"The valley of astonishment"by Peter Brook

(actualisé le )

Le 1er décembre 2015, les élèves de 1ère européenne ont eu l’immense privilège de pouvoir assister à une représentation d’une pièce de Peter Brook, le grand metteur en scène britannique. Eva, Manon et Leïla ont accepté de publier leurs impressions en anglais sur « The Valley of Astonishment. »
Kathryn Hunter joue Samy,une femme qui se découvre synesthésique.

Delving into Sammy’s mind

« The Valley of Astonishment » was a really interesting play. I really delved into the main character’s world, her mind… This play is the story of Sammy, who has synesthesia which is a mix of the senses. And, this girl is fired from her job, her boss pretends that she is too good for it, because of her condition. She has to find a new one. She finally finds somewhere to work, in a magic show where she is kind of a freak, an amazing person. In her job people tell her words, lots of words, and when they are done she has to tell all of them in the good order without mixing them up. Of course, thanks to her extraordinary brain, she always succeeds (she has a mnemonic way to remember) until the day she has too many words in her head. At the end of the play, she gives up the magic show and tells the scientists that she wants to give her brain, to donate it to science.
Contrary to Kim Peek, the most famous savant who also suffers from this condition, Sammy doesn’t look disabled at all.
As we all expected from Peter Brook, the staging was really minimalistic : there were only few chairs, a table, a hat stand and a white square of light in the middle of the stage. Of course, if there is a good audience, everyone can imagine all the rest thanks to the good acting of the performers.
Another good point about this play : some of the performers were talking French because we were in France. I think it is a nice attention to the audience.
The music was also good even though I expected jazz all along the play, but finally there was only one tune of it, which was a bit disappointing.
Even if I really enjoyed the play there was a moment of the magic show that I found very boring. The moment of the rough theater (cruder, more popular). Marcello Magni, a magician asked someone to come on the stage, to pick some cards. The first time was fun, but then he asked another person to come . This was too much . It broke all the magic , the atmosphere that they had managed to create.
About the actors’ performance, I would say that they were all pretty good except the pianist who had a tiny role. For me, he just learnt a text without adding any emotions, without sharing any feelings.

But, what really comes out of the play is the work behind it. We can really see that Peter Brook strained every nerve to direct this play. I know that he did a lot of research, like a neuroscientist, to manage to find perfection, innovation.

To me, this play was a success, for an hour, I was in another world, in a bubble, literally in Sammy’s world. It was a pleasure to delve into this uncluttered, pristine and uncommon atmosphere. I truly recommend it ! You must see it if you haven’t yet !

Eva Bakhouche, 1°S4

PETER BROOK ’s VALLEY OF ASTONISHMENT My critique by Manon Chapuis

The valley of Astonishment was staged by Peter Brook. It involved four actors who switched roles several times during the play. The minimalist staging was a way for Brook to help the audience focus on the play and on the acting.
To sum it up, Sammy is a lady with a fantastic memory that is going to make her lose her job as a journalist. Thanks to a doctor and his assistant, she manages to put words on what is going on in her brain : as she hears words, she associates them with shapes and colours that help her remember everything. She is a synesthete. The play is about how she evolves with this peculiar characteristic. To help the audience, Brook chose to portray another type of synaesthesia through the pianist and another specificity of the brain through the paralysed man who manages to move thanks to his brain.
This play really moves the spectator’s soul for several reasons. First, the way the actors use the props makes us enter the theatre world. Indeed, one characteristic of this genre is to make the spectator believe everything that is happening on stage. So as long as the actors believe that the chairs are buckets of paint, the audience believes it too. Then, Brook wanted to work on the mysterious ways of the brain. Not just because we all have one but mainly because we don’t fully understand it. And Kathryn Hunter gave us several lines of approach on the subject with her very interesting interpretation of Sammy Costas’ character. Her very touching final speech about how useful one little drop of water is, although we do not always realize it, comes as a conclusion to her adventures. But it comes as the beginning of a real deep reflection on the viewer’s part on how to considers life. It is like a conclusion because we can liken Sammy to the little drop of water. She has always been different and people around her didn’t realize that beyond her difference she had an extraordinary memory and above all, she was a full human being. The director of the “magic show” understood the first point but he forgot the second which is the most important : he didn’t take Sammy as a whole but as a source of profit that finally made her resign. On the contrary, the doctor and his assistant first tried to understand who she was and then to help her. And they were rewarded by Sammy’s total gift of herself to science, even if they didn’t ask her for that. In other words, they saw the little drop, they admired it and they cared for it.
Brook’s message is then profoundly filled with hope. He believes in each one of us and tells us that we should always try to listen and understand people because the care we give them can always come back to us as a gift. A gift above all expectations.

Manon Chapuis 1ES2


There are so many productions in every theatre nowadays that it can be very confusing and difficult to find the one adapted to your liking. Astonishment is the feeling that everyone wishes to feel when coming out of a theatre, and I can tell you that, as it is said in the title “The valley of astonishment”, this play meets every criterion to be enjoyed by all types of audiences. During the entire play you will go through a series of emotions : it will begin with confusion as we try to understand this spectacular story ; then, you will feel surprise, and it will go on from laughter to sadness while finally, at the end, you will get an overpowering sense of inspiration and admiration. You can call it a two hour full rollercoaster of emotions.
The worldwide famous Peter Brook, director of many plays, came up in 2015 with a completely new and original story. Known for his minimalist style, Peter Brook demonstrates it in the play by having a very empty set.
There are only four actors in this play who manage to brilliantly perform several roles. One of them is a musician who, through the music he plays, gives a whole new dimension to the different stories of the characters in the play. Sammy Costas is the main character, she is a very hard working and smart woman, who thinks she is just as normal as everyone else, but through a meeting with her boss, the latter discovers the incredible talent hidden in her and sends her to see a neurologist for some tests. The running thread through all the stories in the play is that they all have to do with a brain condition called ‘synaesthesia’ – a neurological phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sense causes the automatic experience of another sense. This means that their memory is always stimulated. Sammy is one of the many gifted people who suffer from this condition. Throughout this story, we find ourselves invited into a completely new world as we experience the feelings and emotions of each character.

Bravo à nos 3 critiques en herbe ! Quel talent !