Gill, Peter (10 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 10: Comments on attitude of GD and RCT directors to theatre going, and leaving early. Devotion to Stratford East, dislike of RSC. Peter Sibley, front of house manager at Aldwych and later at RCT. More on ‘The Representative’; feelings of PG and DO’D, leaving before the play started, on seeing set by Koltai; BG passing out within first minutes, on hearing names of people who died in Holocaust. BG’s father and ‘social credit’, possible anti-Semitism. Walking out of ‘Pains of Youth’ at NT. PG’s difficulty in being reasonable about direction of plays. PG’s play-writing: a list. Genesis of PG’s plays [11.40]; PG’s difficulty in handwriting, possible dyspraxia; improvement with computer use. Anxiety at RCT about knowing how to direct, not wanting to do Sunday night production; DO’D’s production of ‘Sleeper’s Den’, PG hiding in wardrobe, GD’s liking for play, RCT failing to offer commission. Writing ‘A Provincial Life’, an adaptation of story by Chekhov. PG always writing, always accumulations of verbal ideas; writing on bits of paper rather then notebooks. ‘Over Gardens Out’, an accumulation of verbal exchanges; dialogue; atmosphere; play emerging; reading Dante’s story of Paulo and Francesca. Not wanting to write one-set, worked out play; playing with time-structures. Rebellions against ‘well-made play’; different versions; Peter Shaffer, West End plays. Granville Barker, Tom Robertson; [Victorien] Sardou’s ‘Tosca’. Conventional one-set structure of Osborne’s and Pinter’s early plays. Movement at RCT to formless, impressionist, episodic plays. Scenic glamour of Stratford East. Experimental nature of PG’s plays. Curator-speak at art galleries [27.17]; programme notes. Complicated discussions at RCT. PG breaking new ground with structure; thinking Pinter had copied him in ‘Betrayal’. Radio plays vs theatre; danger of overwriting; differences between Welsh language and English, using a language that doesn’t belong to you. Class differences in language uses. PG’s difficulties in writing dialogue. Awareness of not writing as a director; no opportunities for mise en scene. GD’s encouragement of versions of foreign plays. Translations vs versions; importance of rendering into speakable language. Michael Frayn [MF]’s versions of Chekhov. PG’s version of ‘Cherry Orchard’ [at RS], leaving out last word of play; discussion with playwrights at seminar, MF’s translation of the word; PG’s solution. [41.42] Writing ‘Kick for Touch’ at RS. Reviving ‘Small Change’ at NT, directing ‘Kick for Touch’. Developing plays at NT Studio: ‘In the Blue’ and ‘Mean Tears’; no improvised material in plays; function of workshops in writing process; Bill Nighy as stability figure in creative dynamics. Length of process. ‘As I Lay Dying’ as Studio exercise, based on visual physical exercises; description of staging. Reception of play at Studio Night. Black actors doing ‘Macbeth’. PH closing Cottesloe, PG reopening by putting on all studio work. PG’s desire to open NT to newer younger writers through Studio. Long break from writing, 1987 to 1997 [52.00] Comments on politics of the time. RSC’s ‘Les Miserables’; musicals no longer done in subsidised theatre; difficulty of musical theatre, importance of the book. NT becoming pick ‘n mix theatre. PG’s lack of sympathy with state of country [late 1980s]. Current financial crisis, causes. PG asked by Richard Eyre [RE] to leave NT Studio [1990]. Danger of regular salaries. Long time of not being asked to direct, writing but not getting staged until ‘Cardiff East’ in 1997. Living on savings. Marginalisation at this time of LA, BG, JD. PG determined not to let that happen. Nicholas Wright [NW] not marginalised. PG’s occasional directing, doing workshops with friends, keeping going, doing what was offered. Writing of ‘Cardiff East’ [1.04.15], more deliberate so not as good as it should be. Done at NT. NW’s comment about unpacking. RE’s comment on it being a draft. Problems with dramaturgy: stability not a good quality for a playwright. No such thing as perfect English play. Ezra Pound’s work on Wasteland, excellence of advice. Drama departments don’t talk about writing, language; very difficult to do. PG’s work with students, attempt to explain about tone of writing: particular problem with translations. History of PG starting at NT, PH as a good boss; difficulty of getting associate directors to work there, not to use as rehearsal room; PG appearing like Prospero on his island; PH inviting RE to be Deputy Artistic Director; PG’s liking for RE, though RE not ‘RCT’ or a gifted director; opposition of Bill Bryden [BB] and Michael Rudman on grounds of RE’s lack of loyalty; advice of Stuart Burge, warning re. RE’s ambition. Difficulties for RE when he took over NT; PG not as supportive as he might have been; play by John Wells, adaptation of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, RE’s comment re. doing it ‘like Kantor’, PG’s view of it as crass. Comments on AP, AP’s remark about RCT. RE running NT on fiefdom basis; wardrobe master Ivan Alderman; genius cutter Stephen Scapterson; IA and Motley; John Goodwin, Michael Halifax [MH]. 1.23] BB running Cottesloe, entirely protected: whole company alcoholic; story of meeting with MH, proposing to send Cottesloe company to open Theatre Royal in Bath; story of first night party in Bath, attended by Princess Margaret; actor Stephen Petcher, talented and ungovernable; incident with actor Derek Newark; everyone thrown out by police. Nothing like that in theatre today.

  • Description

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

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