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I want to be a director!


'What do you want to be?'
Peter Hall Theatre director
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The BBC Symphony Orchestra gave regular concerts in the Guildhall. There was a procession of… of extraordinary productions at the Arts Theatre, tiny theatre, but never mind. I saw Gielgud's Hamlet when I was 12, I think, 1942, standing at the back for sixpence, at the back of the Arts Theatre and I was hideously precocious and I – I almost don't like talking about it because it… it sounds so full of clichés – but on my 10th birthday, I heard Mozart's Requiem in King’s College Chapel. That's what I asked my parents I could go to, and on the Monday night – that was on the Sunday – on the Monday night, I heard the Marriage of Figaro at the Arts Theatre done by Sadler's Wells on tour. I remember the Figaro quite vividly. I remember the… the elegance, the wit, the speed and the funniness. I liked all that, but I have to say the passion for Mozart and the passion for music was very largely because I was trying very hard to play Mozart sonatas. Now, Mozart sonatas are the easiest and the hardest thing in music to play. They're very, very easy to play badly, which we all do, and very, very hard to play well. Very few people can make a piano sing and that's what it needs. Anyway, I was absolutely hooked into all that and I suppose at that time if anybody had said to me, ‘What do you want to be?’, I would have said: ‘A musician’. And part of me still says that. Had I my time over again, I'd love to be that man up there with the baton because if… when the violinist says, ‘I don't feel like playing A flat’, which an actor can say to you, ‘I don't feel like saying this line’, you say, ‘You play A flat, that's what it says, now ready? Off we go’. But maybe I would have been a very dictatorial conductor and I don't think I'm a very dictatorial director. Anyway, loads and loads and loads of play-going in Cambridge, seeing amateurs, seeing professionals.

British-born theatre director, Sir Peter Hall (1930-2017), ran the Arts Theatre where, in 1955, he directed the English-language premiere of 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett. He also founded the Royal Shakespeare Company when he was only 29, and directed the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988. He was at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon for two season from 1957-1959. He also directed 'Akenfield' for London Weekend Television and ran the Peter Hall Company, which has 40 productions worldwide to its name. In 1963, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and in 1977 was knighted for his contribution to the theatre. In 1999, he was also honoured with a Laurence Olivier Award.

Listeners: John Goodwin

Head of Press at the National Theatre (1974-1988), and earlier at the RSC (1960-1974), John Goodwin is the author of a best-selling paperback, A short Guide to Shakespeare's Plays, and co-author of Trader Faulkner's one-man show, Losing My Marbles. He is also editor of the play, Sappho, based on Alphonse Daudet's novel, and editor of a number of successful books, among them, Peter Hall's Diaries, and, British Theatre Design - the modern age.

Tags: Guildhall, Arts Theatre, Hamlet, 1942, Requiem, King’s College Chapel, Marriage of Figaro, Sadler's Wells, Cambridge, Wolfgang Mozart

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: February 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008