Peter Brook, the esteemed British director who inspired each new generation of theatre creatives to be more daring and experimental, has died at the age of 97. Brook was influential in Helen Mirren’s early career when she joined his newly-formed Conference of the Birds. In December 1972, Brook, Mirren and an international troupe of actors left their Paris base to emerge again in the Sahara desert (as pictured above during their morning meditation). It was the start of an 8,500-mile expedition through Africa without precedent in the history of theater. Brook was in search of a new beginning that has since been revealed in all his work – from Conference of the Birds and Carmen to The Mahabharata and beyond. After years of performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mirren has often stated how the year with Brook has been a guiding light of finding her power as a performer. Peter Brook was 97.
During the tour with the Conference of the Birds, the company were in the Sahara when Helen noticed a rock with a “strange, dark hole”. Instinctively she stuck her finger into the hole, only for Peter Brook to snatch her finger away. “Don’t do it,” he told her. “You don’t know what might be in there.” For Helen, that summed up her personality. “I go rushing into situations where it would be much more sensible to stay cool and reserved,” she told me, explaining her love of the unexpected. (The Daily Mail, Philip Dodd, March 03, 2007)