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(Re)telling Old Stories

Peter Brook’s "Mahabharata</I> and Ariane Mnouchkine’s "Les Atrides</I>

Edited By Dominic Glynn

Peter Brook and Ariane Mnouchkine are among the most important directors in recent theatre history.
This book focuses on two of their landmark productions, Mahabharata (1985) and Les Atrides (1992–1994) respectively, in order to uncover parallel methodologies in the transfer of ancient mythological narratives to the contemporary French stage.
It investigates audiences’ relationship with these works re-told, questioning their/our relationship to heritage, at a time when marketing departments and politicians re-hash the same old stories to cajole would-be consumers and voters.
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Chapter 3. Dramas, Rituals and Symbolic Stage Actions


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Dramas, Rituals and Symbolic Stage Actions

Football fans may remember Liverpool reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje, though probably not for his seven appearances in a club shirt. Itandje gained notoriety as a result of what he did during a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. On an occasion where solemn behaviour was expected, he was caught laughing and fooling around by television cameras.1 As a result, he never played for the club again and left on a free transfer. Instead of sticking to the script as his teammates did, Itandje improvised a jester’s skit. He stepped out of line and was figuratively beheaded in the process. The goalkeeper’s unhappy experience provides a clear illustration of how dangerous it is to break the codes of a social ceremony or ritual. As Henry Bial explains, ‘rituals exemplify and reinforce the values and beliefs of the group that performs them. Conversely, communities are defined by the rituals they share.’2 Oxford and Cambridge colleges are clear examples of social environments governed by very specific rules.3 Private clubs and societies such as the Free Masons are too. But more widely there are set ways of behaving that a particular culture, nation, society or tribe expects of its members. In order to be integrated one needs to ‘sing from the same hymn book’.

Instances in art and literature when characters either unwittingly or voluntarily break the codes and conventions of a set society abound....

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