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Peter Hall (director)

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For other people named Peter Hall, see Peter Hall (disambiguation).
Sir Peter Hall
SirPeterHallBYJennyCHall.jpg
Detail from a portrait of Sir Peter Hall by his daughter Jennifer Caron Hall.
Born Peter Reginald Frederick Hall
(1930-11-22) 22 November 1930 (age 84)
Bury St. Edmunds, West Suffolk, England
Occupation Director
Years active 1953–present
Spouse(s)
  • Leslie Caron
    (1956–1965)
  • Jacqueline Taylor
    (1965–1981)
  • Maria Ewing
    (1982–1990)
  • Nikki Frei
    (1990–present)
Children
  • Christopher Hall (b. 1957)
  • Jennifer Caron Hall (b. 1958)
  • Edward Hall (b. 1966)
  • Lucy Hall (b. 1969)
  • Rebecca Hall (b. 1982)
  • Emma Hall (b. 1992)

Sir Peter Reginald Frederick Hall, CBE (born 22 November 1930) is an English theatre and film director. Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company (1960–68) and directed the National Theatre (1973–88). He has also been prominent in defending public subsidy of the arts in Britain.

Early years

Hall was born at Bury St. Edmunds, West Suffolk, England, the son of Grace Florence (née Pamment) and Reginald Edward Arthur Hall, a stationmaster. Hall attended The Perse School in Cambridge and secured a scholarship to read English at the University of Cambridge, but first had to fulfil a brief National Service where he was posted to the RAF Headquarters for Education in Bückerberg, Germany. He produced and acted in several productions while at university, was on the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club Committee 1952-53, and graduated in 1953 from St Catharine's College. During the same year, he staged his first professional play at the Theatre Royal, Windsor.

Career

From 1954 to 1955, he was at the Oxford Playhouse where he directed several notable young actors such as Ronnie Barker and Roderick Cook.

In August 1955, he directed the English-language premiere of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at the Arts Theatre, London. The huge success of Godot transformed his career overnight. He was then hired to direct the stage play of Gigi, starring his future wife, French film actress and dancer, Leslie Caron.

From 1956–1959 he ran the Arts Theatre and directed several plays including the English-language premiere of The Waltz of the Toreadors by the French dramatist Jean Anouilh.

He was at Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon for the 1957 to 1959 seasons. There, his productions included: Cymbeline with Peggy Ashcroft; Coriolanus with Laurence Olivier and Edith Evans; and A Midsummer Night's Dream with Charles Laughton.

Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960, at the age of 29. He served as its artistic director from that time until 1968. He was director of the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988 and was also a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain resigning from the latter role in protest over cuts in public funding. During his time as director of the National Theatre, he directed a theatrical version of George Orwell's allegorical novella, Animal Farm, with music and lyrics. Coincidentally, it was first staged on 25 April 1984, (1984 being the year in which another one of Orwell's novels, Nineteen Eighty Four, took place). It toured nine cities in 1985. After leaving the National Theatre Hall founded his own company directing a series of productions at the Old Vic.

From 1970 onwards, he directed a number of operas for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, including Francesco Cavalli's L'Ormindo, Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Albert Herring, and the Mozart/Da Ponte operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così Fan Tutte. He also directed operas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before taking up the directorship of the National Theatre. In 1983 he presented a new production of Wagner's Ring Cycle at Bayreuth, with Sir Georg Solti conducting. This production was in honour of the 100th anniversary of Wagner's death.

In 1988 he opened a production of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending in London. He later presented the production, starring Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway in 1989. A year later, he directed the a TV film adaptation of the play, Orpheus Descending.

In 1990, at the Chichester Festival Theatre he directed Born Again, a musical version of Eugène Ionesco's Rhinoceros. Hall wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the libretto with Julian Barry, and British composer Jason Carr in Carr's first professional musical. Many years later one of the show's song's "When I Was Out This Morning" (with lyrics by Hall) was included on Carr's composer compilation album.

In 2005, Hall was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Sir Peter Hall is Director Emeritus of the Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames which opened in January 2008, and which draws design inspiration from the original Rose theatre. In 2010 the Rose had a sellout run of his production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with Judi Dench playing Titania. Ben Mansfield playing Demetrius.

Personal life

Hall was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1963 and in 1977 was knighted for his services to the theatre. In 1999, he was presented with a Laurence Olivier Award. He was appointed Chancellor of Kingston University in 2000. He was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Bath in 2006.

Hall has married four times. His first wife was French actress Leslie Caron, followed by American Jacqueline Taylor, American opera soprano Maria Ewing, and present wife British Nicki Frei.

He has six children, all of whom work in the entertainment industry: producer Christopher Hall and actress Jenny Wilhide (with first wife Caron); director Edward Hall and theatre designer Lucy Hall (Mrs Rupert Edwards) (with second wife Taylor); actress Rebecca Hall (with third wife Ewing); and Emma Hall (with present wife Frei) who graduated from Cambridge University in 2013 with a first in English.

