Legendary British theatre director Peter Brook (pictured) returns to the UK tonight (26 January 2005), with the opening of his new production, Ta Main Dans La Mienne, at the Barbican Theatre, where it continues a strictly limited season to 12 February 2005 as part of BITE:05 programme (See News, 3 Dec 2004 & 24 Jan 2005).

The original play, Your Hand in Mine, was written in English by Carol Rocamora and is based on the 400+ love letters Anton Chekhov and his wife Olga Knipper exchanged from 1989 until his death in 1904 during their frequent separations due to his banishment and her job as an actress for Stanislavsky’s Moscow Arts Theatre. This French adaptation is by Marie-Helene Estienne and stars Natasha Parry and Michel Piccoli, performing in French with English surtitles.

Parry joined Brook’s Centre for International Theatre Research and, with the company, has travelled to Africa, Australia, Iran and the US performing in Orghast, The Conference of the Birds and Timon of Athens. Her other credits include Deborah Warner’s Electra, Declan Donnellan’s Hamlet and Happy Days. Piccoli’s film career has spanned 60 years, during which he’s played a total of 205 roles on the big screen. He found fame starring opposite Brigitte Bardot in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mepris in 1963.

Peter Brook was born into a Russian-Jewish emigré family in London in 1925 (See “Peter Brook: Filling the Empty Space”, Features, 25 Aug 2003). In the 1950s, he veered between the West End, new work from France and opera at Covent Garden. By the 1960s, he was moving towards greater experimentation, with controversial works like Marat/Sade and the Vietnam-protest show US, films like Lord of the Flies and King Lear, and landmark stagings of Shakespeare, of which the most famous was the ‘white box’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Then, in 1970, at the height of his success, he moved to Paris where he set up his Centre for International Theatre Research at Bouffes du Nord. Experimental work there included the nine-hour epic The Mahabharata. His 1968 book The Empty Space, defining four categories of theatre, has become a seminal theatrical text. Brook’s most recent London production was Le Costume (The Suit) which had sell-out seasons at the Young Vic in 2001 and 2003.

Ta Main Dans La Mienne is designed by Chlöe Obolensky, with lighting from Philippe Vialatte. It’s co-produced by Fundacion de la Comunidad Valenciana Ciudad de las Artes Escenicas.

- by Hannah Kennedy