Paris India


Last week I went to the Bouffes du Nord theater Saturday afternoon to see Part 3 of Peter Brook's 1985 film of the Mahabharata, the old Indian epic. It had been playing on all day--6 hours of film in 3 parts of which I caught the last, and stayed for the conversation with Peter Brook, who turned 90 recently, and some of his actors. Most  were familiar: they have been acting in his plays over the years. What was strange was that the 1985 film ended and then suddenly the same actors came out on "stage' (there's no stage, just "ground"), only 30 years older and in their street clothes. For a second I felt as if I'd experienced--in a flash, as we say--the passage of time. Then the mind does its tricks, and everything seems "normal," whatever that means. There were eight or ten old men sitting on the stage on kitchen chairs talking to the audience, answering questions. Seconds before they had been giants wielding swords in lavish costumes.

Yesterday I went back with friends to see Brook's new play, "Battlefield," based on the Mahabharata, but only an hour long and with four young actors and a musician. The theatre is in what has become Paris's Indian neighbourhood, so after we had dinner in an Indian restaurant in one of Paris's old passages, the ones Walter Benjamin writes about, though I don't think this one. And then, since we'd already flowed downhill from the theatre at La Chapelle we continued flowing downhill through Saturday night crowds to the Seine and home.