Gill, Peter (6 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 6: [Session 5, 11 September 2009] Comments on [Lucy Prebble’s] ‘Enron’ at RCT, and on Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’ at RCT, PG’s admiration for play and for production. His dislike of Simon Stephens play [‘Punk Rock’], comments on gothic despair. ‘Wozzeck’ by Buchner. PG on mentoring at RADA, unpaid. PG’s career after RSC: weekly rep, TV, Arts Theatre, understudying. Developing interest in directing; lack of confidence in writing. ‘Zulu’ film; PG’s anxieties about going to South Africa; advice from Glen Byam Shaw; experience of Apartheid, and of attitude of South African actors. Experiences of playing soldiers and sailors. Zulu sequences in film; part played by Chief Buthelezi; cult status of film. PG’s decision to give up acting, based on not getting cast in film of ‘The Knack’. John McGrath play [‘Why the Chicken’], with Terence Stamp; poor production by Lionel Bart. Getting job as assistant director at RCT [14.50], together with Stephen Frears [SF]. Lack of casting director at RCT after departure of Miriam Brickman [MB]; MB’s importance at RCT; her work for Woodfall Films; her openness to actors. PG and SF doing casting for ‘Inadmissible Evidence’, ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Waiting for Godot’, ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’. Helping BG organise comedy workshop for actors; PG’s dislike of improvisation; meeting Helen Montagu [HM]; HM’s character, her appointment as casting director at RCT; her background. PG’s relationship with GD; GD’s direction of Tennessee Williams play, ‘The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More’; actress Ruth Gordon, her insensitivity, GD’s problems with her, her withdrawal from production. GD’s first heart attack, his temporary rest period, AP’s running of RCT. HM’s brilliance as casting director. PG assisting AP on ‘Inadmissible Evidence’; problems with Nicol Williamson. Functions of assistant directors: SF and PG’s organisation of casting, interviews, understudies; getting scripts printed and collated, sent to agents; difficulty of keeping track of scripts [29.30]. Offices at back of RCT. Auditions, ‘reading in’, general auditions. Difficulty of getting Equity cards. PG’s visit to RADA, seeing Ronald Pickup [RP] and Terry Hands; principles of picking actors from drama schools; PG’s attempt to get RP a part in ‘Inadmissible Evidence’. Desmond O’Donovan’s comment on assisting on ‘Hamlet’ at National Theatre. PG’s professional relationships with AP, with LA and with BG. Collaborative spirit at RCT. Methods of RCT directors: TR as a ‘university’ director, his ideas, his impudence and intelligence; GD caught up in (French) ideas of total artistic theatre, his rigour and professionalism, his ideas about Sunday night productions; AP’s work with Sanford Meisner, his obsession with person playing principal part, not a born ‘metteur en scene’; LA’s emphasis on importance of the personal, refracting production through personality of director. LA’s obsession with director John Ford, his sentimentality over American West; PG’s comments on film ‘To Wear a Yellow Ribbon’. LA’s irrational passions for certain kinds of actors. Expectations of RCT [46.00] Need to have views, and to express them; importance of the casting office, dropping in, passing by. RCT writers, always welcome but not as important as directors. SF’s problems with AP; SF going on as understudy; his development at Woodfall. BG’s production of ‘Cymbeline’. JD’s enthusiasm, use of time, understanding of realistic physical business, his Wesker productions. PG’s first Sunday night production [51.20]; his anxieties; importance of such occasions. PG’s own play, ‘Sleeper’s Den’, directed by DO’D; PG’s nerves, never seeing play, feeling play was no good because rights not taken up. PG’s discovery of DH Lawrence [DHL]’s plays at British Drama League; reading ‘A Collier’s Friday Night’, description of play, its suitability for RCT; GD’s reading of the play, his support of PG’s desire to direct it; success of play on Sunday night. Brilliance of actor Victor Henry. PG’s experience of directing. DO’D’s suggestion; comments on ‘co-action’. RCT as directors’ theatre, but directors who believed in plays. RCT finances, need to put on classics. DHL as RCT writer. Importance of seeing RCT writers as group. Politics of RCT [1.00.06]; feeling of change. Oxbridge education and directing; comparison with writers; JD as auto-didact; usefulness of education in writing reports etc. Importance of Oxford to GD, TR, LA. GD’s illness, changes at RCT. PG’s meeting with Harold Pinter [HP]; HP’s encouragement of writer Heathcote Williams, suggesting PG as director of HW’s play; directing play as Sunday night on day of SD’s death; memory of seeing GD just before his heart attack on day of ‘Collier’s Friday Night’. HP’s suggestion to PG of Joe Orton [JO]’s play, ‘The Ruffian on the Stair’; failure of JO’s ‘Loot’; meeting with JO, production of JO’s play as Sunday night. Directing JO double bill in main RCT house. Description of JO [1.21.00]; his naivety; his partner [Ken Halliwell]. JO’s murder. Patrick Proctor’s drawing of JO; JO’s bluebird tattoo; reproduction in play programme. PG’s social life in 1966, his loyalty to SD; not seeing GD during his final illness; taking SD to GD’s funeral, with GG; description of people present, and layout of crematorium; layers of GD’s life; chaotic organisation of service; JH weeping. SD’s illness six weeks later, at film studios; role of Dr John Henderson in accelerating her end. PG and GG left alone in house after SD’s death; organising SD’s funeral, finding a vicar, cutting the burial service, cremation at Golder’s Green. HD wearing a yellow coat. Comments on PH, her relationship with SD [1.36.00]. SD’s reputation as dictatorial, not PG’s impression. Death of PG’s mother later the same year [1966]; her neglect of her health; her hard life; memories of her final days; her funeral; closeness of her brother. PG’s inability to process grief. Catholic requiem mass; collapse of PG’s brother-in-law Gerald.

  • Description

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

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