Peter Brook, The Death of Krishna

Review in Issue 16-3/4 | Autumn 2004

The idea of the war to end all wars seems always to have fascinated human imaginations. As the twentieth century offers an archive of such images historically, how might such an idea be imagined theatrically today? (Which is, of course, also to ask how theatre might be imagined today.) As a sort of coda to Brook’s monumental production of the Mahabarata, this hour-long performance for one actor presents, firstly, the intercultural image of a storytelling.

The Hindu cosmos is offered as a stage adorned simply with the rich colours of carpet and cushions, the lighting of devotional lamps and incense, and, facing the audience throughout, a mask of the elephant god, Ganesh. Brook describes these as ‘a few essential Indian objects’, a description that expresses the stylised aesthetic – which still in Benichou’s wonderful performance, remains playful. Brook’s regular writers – Jean-Claude Carriere and Marie-Helene Estienne – offer the story of Krishna’s death inlaid with many others, shifting from the narrator’s voice to the voices of a host of characters; while through Benichou’s shifts of gesture, the narrator takes on some ‘essential’ trait of each one, each in different degrees of transformation, whether spiritual or physical.

One is left, though, with an old question: is this sufficient for storytelling to become theatre, for the relating of events to become itself an event?

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-3/4
p. 30