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Theatre giant Sir Peter Hall dies after long battle with dementia

Article By: Michaela Mildenhall

Visionary British theatre director Sir Peter Hall has passed away aged 86, at University College Hospital, surrounded by his family.

Credit: David Fowler/

The Royal Shakespeare Company founder and former National Theatre director had lived with dementia during his later years. He was diagnosed with the condition in 2011.

Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: ‘We all stand on the shoulders of giants and Peter Hall’s shoulders supported the entirety of British theatre as we know it.

“All of us, including those in the new generation of theatre-makers not immediately touched by his influence, are in his debt. His legendary tenacity and vision created an extraordinary and lasting legacy for us all.

“Our sincere thoughts and sympathies are with Sir Peter’s family and friends at this sad time.”

It is as the founder of the legendary Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) that Sir Peter will probably be best remembered. His inspired vision of combining both cutting-edge modern productions and classical plays, especially Shakespeare, made the company an immediate hit with audiences.

Sir Peter’s other defining moment came when he was appointed director of the National Theatre in 1973 - a role which saw him make the successful move from the Old Vic to the purpose-built complex on the South Bank, despite union unrest and widespread scepticism at the time.

However, Sir Peter didn’t just make a difference to British theatre, he also contributed to the care sector, as founding artistic director of the dementia friendly Rose Theatre in Kingston, a role which he took on in 2003.

The theatre is modelled on the original Elizabethan Rose Theatre and set on London’s Bankside, and is exemplary in accessibility standards, especially for dementia.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: "Sir Peter Hall was a giant in theatre and opera. From founding the Royal Shakespeare Company to directing the National Theatre, his illustrious career speaks for itself. Sir Peter was also the founding artistic director of the Rose Theatre in Kingston, a world class dementia-friendly theatre which welcomes and caters for those living with dementia.”

'We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Peter, while battling dementia. This news is particularly poignant today, as I attended the Prime Minister’s Champion Group to discuss young people, dementia and the arts.”

Sir Peter was known within the world of British theatre for his generosity of spirt towards up and coming actors, many of whom had their break with him at the RSC and the National Theatre.

Following his death, tweets have been posted from actors acknowledging his contribution. Actor Sir Patrick Stewart wrote on Twitter: “The man who created the Royal Shakespeare Co, Sir Peter Hall, has died. He transformed classical and modern UK theatre and gave me a career.”


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