Tip of the Tongue

Peter Brook

Nick Hern Books

Released 14 September 2017

Review by Philip Fisher

Now in his 90s, Peter Brook has become the grand old man of world theatre. Even in his 90s, the legendary director’s every word is a pearl of wisdom, which can inspire young theatre directors and actors.

Tip of the Tongue is filled with that wisdom, although it only stretches to a meagre 104 pages thanks to gaps between chapters and a large, well-spaced font.

Devotees will still be enchanted by the great director’s latest ruminations on language and the theatre.

He starts almost before the basics, considering the need for words, before comparing and contrasting the ways in which the English language and the French language differ in their meanings and usage.

The second part contains a sad but telling story about another theatre company, the members of which effectively devoted years of their lives to the creation of a theatre structure rather like the Paines Plough Roundabout. At the end of the day having achieved that goal, like the inhabitants of Babel, whose tower in a glorious Brueghel depiction graces the front cover, they found that they had nothing to say.

A brief anecdote about the 23-year-old Brook’s operatic debut and a formless hunch that paid off makes a bold statement about the need to take risks if you are to succeed in the creative arts.

The book then winds down in Part Three, with some thoughts on the genius of Shakespeare.

Purchasers of this modestly priced volume will need to accept that they are looking for quality over quantity, in which case Tip of the Tongue is definitely worth exploring.