Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) has much to be proud of. Later this month, it will be the co-commissioning partner of legendary British director Peter Brook’s new play, Battlefield. Having premiered Brook’s spiritual home, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris – which he ran for more than 30 years – in September this year, it will open in Singapore this November before going on an international tour in London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, amongst other cities.
To be one of the commissioning partners for the most anticipated plays in the world is a major coup for both SRT and for Singapore. ‘As a commissioner of the work we get our name in show collaterals all over the world, so the investment for us is in our international branding and in being associated with one of the most influential theatre directors in the world,’ explains Charlotte Nors, Executive Director of SRT.
A true titan of theatre, Peter Brook staged a nine-hour production of the Indian epic, The Mahabarata, in an amphitheatre-like stone-quarry 14 kilometres outside Avignon in France. Now, in his swansong at the age of 90, Peter Brook will adapt the last chapter of that epic as a stand-alone play, which stars four actors: Carole Karemera, Jared McNeill, Ery Nzaramba, and Sean O’Callaghan.
The name ‘Mahabharata’ means ‘great [story of the] Bharatas.’ Bharata was an early ancestor of both the Pandavas and Kauravas who fight each other in a great war, but the word is also used generically for the Indian race, so the 3000-year-old text of The Mahabharata is also referred to as ‘the great story of India.’
Brook, Marie-Hélène Estienne (who had a hand in the 1980s version as well), and writer Jean-Claude Carrière have returned to one particular section of The Mahabharata for Battlefield, where the Bharata family is torn apart by war and the family members are trying to make sense of the horrors they have experienced – and perpetrated. ‘It has come back again, I think, because of the situation of the world,’ said Estienne. ‘The Mahabharata is not moralistic, it is fact. The moral, the good or bad, is not really there, it is another matter – a matter of what you have to do. It’s a play that will ask profound questions about life, but mainly death’.