A.C.T. Box Offices
The Geary Theater
405 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA
Photo's by Caroline Moreau
Director Brook and Estienne bring a stunning cast of players to perform all the characters of this sometimes fairy tale of death and war. The company includes Carole Karemera who is replaced by Karen Aldridge beginning May 16, Jared McNeill, Ery Mzaramba and Sean O’Callaghan – are all sharp performers and storytellers. Musician Toshi Tsuchitori adds to the subtext of the action and plays a dramatic role as the show closes that is not to be missed.
The story begins as the Pandavas have won the war but with millions dead on the battlefield, “this is a defeat” to the new king, Yudishtira played by the stark Jared McNeill who discovers that he unknowingly killed his own half-brother. The story shows him trying to make sense of this misfortune, together with his mourning mother played by the endearing Carole Karemera, and his blind, old uncle (Sean O'Callaghan) who lost a hundred sons on the Kaurava side. Seeking advice from a succession of sages played by the superb Ery Nzaramba. The new king is encourage to listen to some animal fables as told by the other wandering cast members. The tour de force acting of the four member cast telling of these fables and stories is mind bending beauty. The moods of the play are underscored by the impressive Japanese percussionist, Toshi Tsuchitori, on his lone traditional drum.
All performed on a open stage of few props or sets. The mood is set by the emotional lighting of Philippe Vialatte, who at times keeps the magic in a glow as an off stage blazing fire. The set is simple based on the mood of the lighting and colorful scarves and simple desert wear by Oria Puppo costumes that symbolize everything from a road on which a worm will dance to the crushing wheels of a chariot.
Jared McNeill is the winner of this war and is still in shock as the obvious every man. The bold Carole Karemera, plays the mother who encourages her surviving son to be king. She is joined by the blind man, Dhritarashtra, played by the awesome O’Callaghan who after losing one hundred men to his victorious nephew still finds truth for him. Yudhisthira is then sent off to meet his dying grandfather, Bhishma, played by Ery Nzaramba. His grandfather gives him the wisdom of a number of parables that teach him lessons about destiny, justice, life, and death. At this point in the 70 minute play where the story jumps into its magic with Brooks’ imaginative direction as the cast become snakes, birds, a worm, and other four legged members of the animal kingdom to act out the stories that Bhishma tells.
This is a beautiful BATTLEFIELD to listen to and witness with the creative sounds provided by the solo drum and the actors’ exquisite body language and storytelling. The final moments of the performance create an important silence that will move you. The drum becomes the main character in this Battlefield. Countless wars over history from Jerusalem to D- Day come to mind. But the important fact Brook speaks is good and evil, mythical brilliance and storytelling at is best.
American Conservatory Theatre presents
Adapted and Directed by
Peter Brook and Marie Helene Estienne
Original Music by Toshi Tsucjitori
Based on THE MAHBHARATA
And play written by Jean-Claude Carriere
Must close May 21
Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco
Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $25-$125; 415-749-2228, www.act-sf.org
Peter Brook's The Mahabharata - Six hour film version for Television
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana, and contains many of the philosophical concepts from the Vedas. Peter Brook's original 1985 stage play 'The Mahabharata' was 9 hours long, and toured around the world for four years. In 1989, it was reduced to under 6 hours for television.