Visionary British Theater Director Peter Brook Dies Aged 97

Peter Brook, one of the world’s most innovative theater directors who perfected the art of staging powerful drama in bizarre venues, has died aged 97, his publisher said Sunday.

The British director used the world as his stage mounting productions ranging from challenging versions of Shakespeare through international opera to Hindu epic poems.

Brook put on plays in gymnasiums, deserted factories, quarries, schools and old gas works in towns around the world.

His 1970 Stratford production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” played all in white and with a huge, garlanded swing, secured his place in the annals of theater history.

According to Le Monde, Brook – who had been based in France since 1974 – died in Paris Saturday.

A statement from his publisher confirmed his death Sunday.

Although Brook was regarded with awe in theatrical circles, he was less well known among the wider public because of his refusal to bow to commercial taste. He left Britain to work in Paris in 1970.

He often shunned traditional theatrical buildings for the “empty space” which could be transformed by light, words, improvisation and the sheer power of acting and suggestion.

“I can take any empty space and call it a stage,” he wrote in his ground-breaking 1968 book The Empty Space.

His quest for inspiration took him as far afield as Africa and Iran and produced a variety of original improvised plays marked by his eye for detail and challenging approach.

Born in London March 21, 1925, his father was a company director and his mother a scientist. He left school at 16 to work in a film studio and then went to Oxford University and took a degree in English and Foreign Languages.

In 1970 he transferred from Britain to work in Paris, founding the International Center of Theater Research which brought together actors and designers of many different nationalities.

Brook continued working into his 90s.

“Every form of theater has something in common with a visit to the doctor. On the way out, one should always feel better than on the way in,” he wrote in his 2017 book Tip of the Tongue.

Source: Voice of America

Macau Launches More COVID Testing as Infections Soar

Macau kicked off a new round of city-wide COVID-19 testing on Monday for its more than 600,000 residents, as officials raced to contain a spiraling number of cases in the worst outbreak to hit the world’s biggest gambling hub since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus testing for all residents will take place three times this week across the city, with people also required to take rapid antigen tests in between.

The move comes as the former Portuguese colony reported 90 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of infections to 784 since the middle of June. More than 11,000 people are in quarantine.

While Macau, a Chinese special administrative region, has not introduced a full-scale lockdown seen in mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai, the city is already largely closed.

All non-essential government services are shut, schools, parks, sports and entertainment facilities are closed, and restaurants can only provide takeaway.

Casinos are allowed to remain open, but most staff have been asked to stay home, in line with instructions to the city’s residents. The government said it would not shut casinos to protect jobs.

The stringent measures come after Macau has been largely COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021.

Macau adheres to China’s “zero-COVID” policy which aims to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.

Macau’s cases are still far below daily infections in other places, including neighboring Hong Kong where cases have jumped to more than 2,000 a day this month.

However, it only has one public hospital, whose services are already stretched on a daily basis. The territory has an open border with mainland China, with many residents living and working in the adjoining city of Zhuhai.

Source: Voice of America

Hong Kong Lawmaker Tests COVID-Positive After Photo With Xi

A Hong Kong lawmaker who posed for a group photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the leader’s visit to the financial hub this week confirmed Sunday he has since tested positive for coronavirus.

Xi visited Hong Kong under strict security measures to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain in his first trip outside mainland China since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Steven Ho, a 42-year-old member of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party who sits in the city’s rubber stamp legislature, was one of about 100 officials granted close contact with Xi for a photo call on Thursday afternoon.

Ho was standing two rows directly behind Xi, according to the photos released by the government.

The lawmaker tested negative on the first day of Xi’s visit on Thursday and returned an uncertain test on Friday, he said.

He did not take part in any events on Friday after the uncertain test result, he said in a statement on social media.

“The sample of July 1 was one with extremely low infectivity and it was categorized as ‘uncertain’, but for the sake of public security, I did not participate in the events on that day,” Ho wrote.

Ho was the second member of the DAB party to have tested positive around Xi’s visit.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to Beijing’s top lawmaking body, tested positive on Thursday and was absent from all events.

China is the only major economy still pursuing a zero-Covid approach of eliminating outbreaks as they emerge, using snap lockdowns and mass testing.

Xi has not left China in nearly 900 days and the vast country’s borders have been largely sealed to most outsiders.

Hong Kong is pursuing a lighter version of zero-Covid but has kept heavy travel and gathering restrictions in place throughout the pandemic.

Extraordinarily tight rules were imposed to ensure both the coronavirus and political opposition were not in Xi’s orbit during his trip to the city, where a democracy movement has been crushed since huge protests three years ago.

Hundreds of government officials, legislators and other invited guests were forced into an anti-Covid “closed-loop” system, which included limiting their social contacts, taking daily PCR tests and checking into a quarantine hotel in the days leading up to the visit.

During the visit, parts of the city were shut down, prominent dissidents were placed under heavy police surveillance, and multiple journalists were barred from covering the official events.

Nine arrests were made by the city’s national security police in the week before Xi’s visit and at least two arrests were made on Friday.

Source: Voice of America