Sir Peter Hall - a life in theatre

I was very sad when I heard last week that Sir Peter Hall had passed away. We knew he wasn't well, but it's the passing of an era and there's to be no more of this person's genius and contribution to the world. 

Most of my life has been focused around theatre and developing artists. Peter Hall was a big influence and figured hugely in my 12 years at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, as the director of the Masterclass programme (for 10 of those years). The picture here, from Miro Magazine, is how I'd like to remember him - talking to people about theatre, about Shakespeare, passing on his knowledge and immersive passion for it. 

Theatre Royal Haymarket
Theatre Royal Haymarket, looking particulary pretty!
I went to work for Arnold Crook, the owner of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, back at the start of 1999. Arnold, passionate about this theatre, passionate about the need for young people to have chances and aspiration in life, had asked Peter Hall to become the founding patron of a project they called Masterclass - opening up this most beautiful of theatre buildings during 

the day, when there's no show on, to young would-be theatre practitioners, and students. Peter, with his son Edward, nowadays Artistic Director at Hampstead Theatre, put together an inaugural season at the end of 1998 with such luminaries as Tom Stoppard and Phyllida Law. The idea had legs and so I went there to become the first director of the project, to bring it to fulfillment. 

I'd totally admit that the prospect of meeting and working with Sir Peter Hall was entirely terrifying. My experience of theatre was good, but in a very different arena, no world-famous gold-encrusted theatre, no artists who are the most accomplished and revered in the world. But he is and was the most charming, supportive and inspiring person I could imagine. Over the years, he was always willing to come and give his own Masterclass and to ask some of the world's greatest actors, directors and writers to take part. He, along with Maureen Lipman, led our 10th anniversary celebration; an abiding memory will be him tripping off, up the Haymarket at the end of the event, with a tiny Humming Bird Bakery cupcake in it's special anniversary box, holding it carefully to get it home. 

Listening to Peter talk about Shakespeare, in his soft warm voice, is something I'll always remember, and the debt I have to him and the other amazing people I worked with and learned from in that beautiful glorious theatre. As the director who set up the Royal Shakespeare Company and launched the National Theatre, it does feel that this is the passing of someone who created our modern era of theatre, to whom we owe so much. 


Popular Posts