(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/12.)
(Listen to BBC Radio’s 2001 interview with Peter Hall:
Sir Peter Hall, who has died aged 86, was the single most influential figure in modern British theatre. As a director of plays, especially Shakespeare, Pinter and Beckett, he was very fine. In the opera house he brought real musical understanding to the work of Mozart and Verdi. But it was through his creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s and his stewardship of the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988 that he affirmed his passionate faith in subsidised institutions. If we now take their existence for granted, it is largely because of the pioneering battles waged by Hall and his visionary enthusiasm.
As a man, he was extremely complicated. To many in the theatre, he was seen as a consummate politician: someone who hid his manipulative skills behind a mask of public affability. And he certainly possessed the politician’s ability to get things done. But he also had the vulnerability of the artist and, on many occasions, I glimpsed the melancholia and wounded spirit that lay beneath the geniality. Far from being a consummate Machiavel, he always struck me as a candid, generous and open person who made little attempt to conceal either his euphoria or his disappointment.
Photo: The Times of London