THE Mahabhartha is an epic Indian story which has been retold thousands of times and even condensed into a series of 140 character tweets on social media.
Now renowned director Peter Brook, who adapted the tale into a nine-hour play 30 years ago, will return to the drama with a brand new production to be staged at London’s Young Vic.
The ancient Sanskrit poem, which is composed of 100,000 couplets or shoklas, is one of the two classic sagas in Hinduism. In Battlefield, the 90-year-old director, along with his long-time collaborators Marie-Hélène Estienne and Jean-Claude Carrière, will explore the moment the heroes of the story face each other before a great battle.
It is inspired by Brooks’ acclaimed play which has gone down in theatre history as one of the greatest productions of all-time. David Lan, artistic director at the Young Vic, said: “Peter Brook’s staging of The Mahabharata is acknowledged as one of the seminal theatre works of the 20th century. Peter and his team are among our closest theatre friends. We are as delighted as always to welcome them to the Young Vic.”
The Mahabharata explores the four goals of life through the account of a dynastic struggle for power between two sets of cousins; the 100 Kauravas and the righteous five Pandava brothers.
Brook and his team delve into the struggles of the Bharata family, who are ancestors to the cousins and torn apart by a great war after struggling to make sense of the horrors they have experienced and perpetrated. With its universal themes, the poem has stood the test of time.
Brook’s new version focuses on one key section that deals with military conflict on an overwhelming scale. The director, who turned 90 last month, worked on his first play in London in 1943.
He has since created more than 70 plays, operas and films. In 1989, Brook made a six-hour film version. His most recent production at the Young Vic was The Valley of Astonishment, which also toured internationally.
In the powerful story which touches on the search for reason in a fractured world, four actors take centre stage, including Carole Karemera (Sometimes in April).
It also stars Jared McNeill (The Valley of Astonishment), Ery Nzaramba (The Suit) and Sean O’Callaghan (Beyond Caring). Carrièrea, a novelist, screenwriter, actor and Academy Award-winner, worked on the original with Brook along with Estienne, who was his assistant for the historic play.
The 1980s version toured the world for four years after opening at the Festival d’Avignon. In its only UK production, the set needed 250 tonnes of sand, 140 tonnes of clay and cost an estimated £350,000 to stage.
The UK premiere of Battlefield will open at the Young Vic in February 2016.