NEXT year will be the 30th anniversary of the only UK performances of Peter Brook's Mahabharata at what became known as Tramway in Glasgow, but was then simply called the Old Transport Museum. Brook was a highly respected guru of the stage in 1988, who had written his hugely influential book about theatre-making, The Empty Space, some twenty years previously. If you were not there at the time, it is hard to convey Glasgow's excitement about having the huge company and that epic show in the city. Of course there were the nay-sayers, the dissenting voice against the European City of Culture project that became known as Workers' City, but it was a minority view. Not only did the community go to see the production, but the company engaged with the community in workshops and outreach projects that ran alongside the production. It whetted the communal appetite for the annus mirabilis that was 1990, and became the standard against which any other theatrical events in that programme were judged.

Brook has not written a memoir, but next week he publishes a lovely little book which contains elements of what such a volume might contain and musings on the nature of language. Its 112 pages of large type are not a long read, but the theatre director imparts plenty pearls of wisdom from his 92 years on the planet in its brief form. When he was a regular visitor to Glasgow with other shows of varying scale in the years following the Mahabharata, the gnomic Brook, while friendly enough, could never be persuaded to discuss past glories. The sole topic on the table was the work he was bring at the time from his International Centre for Theatre Research at the Bouffes du Nord in Paris. And even then he was reluctant to explain the work in any way, or to circumscribe the experience of his storytelling for any potential audience member. Tip of the Tongue does, however, contain recollections of some of his earliest successes, stories about Paul Scofield in King Lear in 1962, "one of the greatest actors I've ever known, [who] never soiled his mind with theory or philosophy", and about Laurence Olivier, in the legendarily blood-soaked Titus Andronicus of 1955 which saw the St John's Ambulance staff run off their feet as audience members fainted nightly. The Olivier story is partly the source of the title (as in the diction exercise "the lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue"), as the actor apparently used his commute into London from Brighton, to train his facial muscles for a new part, hidden behind a copy of The Times, for fear of frightening other passengers. The tale is contained in early brief chapters that are mostly derived from his astute observations on distinct usages in French and English, based on half a century of living on the other side of the Channel – and still never being mistaken for a native when he opens his mouth. If you have ever been baffled by the way the French employ the word "normalement" in everyday speech, fear not, it still gives Peter Brook a wry chuckle.

I'd guess, however, that the central section of this slim publication will attract the most attention when it is launched at the National Theatre in London next week. In it, Brook muses again on the concept of The Empty Space, illustrated by anecdotes of his own precocious early appointment to the post of director of productions at Covent Garden (before he had directed a single opera) and a cautionary tale of radical theatre-making in Paris, post-May 1968, the revolution-that-never-was the exercises French intellectuals to this day. For our own troubled times, this sage has advice I'd like to hope the contemporary creative community will take to heart: "When the times are negative, there is only only one current that secretly goes against tide. The positive. The very vagueness of the word creates a negative reaction and shows how hard it is to detect. But unless its murmur is heard, not through platitudes, not through platitudes, not through preachers' noble words, but through a reality that living theatre-people can bring, it has no function."

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Tip of the Tongue by Peter Brook is published by Nick Hern Books at £7.99