The Valley of Astonishment – an introduction from Peter Brook

If we go to the theatre, it’s because we want to be surprised, even amazed. And yet we can only be concerned if we can feel a strong link with ourselves. So, these two opposite elements have to come together – the familiar and the extraordinary.

In ‘The Man Who’, our first adventure into the labyrinths of the brain, we met neurological cases who in the past had been conveniently written off as ‘mad’. Our first surprise was to encounter beings like ourselves, whose condition made their behaviour totally unpredictable. Painful to watch, though often very comic, they were always touching – deeply human.

Kathryn Hunter, Jared McNeill, Marcello Magni, Toshi Tsuchitori in The Valley of Astonishment. Photo by Simon Annand

Kathryn Hunter, Jared McNeill, Marcello Magni, Toshi Tsuchitori in The Valley of Astonishment. Photo by Simon Annand

In ‘The Valley of Astonishment’, once again, we are exploring the brain. We will take the spectator into new and unknown territories through people whose secret lives are so intense, so drenched in music, colour, taste, images and memories that they can pass any instant from paradise to hell and back again. We link this to the great Persian poem ‘The Conference of the Birds’. Thirty birds in their quest for a King have to cross seven valleys of mounting suffering and discovery. An amazing series of anecdotes from the life of the time with poetry and humour brings their story into sharp relief.

So as we explore the mountains and the valleys of the brain we will reach the valley of astonishment. As we go forward with our feet firmly on the ground, each step takes us further into the unknown.

Peter Brook

The Valley of Astonishment opens at the Young Vic on 20 June and runs until 12 July. Click here to see pictures from the show or visit http://www.youngvic.org to book tickets.

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