Theater as a reflection of life

«Our life’s projector is always out of focus,» said Peter Brook over the phone. He is a delightful interlocutor, or better still, a delightful speaker. The great man of theater was dense, measured, yet at the same time effortless, substantial and effective. The reason for our conversation was his new play «Warum Warum» (Why, Why), presented in Athens as part of the Theater Beyond Borders festival, organized by the Attiki Cultural Center. The play opened at the Dimitris Horn Theater last night with one final performance tonight. The world premiere of «Warum Warum» had previously taken place at Zurich’s Schauspielhaus last month. Besides directing, Brook is also behind the play’s writing, in collaboration with Marie-Helene Estienne. The texts combine his theatrical heritage – so far – as spoken by the sacred writings of theater’s leading men, from Antonin Artaud and Edward Gordon Craig to Charles Dullin, Zeami Motokiyo and, naturally, William Shakespeare. «Good theater is no different from life, with one exception: It offers one the chance to take a look at life with a clear perspective. You see, 99 percent of our daily experiences are useless, for the rubbish bin. That is why I say that our lives’ perceptible projector makes everything seem blurred. That is why we try to move beyond a lot of what happens to us daily. Theater is a mirror of life, a very clear mirror. «Theater squeezes human life in an unparallelled way. It condenses time and space. At times it describes something amusing: You and I are talking right now connected through a wire – it’s an amusing image, if you think about it. Aristophanes would have written great things given this picture. Comedy describes what lies on the outside of human behavior. Drama, tragedy and poetic theater throw light on hidden aspects of human activity – something that is impossible to do in real life – even in theater. It’s impossible to capture a true reflection of life. Only Shakespeare came close to achieving it.» Compared to other artistic genres, does theater have an advantage given the aforementioned capability? «No, not at all,» said Brook. «Theater does have a singularity which other genres don’t have: you try to imprint life and subsequently your efforts are lost forever. This is not a novel or a painting.» In search of the nature of theatrical creation, Brook turned to the old theater masters. «This is not a lecture, I am not talking about the theories. I’m referring to the pain of the action. You work on a play and then you take a good look at it and ask yourself: ‘It’s bad, why?’ or ‘It’s good, why?’ This ‘why’ is like a sharp needle which has to keep coming sticking you, otherwise you will end up an academic.» The play stars Miriam Goldschmidt, accompanied by musician Francesco Agnello. «Goldschmidt is a very experienced, seasoned actress. So here is a mature, not a young actress wondering: ‘What the hell is this all about’ It seems like a ritual.» Taking my cue from this last word, I asked him if theatrical creation stands on what we refer to as «sacred.» «The term ‘sacred’ is a heavy one, its best not to use it. You know, every single English gentleman is, deep down, a secret mysticist. But he will never admit to it. So he covers up this sense of the sacred with his humor. Like Edward Gordon Craig, who was not after the sacred in theater, but purity instead. According to Craig, half of Shakespeare was full of ghosts and elves – invisible species. If we reject the invisible part of our world then we have to get rid of half of Shakespeare. In Greek tragedy, the invisible was referred to as ‘fate,’ today it’s called ‘genetics.’ What is certain is that there is a mystery behind all this and every major piece of art is after showing us a fleeting moment of this mystery. You can’t explain it, but when you’re listening to great music or looking at the Parthenon, you are breathless because you come into contact with it. You recognize it, but you have no words for it. That what every great theater play is aiming at. That silence.» For tickets: Pallas Theater, 5 Voukourestiou Street, tel 210.321.3100; Dimitris Horn Theater, 10 Amerikis Street, tel 210.361.2500. For credit card reservations, call tel, log on to or visit Fnac (The Mall & Glyfada). For more information, visit