Sir Peter Hall, founder of Royal Shakespeare Company, dies aged 86

Sir Peter Hall

Legendary theatre director Sir Peter Hall has died aged 86.

In a statement, it was confirmed that Hall passed away yesterday (11th September 2017) at University College Hospital surrounded by his family.

Hall was best known for his work as director at the National Theatre in London from 1973, and founding the Royal Shakespeare Company aged 29 in 1968.

His career spanned over half a century, in his mid-twenties, he staged the English-language premiere of Waiting for Godot, before setting up the RSC which saw a resident ensemble of actors, diretors and designers staging classic and modern texts in Shakespeare’s place of birth – Stratford-upon-Avon – and London.

In 1973, Hall became the director of the National Theatre. This saw the company move from The Old Vic theatre to a new purpose built space on the South Bank. His work includes the premieres of the Harold Pinter plays The Homecoming (1965), No Man’s Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978), Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (1979), and the London and Broadway premieres of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce (1977).

He left the National in 1988 and formed the Peter Hall Company, and went on to become the founding director of the Rose Theatre Kingston in 2003.

Peter Hall’s final production at the National Theatre was Twelfth Night in 2011.

He was also well-known as an opera director, acting as the artistic director of Glyndebourne Festival between 1984 and 1990, where he directed over 20 productions.

In 1973, he was awarded a CBE, and was knighted in 1977 for his services to the theatre. In 2011, Hall was diagnosed with dementia and retired from public life. He is survived by his wife, Nicki, and children Christopher, Jennifer, Edward, Lucy, Rebecca and Emma and nine grandchildren.

Director of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris, paid tribute 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.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, who was director of the theatre for 12 years from 2003, added: “Peter Hall was one of the great figures in British theatrical history, up there in a line of impresarios that stretches back to Burbage.

“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 Trevor Nunn said: “Not only a thrilling and penetrating director, he was also the great impresario of the age.  He alone had the showmanship and energy to establish the three ring circus of our unique National Theatre on the South Bank. Peter Hall is a legend, whose legacy will benefit many generations to come.   And yes, he was my beloved friend for fifty years.”

Sir Richard Eyre, who took over from Hall as director of the National in 1988, said: “Peter created the template of 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.”

There will be a memorial service for Hall, and details will be announced at a later date.

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