The theatre, opera and film director Sir Peter Hall was only 29 years old when he founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960. Since then he has been director of the National Theatre and artistic director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera. In 1988 he formed The Peter Hall Company that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
He was knighted for his services to British theatre in 1977 and earlier this year he became director emeritus of The Rose in Kingston upon Thames. This new theatre opened its doors for the first time in January with the English Touring Theatre's production of Uncle Vanya, which was directed by Sir Peter.
Has he ever contemplated a career that didn't involve theatre? "No, never," he says. "I was starstruck at about the age of 12 when I saw Sir John Gielgud perform. We lived on the outskirts of Cambridge – my father was a relief railway man – and it was an oasis of arts during the war because of the evacuation policy. It is always helpful to know what you want to do – I see that with my own children now – but it doesn't take away the nerves."
The Peter Hall Company returns for its sixth season at the Theatre Royal Bath this year, but how does the director narrow down his choice of plays for each season? "You have the one – and the others seem right to go with it," he says. Are there any themes that link the main plays this year? "Families and the woman's position in society."
Sir Peter's starting point this year was an adaptation of Henry James's novel The Portrait of a Lady, a world premiere, which he directs along with Ibsen's A Doll's House. Both plays star Catherine McCormack. Other productions include Peter Nichols' comedy Born in the Gardens, directed by Stephen Unwin. Stephanie Cole plays Maud, a character who clings to the past even when offered freedom from it following a death in the family.
The last show in the season is by the Royal Opera House, which will be at the Theatre Royal Bath for the first time. Their production, Faeries, is a family show with puppetry and dance.
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