Battlefield at A.C.T. revisits an epic work of ancient Indian poetry that has fascinated director Peter Brook for decades. In the 1960s, he was introduced to The Mahabharata, which tells of war and the consequences of war, and in the years since, has adapted it into a nine-hour stage play, a 5 1/2-hour miniseries, and now the miniature Battlefield. It runs through May 21st at the Geary Theater.
There’s more information at the A.C.T. website.
Peter Brook, who just recently turned 92, has long been one of England’s best known stage directors. He says he first heard of The Mahabharata while directing a play about the Vietnam War called US in the 1960s. “A young Indian came into rehearsal, and pushed a few pages into my hand, and said ‘Just look at it, it’s a play I’ve written on the Bhagavad Gita,’ I’d never heard that word. I then discovered, looking at the play, that that was a tiny part of an enormous work I’d never heard of, like most of us, called The Mahabharata. And it was about a general about to give the signal to start a massacre. And he sees all his armies on his side, and he sees facing him members of his own family. His aunts, his uncles, his cousins. And he stops, and he says, ‘Why should we fight?’ In Battlefield, Brook says, they explore what the responsibilities of a leader are, when lives are at stake. “What happens when you have succeeded? There is a great line in it, ‘This victory is a defeat.’ Meaning now it all begins. And that’s the theme that touched us so greatly.”