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'Godfather of British theatre' Sir Peter Hall dies

By Jane Claymore / Published on Tuesday, 12 Sep 2017 11:43 AM / No Comments / 7 views


Sir Peter Hall, the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has died aged 86.

One of the most important names in British theatre, Sir Peter’s career spanned more than half a century.

He was appointed director of the National Theatre in 1973, where he was responsible for its move from the Old Vic to a purpose-built complex on London’s South Bank.

Sir Peter’s successors in the role have praised his “legendary tenacity”, “mischievous wit” and “astonishing originality”.

Amid his most famous work as a stage director was the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and the world premieres of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, No Man’s Land and Betrayal.

Sir Peter was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, more than 50 years after founding the Royal Shakespeare Company.

After leaving the National Theatre in 1988, he formed the Peter Hall Company and became the founding director of the Rose Theatre Kingston.

Peter Hall
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Peter Hall and Dame Judi Dench, who worked together in several plays

The current director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, said: “We all stand on the shoulders of giants and Peter Hall’s shoulders supported the entirety of British theatre as we know it.

“All of us, including those in the new generation of theatre-makers not immediately touched by his influence, are in his debt. His legendary tenacity and vision created an extraordinary and lasting legacy for us all.”

Sir Nicholas Hytner said Sir Peter was “up there with a line of impresarios that stretches back to Burbage”.

He added: “Without him there would have been no Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre’s move to the South Bank might have ended in ignominious failure, and the whole idea of the theatre as a public service dedicated both to high seriousness and popularity would not have seized the public imagination.”

Sir Richard Eyre, who took over the National Theatre in 1988, said: “Peter created the template for the modern director – part-magus, part-impresario, part-politician, part-celebrity.

“He was – and is – the godfather (in both senses) of British theatre and like countless directors, writers and actors of several generations I have much to be grateful to him for.”

Sir Peter is survived by his wife Nicki, his children Christopher, Jennifer, Edward, Lucy, Rebecca and Emma, and nine grandchildren.

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