Customer Reviews: The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate
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on June 11, 2001
Building upon the earlier work of Aristotle, Brecht, Artaud and others, Brook confronts the living organism of the theatre on four levels: Deadly, Holy, Rough and Immediate. In each level, Brook makes the case that the theatre is not only a necessary component to the human creature, but a being that despite its constant wounds and ills, manages to bounce up from the death bed and find a way to survive.
Interestingly when Brook was writing (1968) there were many cynical critics who complained that the theatre was dying in the wake of television and film. Brook confronts the issue that theatre attendance was reacing all time lows. Today, over thirty years later, it is daunting to consider that there are even more distractions (the internet, home video, etc.) and attendance is even lower still. Yet despite these imposing knives thrusting into the communal body that is the Theatre, the world's oldest art form manages to forge ahead, survive and, the rare cases, thrive all the while maintaining its cultural importance.
Brook believes the theatre is unique is that it requires a community of artists and audiences alike to exist. That very sense of humanity and awe is what allows it to flourish in many instances.
Brook's writing is admittedly erudite and sometimes pretentious. And perhaps when one takes the positions that he does, such lofty language and posings may indeed be impossible. I hate to say it, but Brook's book may be hard going for the theatre lay person- God knows I'm aware of how elitist that sounds, but I think it is true. Because of his thick verbage, it may take a couple of stabs for the reader to unlock Brook's fevered soapboxing. But the journey is well worth the price.
This is a book of theatre theory and therefore it may appear quite barren of practical solutions. However when read in conjunction with not only life experience in the theatre as well as the many great acting, directing and play wrighting texts, it does provide the theatre artist with the basis for forging a true political manifesto. To quote Brook himself, "To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work any more. A play is a play."
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on December 1, 2002
Yes: Brook is a genius.
Yes: This work is of great value to any theatre artist.
BUT!!! This book is rather dense, and those who are unfamiliar with major movements and theories in the last century of theater may find themselves a bit lost when Brook begins to talk about Artaud and the "Holy Theater" or Brecht and "Rough Theater."
Brook's ideas, through his sometimes dense writing, are meant to inspire and invigorate. This is not a manual or even a reference to create good theatre, as a major argument of Brook's is that good theater is far to complex and ever-changing to be explained by any book/manual/dogma/etc.
Read this book and know that it will not help you to create good theatre- if anything, it will raise the bar for "good" theatre so much higher that one's task becomes infinitely more difficult. This is the agony and the ecstasy of reading Peter Brook.
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on April 21, 2014
Be careful. This book could change your life. It changed mine. I read The Empty Space in 1974. I was so blown away by the ideas within this book, I quit my job, moved to a large metropolitan area, and ended up running a theater, directing plays in other theaters, then teaching theater for the next twenty years. What this book does is teach important lessons in creating and appreciating art. Upon rereading The Empty Space, I find some of the writing to be a bit pretentious, but on the whole, the lessons are solid. Whether exploring theater, literature, art, music, or any other creative endeavor, this books shows that experiencing an artistic event can and should be a transformative experience. What is particularly refreshing is it doesn't sugar-coat the arts. There is no formula or how-to instructions on creating good work. Risk is not only encouraged, it is necessary. Brook also shows how the arts can be manipulated to lull and pacify. The four essays/lectures on Deadly Theater, Holy Theater, Rough Theater, and Immediate Theater are as fresh to day as they were 40 years ago.
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on January 10, 2007
What is great about the empty space is that Peter Brook's theory is relevant to all art forms. The four theatres he describes are basically categories in which all art falls into. This seems odd at first until you see what he is describing. What turns most people off is the idea of over-categorizing art. But Brook's theatres tend to be more or less critiques of individual performances, or what the effect of that performance is on the audience. This is also easy to read. Too much theatre philosophy gets bogged down by either melodramatic thespian writers, or rambling philosophies from those who have not trained themselves to ge good writers. With Brook, it is pretty straightforawrd, not always easy to understand mind you, but straightforward. If you are at all interested in the arts then this is a must read.
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on November 8, 2014
I'm a playwright, poet, and novelist (most recent novel is THE MAGIC HOUSE). For any playwright, actor, director this book is essential reading. The notions of immediate and holy theaters are extraordinary, approaching the level of pure poetry. I highly recommend this book.
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on November 20, 2015
This is the most in depth study of the modern theatre by
a genius director. His view of NYC theatre being deadly
is, in my experience working off off B'way theater, is spot on.
NYC theatre is dead and getting deader since all the
young actors and directors are being trained by studios who are
living in the past. NYC theatre is at the same dead level
as it was in the 30s, 40s and 50s when The Theatre of the
Absurd playwrights- Beckett, Genet, Pinter, Onesco, Albee
and is described by Andre Gregory and Wally Shawn in their
classic film My Dinner With Andre, that NYC theatre is controlled
by a conspiracy of commercial interests based on money which
keeps the audience bored and asleep because if you are asleep
you can't say no!
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on June 5, 2014
Peter Brook's powerful work is the greatest book written about the theater in recent time. The reading is packed with insights and strong assertions. It cannot be overlooked. Even today, nearly fifty years after it was written, the work compels us forward to a greater understanding of the what theater should be, not what it has become.
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on October 21, 2000
Have you ever noticed that several of the worlds truly Great Books are very short? Reading this book, along with The Dramatic Imagination by Robert Edmond Jones, Acting: the first 6 lessons by Boleshavsky and Aristotles Poetics are (to my less than humble opinion) all one really needs to have a degree in Theater/re.
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HALL OF FAMEon February 13, 2008
I am not very knowledgeable about Theatre and certainly not about Theory of Theatre. I found this book quite abstract and difficult to understand. Its opening sentences sets the tone for the whole work.
"I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. An actor moves across this space while someone is watching and a piece of theatre is engaged."
This would seem to detach Theatre from local trappings and customs.
The book consists in an effort to define four kinds of Theatre, the Deadly or Conventional commercial theatre: the Holy Theatre based on sacred repetition , the Rough Theatre that of people in the steet, and the Immediate Theatre, the flowing transformative Theatre which Brook himself is trying to do.
As the author is considered one of the most revolutionary and important of modern Theatre directors I believe the book might be of value to those actually involved in 'doing Theatre' more than it is to the general reader.
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on June 22, 2013
This book retains it magic and insight generations after being published. There are few books in the theatre theory/crit section that are just as useful, informative, insightful and powerful as this one. Go ahead, restore your faith in theatre. I did.
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