Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sir Peter Hall, Colossus of British Theatre, Mourned by Arts World; RSC Founder and National Chief Dies Aged 86 Surrounded by Family

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sir Peter Hall, Colossus of British Theatre, Mourned by Arts World; RSC Founder and National Chief Dies Aged 86 Surrounded by Family

Article excerpt

Byline: Alistair Foster Showbusiness Correspondent

TRIBUTES were paid today to Sir Peter Hall, a "colossus" of British theatre, who has died aged 86.

The founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former director of the National Theatre died yesterday surrounded by his family at University College Hospital.

Sir Trevor Nunn said his "achievement defies definition", while Sir Nicholas Hytner described him as "one of the great figures in British theatrical history". Rufus Norris, current director of the National, said: "We all stand on the shoulders of giants and Peter Hall's shoulders supported the entirety of British theatre as we know it."

Many stars paid tribute on social media. Sir Patrick Stewart thanked him by tweeting that he "gave me a career", adding: "He transformed classical and modern UK theatre."

Laurence Fox wrote: "He gave me my first theatre job, and boy did he whip you into shape." The current artistic director of the National Theatre, Gregory Doran, remembered Sir Peter as a "colossus and visionary".

Sir Peter had been diagnosed with dementia in 2011. He is survived by his wife, Nicki Frei, and children Christopher, Jennifer, Edward, Lucy, Rebecca and Emma and nine grandchildren. His former wives, Leslie Caron, Jacqueline Taylor and Maria Ewing, also survive him. There will be a private family funeral and details of a memorial service will be announced at a later date. Born in Bury St Edmunds on November 22, 1930, he was the son of a station master and grandson of a ratcatcher. The Cambridge graduate's career spanned more than half a century. He made his directorial debut the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot while still in his twenties.

He went on to found the RSC in 1960, aged 30, which he led until 1968. He was appointed director of the National Theatre in 1973 and was responsible for the move from the Old Vic to the purpose-built complex on the South Bank, amid widespread scepticism.

After leaving the National Theatre in 1988, he formed and ran the Peter Hall Company from 1988-2011 and in 2003 became the founding director of the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

He was also a vociferous champion of public funding for the arts. The Peter Hall Company looked to put on four plays a year, each running for 12 weeks, with the only proviso that they should not make a financial loss.

The work of Sir Peter, who was also an internationally renowned opera director, included the world premieres of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (1965), No Man's Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978), Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (1979), John Barton's nine-hour epic Tantalus (2000) and the London and Broadway premieres of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce (1977).

Other landmark productions included Antony And Cleopatra (1987, with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins), The Merchant Of Venice (1989, with Dustin Hoffman), As You Like It (2003, with daughter Rebecca Hall) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2010, with Dench). …

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