Gill, Peter (7 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 7: [Session 6, 25 Nov 2009] PG’s view of Life Stories project – fears it is gossip rather than analysis. Life at LM after death of SD; division of house into flats; PG’s flat on first floor; various tenants, including Nicholas Wright [NW] and David Lan. Visits of GG’s colleagues from LSE, including Muriel Brown. Barry Hanson sleeping in PG’s flat while directing ‘The Enoch Show’ in RCT Theatre Upstairs. NW and PG’s dinner parties. Ralph Dyer, ex-pupil of Old Vic School; his stories of being in drag act in WW2; his work as cutter for English National Opera. Complicated ownership of LM when bought by GG in 1971, with some money from Donald Howarth [DH]; DH taking rent from ground floor; court case, young couple evicted; lack of honesty between GG and DH. PG’s rights of tenure at sale of house, his move to top floor flat; later problems of tenancy. DH’s move to ground floor. GG’s friend Muriel Smith, her care for him, her reliance on PG in DH’s absence in South Africa. Nature of GG’s mental breakdown [17.00]; his talent as a social worker; his work in India, and resulting liver complaint; his community work in 1950s London; his job at LSE, problems with his colleagues; his lack of interest in academia; his anxiety neurosis affecting his ability to work; his retirement, supposedly to write; his breakdown and addiction to prescription drugs; his behaviour; his understanding of young people; his religious beliefs, and those of his parents; his liking for Irish Catholicism and interest in Hinduism and Islam; his importance at RCT and companionship of GD; his influence on TR; his membership of Board of Woodfall Films; TR’s generosity to him. PG’s comments on ‘Zulu’ as a cult. PG’s association with RCT from 1965 to 1975, in various roles [30.00]; his brief period as assistant director; BG’s associate directors, Ian Cuthbertson and Jane Howell. PG’s production of Frank Gilroy play in Antwerp. Otway’s ‘The Soldier’s Fortune’, 1966-7. Desmond O’Donovan [DO’D], his talent as a director, his mental problems, his production of Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’; PG’s visit to Lord Chamberlain over cuts to the play; RCT’s relationship with male homosexuality; Jocelyn Herbert’s view of production, and PG’s reaction. DO’D’s unreliability and unpunctuality; his education; his period as a Dominican monk; his meeting with AP and job at RCT; his productions of PG’s play and of ‘Trelawney of the Wells’ at Chichester; his work as assistant on ‘Royal Hunt of the Sun’ , and on ‘Hamlet’ at National Theatre. Relationship between BG and DO’D; DO’D’s drug taking, and its effect on his mental health; stories of his erratic behaviour. Support system of RCT, under GD and BG. RCT under BG [44.15]; PG’s search for a designer, working with 4 designers; PG’s view of slipping standards after seeing ‘Saved’; problems with NF Simpson’s ‘Cresta Run’ and Ann Jellicoe’s ‘Shelley’. BG’s problems with permanent company; his success as artistic director. ‘Come Together’ festival, late 1960s, an attempt to widen RCT ideas; Noel Greig and Brighton Combination; thoughts on text and non-text theatre. Description of ‘Come Together’; Gilbert and George show in Kings Road; BG’s desire to acknowledge new art movements; Bill Bryden’s organisation of festival; rearrangement of theatre for festival. LA’s reaction to festival. Subsequent mixing of repertoire, with more revivals. PG as a director [55.30]: finding it nerve-racking; his production of ‘Duchess of Malfi’ [1971], not liked by critics; its post-modernism; Bill Dudley’s sets, effect of budget crisis, description of final designs; music; choice of non-classical actors; PG’s fascination with the play; his view of it as his most interesting production; persuading front of house to turn out all exits lights, frightening nature of darkness; directness of speaking. David Gothard assisting in Theatre Upstairs; his intelligence and knowledgeability; his mobility, lack of concentration, enthusiasm. DH Lawrence trilogy [1968]. ‘Life Price’ [1969], a failure with press; theatre packed after giving free seats. PG’s play ‘Over Gardens Out’ [1969], description of staging; revival of ‘Sleepers Den’. NW [1.10.00] His arrival at LM because at LAMDA with HD; PG’s championship of him; his cleverness; his job opening Theatre Upstairs; his play ‘Changing Lines’; his temperamental unsuitedness to directing. Reflections on acting and on directing. PG’s method of directing: dealing with economics of theatre; reading, thinking, coming to ‘own’ the play, non-conceptually; not asking for alterations, not cutting anything. Collaboration, letting everyone have their say. Casting: finding actor to uniquely inhabit the part. Working with designers. Granville Barker at RCT in 1909, ideas of creative coherence. Weekly rep methods, John Dexter’s methods. The run-through. PG’s methods [1.24.21]: start with something unrelated to the play, example of ‘Voysey Inheritance’. Working as a group, getting to know each other; reading comes later. ‘Way of the World’ at Lyric Hammersmith, 2 weeks spent on text. Do what piece requires. Importance of tone of writing. No pre-planning of moves. Methods learned from watching directors. Aesthetics of placing actors onstage. Working with actors, bringing things out of them. Anti-intellectualism in contemporary theatre. Relative ease of directing your own writing. Pointlessness of asking for rewrites. Not going to rehearsals if someone else is directing your play. By 1970s [1.38], PG seen primarily as a director, working free-lance. Turning down Laurence Olivier’s offer of production of ‘The Idiot’ at NT, with Derek Jacobi. Nervousness of worlds of film and television. Turning down chance to direct David Storey’s ‘In Celebration’. 1976, writing ‘Small Change’; tip from Stephen Poliakoff. Invitation to meeting of Hammersmith Council; Council’s plan for art in the Borough; suggestion for Community Arts Centre [later Riverside Studios [RS]]. Venue to be in old TV studio, in run-down industrial location. Hugh Willet, ex-Secretary-General of Arts Council, proposed as Chairman of committee. Different elements on committee; strong social conscience. Decision to present high art in community context. Problems of studio not being a public building. PG’s fascination with building. People involved in scheme. PG’s suggestion of weekend festivals, to test community and test building [1.54.00]. First production of ‘As You Like It’; public event to paint a scene canvas; many free events over a weekend. PG asked to run the venue. Taking on small staff including David Gothard, Erica Bolton, Jane Quinn, Hanif Kureishi, Diane Borger. Fighting for public licence. Money from Hammersmith Council, Arts Council. Not much money but much freedom. Bringing in many international companies. Cinema, music, bookshop, art gallery. Keeping prices especially food and drink very low. PG’s first production ‘The Cherry Orchard’. RS as last statement of the 1960s. PG’s [first] salary, £6000 p.a., as artistic director. David Gothard’s programming: good ideas, sometimes disorganised. PG’s constant presence at RS.

  • Description

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

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