Peter Hall dies at 86

Sir Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company who went on to lead the National Theatre's move from the Old Vic to the South Bank, has died aged 86.

"He was a colossus who bestrode the British theatre" said Greg Doran, the current artistic director of the RSC. "He created the RSC in 1961 aged just 29. It is invidious to single out productions, but his Wars of the Roses established the RSC as the company that would work on these history plays.

"He was not just a great theatre director, he was great fighter for the arts.. He was a brilliant polymath and fierce wit who conducted extraordinary fights for funding the arts with government. A great spirit has gone."

A prolific director, in his mid-20s Hall directed the first English language producing of Becket's Waiting for Godot and the world premieres of many of Harold Pinter's plays. Among the landmark productions  were Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, David warner;s HamletAntony and Cleopatra with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins, Duston Hoffman's The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It with his daughter Rebecca. His last play was the National Theatre's 2011 production off Twelfth Night.

Sir Trevor Nunn, who like Hall ran both the RSC and the National Theatre, said: "Peter’s greatness lay in his astonishing originality, his charismatic leadership, his unparalleled daring, his profound scholarship, his matchless articulacy and his visionary understanding of what we call ‘the theatre’ could be. In originating the RSC, he created an ensemble which led the world in Shakespeare production, but which triumphed to the same extent in presenting new plays of every kind. Not only a thrilling and penetrating director, he was also the great impresario of the age".

In 2003 he became the founding director of The Rose Theatre Kingston, and between 1984 and 1990 was artistic director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera where he directed more than 20 productions.. 

"Peter created the template of the modern director - part-magus, part-impresario, part-politician, part celebrity" said Sir Richard Eyre, who ran the National from 1988 to 1997. "He was – and is - the godfather (in both senses) of British theatre and like countless directors, writers and actors of several generations."

 

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