Sir Peter Hall, Tony-Winning Director & Royal Shakespeare Company Founder, Has Died

Carla Harmon
September 12, 2017

Theatre leaders have paid tribute to the "extraordinary and lasting legacy" of Royal Shakespeare Company founder Peter Hall, who has died aged 86.

Sir Peter created the RSC to realise his vision of a resident ensemble of actors, directors and designers, producing modern and classic texts. The documentary will be broadcast on BBC4 on Tuesday 12th September at 9pm. In 1973 he began a term as director of the National Theatre, where he served until 1988.

A leading figure in theatre, Sir Peter founded the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of 29 in 1960 and led it until 1968. All of us, including those in the new generation of theatre-makers not immediately touched by his influence, are in his debt.

Critic Rupert Christiansen tweeted: "Peter Hall one of the greatest of opera directors: he understood that the music had to lead the drama...', and a statement issued by the Royal Opera House noted that Hall 'brought to all his opera direction a deep understanding of the music, much clarity and profound dramatic insight".

Sir Peter Hall with his award for outstanding contribution to British arts at the Laurence Olivier Awards
Sir Peter Hall with his award for outstanding contribution to British arts at the Laurence Olivier Awards

Hall's career spanned more than half a century: in his mid-20s he staged the English-language premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

The BBC will pay tribute to Sir Peter Hall on BBC4 and BBC2 with a special documentary celebrating the life of the celebrated director.

Hall's last production at the National Theatre was "Twelfth Night" in 2011.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Royal Shakespeare Company included a quote from Julius Caesar and said it was "greatly saddened by the news".

"Sir Peter bestrode the world of British theatre like a colossus".

He was regarded as one of the most important influences on British theatre in generations, with an global reputation as the foremost authority on Shakespearian directing.

Hall by no means inhabited a cossetted state-funded preserve: subsidy, as his numerous books make plain, was a constant battle, and enemies arose alongside the allies.

He was as comfortable with plays by William Shakespeare as by Peter Shaffer.

Others who worked with Hall include Judi Dench, whom he directed in "Antony and Cleopatra" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; Anthony Hopkins, in "Antony and Cleopatra"; and Dustin Hoffman, in "The Merchant of Venice".

Hall made his Royal Opera House debut in 1965 with the United Kingdom premiere of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, in collaboration with music director Georg Solti, and returned the following year with a new production of The Magic Flute, sung in English and conducted by Solti, for which Hall carefully re-created the original 1791 stage directions.

Hall was diagnosed with dementia in 2011.

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

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