April 27th, 2008

The Empty Space

I've been reading Peter Brook's The Empty Space and it's taken me back to theological college in the early seventies. John Armson, the college chaplain, recommended it to us because, he argued,  ecclesiastical ritual is another form of theatre and Brook's radical thinking would freshen up our chancels. 

I didn't take him up on the recommendation because I was awkward that way- counter-suggestible.  Besides, I didn't like him. He'd shouted at me twice (and I hate to be shouted at): once because he didn't think I was praying enough (he was also my spiritual director) and once because I praised Stevie Smith as "anti-Christian" and he couldn't see how a Christian could encounter a person like that and not want to smite them. He was a hard person to be around. Unpredictable. You'd be having a nice, polite, Oxbridgey conversation about poetry and stuff and the fanatic in him would suddenly leap from ambush and take you by the throat.

I could kick myself now for being so touchy- because in retrospect I like him tremendously. I think of him as the most thoroughly medieval person I've ever known-  by which I mean the most austere and spiritual. He's still out there, nearing seventy, living (I rather think) on the Welsh borders. It would be nice to get in touch with him again.

Especially now I'm equipped to engage him in that long delayed conversation about Peter Brook.  Well, I'd say, I see what you're driving at, but does a priest at his altar really have the freedom an actor or director has to make things new?