Hall has worked with every one of his six children at one time or another, directing all three actress daughters, his daughter Lucy designed one of his three productions of Hamlet starring Stephen Dillane; his son, Christopher, produced the television drama The Final Passage; and his son, Edward, was co-director with his father on the stage epic Tantalus. One of his sons-in-law Glenn Wilhide was also the producer of The Camomile Lawn which Hall directed for television in 1992.

Stage productions

  • Twelfth Night (at the Oxford Playhouse) 1954
  • Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett English-language première) (at the Arts Theatre) August 1955
  • The Waltz of the Toreadors (Jean Anouilh English-language première at the Arts Theatre) 1956
  • Wars of the Roses, adaptation of the Henry VI and Richard III plays, the Royal Shakespeare Company 1963–1964
  • The Homecoming (Harold Pinter Original production by Peter Hall; By arrangement with the Governors of the Royal Shakespeare Company) 5 January 1967 – 14 October 1967
  • Old Times (Harold Pinter) 16 November 1971 – 26 February 1972
  • Via Galactica (rock musical) 28 November 1972 – 2 December 1972
  • Saturday Sunday Monday (Eduardo De Filippo Produced by arrangement with the National Theatre) 21 November 1974 – 30 November 1974
  • As You Like It (Produced by arrangement with the National Theatre) 3 December 1974 – 8 December 1974
  • The Misanthrope (Molière in a version by Tony Harrison Originally produced by the National Theatre) 12 March 1975 – 31 May 1975
  • No Man's Land (Pinter, Originally produced by the National Theatre) 9 November 1976 – 18 December 1976
  • Bedroom Farce (Alan Ayckbourn Originally produced by the National Theatre) 29 March 1979 – 24 November 1979
  • Betrayal (Pinter) 5 January 1980 – 31 May 1980, the National Theatre
  • Amadeus (Peter Shaffer world première at the National Theatre) 17 December 1980 – 16 October 1983
  • Wagner's Ring Cycle at Bayreuth 1983
  • Jean Seberg (Marvin Hamlisch world première at the National Theatre) 1 December 1983 – 4 April 1984
  • Animal Farm (Produced by arrangement with the National Theatre) 25 April 1984
  • The Petition (Brian Clark) 24 April 1986 – 29 June 1986
  • Wild Honey (Michael Frayn adaptation of Chekhov) 18 December 1986 – 11 January 1987
  • Orpheus Descending (Tennessee Williams) 24 September 1989 – 17 December 1989
  • The Merchant of Venice 19 December 1989 – 10 March 1990
  • Born Again September 1990 Chichester Festival Theatre
  • Four Baboons Adoring the Sun (John Guare) 18 March 1992 – 19 April 1992
  • An Ideal Husband (Oscar Wilde) 1 May 1996 – 26 Jan 1997
  • Amadeus 15 December 1999 – 14 May 2000
  • "Troilus and Cressida" (Only Off-Broadway Production) (Idris Elba as Achilles Joey Kern as Troilus) March/April 2001
  • Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett) August 2005, Theatre Royal Bath
  • Amy's View (David Hare) 28 November 2006 – 17 February 2007
  • The Vortex (Noël Coward) 13 November 2007 – 1 December 2007 Theatre Royal Windsor.
  • An Ideal Husband (Oscar Wilde) 25 August 2008 – 29 November 2008.
  • Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw) 6 February 2009 – 8 March 2009, Hong Kong Arts Festival

Film and television

  • Work is a Four Letter Word (1968)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968)
  • Three into Two Won't Go (1969) film
  • Perfect Friday (1970) film
  • The Homecoming (1973) film
  • Akenfield (1974) film
  • Aquarius TV (presenter) episodes from 1975–1976
  • She's Been Away (1980) TV (Awarded at the Venice Film Festival )
  • L'incoronazione di Poppea (1984) Glyndebourne Festival Opera production filmed for BBC TV
  • The Camomile Lawn (1992) (TV mini-series)
  • Jacob (1994) TV movie
  • Never Talk to Strangers (1995) film
  • The Final Passage (1996) TV

Hall has also filmed many of his stage productions and operas for television

Books

  • Peter Hall's Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle (1983) Harper & Row
  • Making An Exhibition of Myself (1993) Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd ISBN 978-1856191654 – Autobiography
  • Shakespeare's Advice To The Players (2003) Theatre Communications Group ISBN 978-1559362344

Acting

Peter Hall began acting as a student at Cambridge university, where Dadie Rylands taught him to speak Shakespearean verse. He was also influenced in his understanding of Shakespeare by the literary critic and teacher F. R. Leavis. He subsequently acted in three German films, directed by Maximilian Schell 1973–1975: Der Fußgänger (The Pedestrian) (1973), Als Mutter streikte (When Mother Went on Strike) (1974) and Der letzte Schrei (The Last Word) (1975).