Gill, Peter (5 of 14).  The legacy of the English Stage Company.

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  • Recording date

    2008-11-10, 2009-02-27, 2009-03-25, 2009-05-17, 2009-09-29, 2009-11-25, 2009-12-10, 2010-01-21, 2010-02-10, 2010-03-05, 2010-03-29

  • Interviewees

    Gill, Peter, 1939- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: [Session 4, 17 May 2009] [VERY LOUD START] PG on current [spring 2009] financial situation; impact on British theatre; Bristol Old Vic. PG’s current project: Harrison Birtwhistle [HB]’s works for Aldeburgh Festival. Orchestration of John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ and Lute Songs; description of PG’s staging; choreography, dancers. HB’s opera on Orpheus myth. Performance space at Snape Maltings; tour. HB at NT; high standard of music there; PG’s earlier work with HB. HB’s personality; his home life. PG’s view of opera; his dislike of metaphor and myth; Berg’s operas; Tippet’s works as silly; Wagner. PG’s ear for speech. Challenges of working with opera singers [15.03]; mutual admiration of actors and singers; conceptual productions. PG’s new play in Bath. PG’s isolation when not working. PG’s text class at Oxford University. PG at RSC, 1962; general auditions, and PG’s RSC audition. Cambridge student production, ‘Alarms and Excursions’. PG’s engagement at RSC: ‘As You Like It [AYLI]’ and BG’s production, ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle [CCC]’. Comments on ‘AYLI’, curtain calls; Vanessa Regrave [VR], her pregnancy in TV version. Difficulty of PG’s part, Silvius; kindness of Ian Bannen. BG’s production of ‘CCC’ [30:55]; friendship of BG and PG; schoolboy friendships. PG’s unsuitedness for BG’s production; long rehearsal period; half-mask exercises, comments on Jaques Copeau; PG’s dislike of mask work. BG’s exploration of alienation effect; effect of Berliner Ensemble on RCT directors; BG’s Brechtian improvisations; Brecht’s aesthetic. Sour pusses in RSC company; actors on side. Failed attempt at democratic group casting of smaller parts. Nature of change in 1960s. PG’s then attitude to RSC and to Peter Hall [PH]. BG’s depression with production, handing over to PH. PG’s unhappiness at RSC. Explanation of mask work [48:50]; comic mask origins, technique; PG’s ambivalent attitude; explanation of experience. Comments on Stanislavski. Tragic masks; perfect young woman mask. Letter to PG from Gillian Barge, about Peter Brook’s ‘Oedipus’. Designers of ‘CCC’; process of taking full face cast for mask making. BG’s later RSC production of ‘Cymbeline’. PH in 1960s; his entrepreneurism, his cleverness, his skill with committees. PH as a director [1:03]. TR as a director; his terrible production of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream [MSD]’; his good production of ‘Changeling’. Differences and similarities between TR and PH. PG in TR’s auditions for film of ‘A Taste of Honey’; TR asking PG to be in ‘MSD’. PG’s work prior to RSC contract: miscast in part in ‘Danger Man’; TV series in Wales; Dundee Rep with Anthony Page [AP]; nature of AP’s direction of actors; making friends with company in Dundee; mental problems of Nicol Williamson [NW] [1:15:02]; NW’s talent; NW’s rock-star temperament. Henry Irving; great acting, then and now; VR as great actress; Maggie Smith, Judi Dench. Account of Victor Henry [VH]; his accident; his death. NW’s failed ‘King Lear’ at Theatre Clywd. BG’s comment on BBC Radio programme, RCT as ‘actors’ theatre’. BG’s response to bad actors; BG’s lack of patience. PG’s early writing [1:27:20]; bad Welsh magazine piece; PG’s anonymous play for ‘Transatlantic Review’ competition; BG as judge, his request to PG to read the play; BG’s decision not to give it the prize; effect on PG’s later writing. Nature of the play; PG’s attitude to his own writing. GG’s comment to PG on his aptitude for writing; GG as brilliant teacher and social worker. Importance of teaching verbal expression. Significance of early RCT plays, their insights into life; Arnold Wesker [AW] compared with TS Eliot [TSE]; decline of AW’s talent. TSE’s ‘Family Reunion’ compared to his ‘Four Quartets’; PG’s view of TSE’s plays as offensive; TSE’s failure to embody human life. Poets’ failure to understand theatre.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Peter Gill, theatre director, playwright and actor.

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