Sir Peter founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960, at age 29, then directed the National Theatre in London for 15 years during a crucial stage in its development; he formed the Peter Hall Company in 1988. He is renowned for many productions, beginning with the premiere of the English version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in 1955 – a play shunned by other directors.
Lara Foot, director and CEO of Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre Centre was mentored by Sir Peter in 2004–2005. “I was unbelievably fortunate to have been mentored by the great Sir Peter Hall through the Rolex Arts Initiative. Peter's love of great writing had a profound influence on me and he taught me a great deal about the challenges of theatre politics and how to run an impactful and meaningful space,” she said.
“Most important was that he taught me about ambition; Peter was generously ambitious for all whom he worked with and cared about, in an expansive and inclusive way, always striving for excellence and knowledge. This is a quality which I have endeavoured to bring to the Baxter theatre in Cape Town,” she added. “I will forever be grateful to have known this extraordinary, kind and gentle man. My condolences to Nicki and his beautiful family.”
Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, also extended condolences to Sir Peter’s family. “We are deeply saddened by Sir Peter’s death. At the same time, we recognize his immense contribution to the theatre and are very grateful for his enthusiastic involvement in the Rolex programme – first as an advisor and then as a mentor. He was a wonderful mentor to South African director Lara Foot, encouraging her to exercise her gift for writing plays as well as directing them. And he remained in regular contact with Lara long after their mentoring year. She is now enjoying great success in South Africa and beyond, and Peter was clearly a major factor in her career.”
Rufus Norris, the current National Theatre director, said: “We all stand on the shoulders of giants and Peter Hall’s shoulders supported the entirety of British theatre as we know it. All of us, including those in the new generation of theatre-makers not immediately touched by his influence, are in his debt. His legendary tenacity and vision created an extraordinary and lasting legacy for us all.”
Sir Peter won numerous awards for his work and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1977. His last production was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the National Theatre in 2011.