Some directors are capable of respecting the writer’s intentions and challenging convention at the same time. Peter Brook is one of the most famous people to challenge conventional production. His experimentation with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the National Theatre in 1970 in particular was extraordinary for the time. The production used groundbreaking circus trapezes, stilts and plate spinning, and changed theatre history for good.
For Brook the play is there to be performed but the actors have to bring it to life and that is something that requires change, dynamic ideas and huge energy:
So we began with only the conviction that if we worked long, hard and joyfully on all the aspects of the play, a form would gradually appear. We started preparing the ground to give this form a chance. Within each day we improvised the characters and the story, practised acrobatics and then passing from the body to the mind, discussed and analysed the text line by line, with no idea of where this was leading us. There was no chaos, only a firm guide, the sense of an unknown form calling us to continue.Peter Brook, The Quality of Mercy, Reflections on Shakespeare