Peter Brook turned 90 yesterday and he’s still at it.

I feel very lucky to have seen a couple of his productions in my life. Once, when he brought Sizwe Banzi est mort to Montreal and then when we went to Paris and I finally had the chance to set foot in the Bouffes du Nord theatre.

As a once-aspiring theatre director myself (I am no longer aspiring in the sense that I have more or less given up), he inspired me with his writings and ideas and experiments. His 60-year-old production of Titus Andronicus became the backbone of my MA dissertation (for which I cherish and hate him. The reasons for these feelings will be obvious to anyone who has written a dissertation about anything). One of the most magical (nerdiest?) moments of my research was when I found my way to the theatre museum archives in London and, while leafing through Brook’s prompt book, worked on deciphering his penciled notes in the margins.

He is an important director with a career spanning 65 years. He is still working. And in January, I got to see his production of Beckett’s Fragments at the theatre he found in 1974 as the home for his company.

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Théâtre Bouffes du Nord, before the show

I was happy to be able to smugly say that I would be seeing Beckett in Paris, darling. But I was mostly happy to see the insides of this theatre. I was relieved and thrilled, really, that the building had the same magical feeling that BAM’s Harvey Theater had (also renovated for a Peter Brook production).

You can feel the history, the age, the ghosts in this theatre. The wooden seats, the unpolished clockwork-like ceiling, the distressed paint on the walls… It was great that the performance was funny and moving and that the chosen pieces exposed Beckett’s silly, human side (he can be a bit bleak, can’t he?), but I wouldn’t have cared because the space was so rich in its simplicity (much like Brook’s direction). A bit of history and lots more pictures can be found here.

People of all ages in fancy and/or bohemian Parisian garb sat on the floor in the front rows. We sat on the shallow balcony next to a couple of theatre students with hearty laughs. The place was full.

Bouffes interior

This is the inside of the theatre (stolen from Wikipedia).

I was on a high after the show- the theatre, the play, Katherine Hunter’s amazing voice, being in Paris, taking the metro to a neighbourhood I’d never seen, having a boyfriend who will enthusiastically go see Beckett- but the night was still young. There was still steak frites and wine and beer to have and an old friend to see.