“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whist someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged”
When Peter Brook made this statement in his book “The Empty Space” in 1968, not everyone was sure what to make of him. The theatre was very much still thought of as a place, a destination, as something that did not extend beyond the walls around it; somewhere one could go, but not something one could see, hear and experience all around them.
Peter Brook led a generation of actors who changed the way the theatre space was perceived and the way the art form was experienced, for their own generation and beyond. From ‘Theatre’ – with a musty air of the plush seats and proscenium arch – to a living, breathing, evolving thing that doesn’t have a traditional sense of place, but is all around us. He took the theatre from the playhouse to the street corner, from the lofty heights to the lowly, paving the way for the £10 tickets in an East London warehouse somewhere we can enjoy today.
He wasn’t alone in this of course, but that image of the anonymous Empty Space, just waiting to be filled, is in my mind an iconic image that changed the face of the theatre and paved the way for modern performance as we know it today – but crucially, the way we think about it, too.
For whilst theatre has been threatened as long as it has been around, with people from puritans to politicians pointing their fingers and hollering “what is it good for” we have never lived in age so surround by performance. Every day millions of people the world over are broadcasting themselves, globally, to millions more. An empty space is not just a square or Street corner, it is a blank phone screen waiting for the next dose of media to flit fleetingly across it. The next youtube video, the next status, the next selfie.
This blog is an empty space, waiting for my words to fill it. Wherever someone is watching and being watched, there is someone performing and an audience, they might just not yet be paying attention.