Vale Sir Peter Hall

I heard the news that Sir Peter Hall died today.
There is no other individual that has had a bigger influence on the way I approach theatre and why I feel theatre is so important.
For someone I only encountered once in person he has had an impact far beyond: his theatrical work, his revolutionary methodologies, single bloody mindedness and tussles with art/life balance.
Lacking the ability to say anything meaningful that hasn’t already been said better by others, I want to instead leave with some of his words that in his absence will continue to be just a page flick away when I’m grappling with theatre and life in general.


“Standards may go, great schemes like the National Theatre may falter, but a little voice inside me still whispers amusedly: all I need to make a play is half-a-dozen people and a space.”

“The dogs bark, but the caravans pass by” (About criticism)

“Only 20% of the expenditure of the South Bank is to do with art or anything I can influence; 80% goes on inescapable charges.”

“Well, you can’t say he doesn’t have integrity – if you believe, as he obviously does and I don’t, that integrity is doing what you want for yourself.”

“The sponsorship argument is too easy and lets the government off the hook.”

“I always have the same experience with musicals. I feel full of anticipation and glee before going to them. Here, I think, will be an evening of delight, that makes no demands on me and is a celebration. And within I’ve minutes I am wondering what the hell I am doing in the theatre.”

“I have realised during these last weeks the danger of the fair-minded liberal. He believes every man is as fair-minded as himself. He’s therefore easily preyed upon and abused.”

“Theatre is about people not buildings. Buildings are fine, they give you the opportunity, a foundation, but they are the second priority, not the first. Our building demands everything.”

“I wondered tonight how much longer the fashion for rough theatre in rough places with old bits of costumes and approximate props will last.”

“The arts are at their best with they are busy with battles that can never be won.” quoting Frank Tuohy.

“If you can’t have a monumental success, I suppose you may as well have a monumental failure.”

“Perhaps we only contemplate something seriously after we have agreed to do it.”

“I always get uneasy when I emerge from a piece of work. It’s as if the world has been going on without me, and possibly stealing a march or conspiring against me. Tiredness inevitably produces paranoia.”

“It’s a basic rule of subsidised theatre that as long as you have catering to discuss with the board, the directorate can always get on with their job of running the art of the theatre without too much interference.”

“I don’t really approve in my puritanical soul of moving Shakespeare into a modern period in order to illuminate him. You merely illuminate some things and obscure others.”

“Wasn’t it, I said, a sign of a mature society that its theatre should ask questions?”

“There is nothing worse for a director than the first day. Much worse than the first night.”

“I know sometimes I do very good work. How therefore can I do things that are so very very bad? I think it’s because I take enormous risks. Sometimes they open new doors; sometimes they are just failures.”

“I’m often astonished how many people whose whole life is devoted to an art form which in basic terms is meant to encourage human beings to behave better to each other and be more humane, can personally on occasion be such shits: public moralists and private shits.”

“Theatre essentially needs actors, a space, and an audience – that’s all.”