The immense superintendent, who has died aged 86, was a founding father of both the National Theatre and the RSC and masterminded landmark stagings of Shakespeare, Beckett and Pinter
The roles of director and creator in theatre often involve comparing calibers- academic and bureaucrat, fortunate collaborator and back-room schemer, dissenter and establishment flesh- but “whats being” impressive about Sir Peter Hall, who has died aged 86, is that he dominated all of these attributes in rotation and only occasional contradiction.
Hall’s most shocking and final achievement is to have been the founding father of the UK’s two biggest subsidised theaters in the form that we now know them: the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
As a director, he had a collection that could encompass one of the most radical and audience-baffling play-acts of the 20 th century- Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which he premiered in London in 1955– and one of the most conservative and crowd-pleasing: Peter Shaffer‘s 1979 operatic whodunnit Amadeus, which moved from the National to the West End and Broadway, swelling a personal money that was one of the recurrent dissensions during a career in which Hall- a large, thundering, tenacious adult- tends to lure protagonists and detractors of equal fervour.
Born working-class- the lad of a Suffolk railwayman- Hall had fellowships to Perse public institution then Cambridge University. Even as a son, he had an impresario’s touch- organising his fellow 11 -year-olds into a strip- but the most crucial incident of his adolescence was when, as a 15 -year-old, he saw at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre a production of Love’s Labours Lost by the then wonder-boy of British theatre, Peter Brook, simply six years his senior.