The director’s landmark achievements include a nine-hour Mahabharata, putting Shakespeare on trapezes and directing Olivier, Gielgud and Scofield at the RSC

The groundbreaking British theatre director Peter Brook, whose huge influence reached around the world, has died at the age of 97. His death on Saturday, 3 July was confirmed by his assistant, Nina Soufy.

Brook redefined the way we think about theatre with his productions at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company; at the Bouffes du Nord, the dilapidated Parisian music hall which he made his base for more than 30 years; in African villages, where his actors improvised performances; and on the stages both grand and modest visited by his globetrotting ensemble.

Many of his productions were celebrated for stripping theatre of superfluity and distilling the drama to its essentials, presented with a clear eye and an elegant touch. Brook’s landmark 1970 RSC version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, influenced by both a Jerome Robbins ballet and the Peking Circus, was performed in a white cube of a set and boasted trapezes, stilts and a forest of steel wire. Ben Kingsley, who was among its cast, told the Guardian: “Although his passing leaves a huge gap in the world, his genius continues to guide those of us who were fortunate enough to work with him, know him and love him.”

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