Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall dies aged 86
Sir Peter was also director at the National Theatre.
The founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former director of the National Theatre, Sir Peter Hall, has died aged 86.
Sir Peter’s death was announced by the National Theatre, which said he died on September 11 at University College Hospital surrounded by his family.
He founded the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1960 and was appointed as the National’s director in 1973.
Sir Peter, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, is survived by his widow, Nicki and children Christopher, Jennifer, Edward, Lucy, Rebecca, Emma and nine grandchildren.
The current director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris paid tribute to the theatre great, saying: “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.”
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”.
The current artistic director of the National Theatre, Gregory Doran, remembered Sir Peter as a “colossus and visionary”.
In the RSC’s official Facebook statement, he said: “Not only was he a great director of theatre and opera, he was a politician who fought for the arts.
“It is impossible to single out his greatest production.”
Playwright Sir David Hare said: “Peter Hall was not only the principal architect of post-war theatre, he founded the Royal Shakespeare Company and moved the National Theatre onto the South Bank, but above all he was the person who insisted that new plays belonged in the classical repertory, on the same stages and given the same status.
“It was his idea to play (Harold) Pinter alongside Shakespeare.
“Every living playwright owes him a debt.”
Sir Peter had an international reputation as the foremost authority on Shakespearean directing, having divided 30 years almost equally between the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National.
Through the years, Sir Peter became known for being outspoken about funding for the theatre from the government and the Arts Council.
In 1960, at just 30 years old, he founded the RSC, insisting on a permanent company with a home at Stratford and a complementary base at The Aldwych in London.
He stayed with the RSC until 1968 and it was during his time there, in 1963, that he received a CBE.
He worked for four years until 1972 as a member of the Arts Council and then joined Lord Laurence Olivier as co-director of the National, taking over as director the following year.
Under his leadership, the theatre moved from the Old Vic to the South Bank, and Sir Peter remained with the National until 1988.
After leaving the National he founded The Peter Hall Company, which he set up in 1989 and which later found a home at Jeffrey Archer’s theatre, The Playhouse at The Embankment.
During his tenure as a theatre director his most well-known works included the world premiere of Pinter’s The Homecoming in 1965 and the nine-hour production of John Barton’s Greek tale Tantalus.
He worked alongside Dame Judi Dench and Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1987’s production of Antony And Cleopatra and again alongside Dame Judi in 2010’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In 1989 he worked with Dustin Hoffman on The Merchant Of Venice and in 2003 he collaborated with his daughter, the actress Rebecca Hall, on As You Like It.
His last production with the National was 2011’s Twelfth Night.
He was artistic director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera from 1984-1990 and was responsible for some 20 productions during his time there.
He was also a writer and penned mainly adaptations based on his work in the theatre, including the publication in 1983 of his diaries, The Story Of A Dramatic Battle, which were a revealing insight into the life of a passionate and highly creative man.
He was married four times.
His first wife was the actress Leslie Caron, his second was his former personal assistant Jacqueline Taylor, his third was the opera singer Maria Ewing and his fourth was Nicki Frei, a former press officer, his junior by 30 years.
He headed his own theatrical dynasty with some of his children: Jennifer is an actress, Christopher a television production manager, Edward a stage director and Lucy a designer.
Rebecca is a well-known actress who has starred in films such as Iron Man and the big-screen adaptation of The BFG and in 1992 she was directed by her father in the TV adaptation of The Camomile Lawn.
A private family funeral service will be held and details of a public memorial will be announced in due course.