Empty space is the bloody word for this book. Normally, I can do a variety of things whilst reading, like listen to music, or lie in bed, or ignore people who are trying to talk to me. Or ignore people in general. Alas, with this particular collection of lectures, I can do nothing but read. I have to sit up properly, turn off my music, arm myself with a pencil, and devote all my attention to Brook. I’m the one that needs empty space; sometimes I feel like I need a padded room as well. There are bewildering metaphors, references to things that I’ve never, ever heard of (anyone care to explain Stanislavsky’s system?), and various questions that are still unanswered. And I doubt they ever will be.
The Empty Space is a collection of lectures that Brook gave to four different universities, talking about four different types of theatre – the Deadly, the Holy, the Rough and the Immediate. And I am so, so glad that I read these lectures, rather than listen to them. As fantastic as it might be to have seen the legend in the flesh, the analogies that he used, and the questions that this book asks, meant that I would have been bored stiff. Not because of the subject matter – which I honestly find fascinating – but because I need time to think and digest. Hell, I’ve had to go back and re-read each section after my original reading. And annotate. And highlight.
What is theatre? What role does it have within society? What is the role of the audience? Question, after question, after question. Questions whose answers differ from individual to individual. Questions that I’d never begun to consider before, but are now plaguing me, like an itch that doesn’t cease until you’ve got out of bed, hopped around on one foot trying to get your top off, and then used the door frame as a scratching post. Niggling, to say the least. Clawing through to your spinal column at most.
I would say that this is essential reading for anyone with an interest in theatre. Judging from the reviews on Goodreads, it can be hard going, but personally I’m rather enjoying it. I’ve never seriously thought about what I really, really like in theatre, but The Empty Space has forced me to consider those itching questions that I’ve managed to avoid before. This book can be rather high-brow at times, and includes references to people who I’ve never, ever, ever heard of (shame on me), but Wikipedia has saved me in times of dire need.
An eye-opener. If you don’t like theatre (first off, why not – I genuinely want to know), don’t read it until you have a vague interest in theatre. If you do like theatre, then read it, and spend the rest of your days metaphorically back-scratching. And screaming.
Have you read this, or would like to recommend any theatre-type books to me? Leave a comment!