camomile lawn
Sir Peter Hall Dies: Royal Shakespeare Company Founder Was 86
Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a former Director of the National Theatre, has died. A renown stage, opera, film and television director — and the father of actress R…
By Nancy Tartaglione

In 1960, at age 29, Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company which he led until 1968. The RSC “realised his pioneering vision of a resident ensemble of actors, directors and designers producing both classic and modern texts with a clear house style in both Stratford and London,” the NT writes.

Appointed Director of the National Theatre in 1973, Hall was responsible for the move from the Old Vic to South Bank. After leaving the NT in 1988, he formed the Peter Hall Company and in 2003 became the founding director of the Rose Theatre Kingston. Throughout his career, he was a vociferous champion of public funding for the arts.

His career spanned more than 50 years and included staging the English-language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and the world premiere of Harold Pinter’s Homecoming.

Other world premieres during his prolific stage career included Pinter’s 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).

Landmark productions included Hamlet(1965), The Wars Of The Roses (1963), Animal Farm (1984), Antony And Cleopatra (1987 starring Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins), The Merchant Of Venice(1989, with Dustin Hoffman), As You Like It(2003, with Rebecca Hall) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2010, with Judi Dench). His last production at the National Theatre was Twelfth Night in 2011, pictured at right with his daughter as Viola.

Hall was diagnosed with dementia in 2011.

His film and TV credits include 1974’s Akenfield and 1989 Screen One installment She’s Been Away for which Peggy Ashcroft and Geraldine James shared the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. He also directed Rebecca in her first onscreen appearance in 1992’s The Camomile Lawn. During the 1970s, Hall hosted arts program Aquarius for London Weekend Television.

Tributes are streaming in for the director, whose influence on the artistic life of Britain in the 20th century the NT calls “unparalleled​.”

Maggie Smith with her newborn son, Toby Stephens (1969)

His mother, he says, never critiques his performances, “although if anyone is qualified, she is”. Perhaps Dame Maggie regretted the time, after watching his nude scenes with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Ehle in The Camomile Lawn, she commented: “I hadn’t seen Toby’s willy since he was about two, so you can imagine the terrible shock of it all.”