Gaskill, William (1 of 7). The legacy of the English Stage Company.
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2008-08-06, 2008-08-18, 2008-08-29, 2008-09-20, 2008-10-11
Gaskill, William, 1930-2016 (speaker, male)
Courtney, Cathy, 1954- (speaker, female)
Part 1: [Session one: August 6 2008] Born Shipley, Yorkshire, 1930. Use of name Bill. Father, Joseph Gaskill [JG]. William Gaskill [WG]’s three sisters. Both WG’s grandfathers were called William. JG’s family. JG and WG’s parents both one of eight children; WG knew few of JG’s relatives but many of mother’s. JG’s background. Mother Maggie Gaskill, [MG]’s father, details. [05:00] WG re-reading D.H. Lawrence stories and poetry. JG’s parents. Hugh Gaitskill’s wife, Dora, told WG the meaning of their respective surnames. (6:49) WG’s summer holidays with maternal grandparents, the Simpsons. Peter Gill’s (PG) D.H. Lawrence plays at Royal Court Theatre [RCT] (designed by John Gunter) reminded WG of grandparents’ life. John Gunter’s set for Lawrence compared to Jocelyn Herbert [JH]’s sets for Arnold Wesker’s Trilogy [Roots, Chicken Soup with Barley and I’m Talking About Jerusalem]. [17:37] Characteristics of JH’s sets. John Gunter. [20:35] Details maternal grandparents and their family. [49:00] WG’s parents’ marriage. JG to Nottingham University, Modern Languages; JG taught French, also spoke German. Margaret (M), Ruth (R), Josephine (J), WG’s sisters. (54:34) WG’s first encounter with death. JG a free-thinker; MG Church of England. Bible teaching at WG’s school. (59:00) Two childhood houses; lived on edge of Saltaire, near Ilkley Moor, Tony Richardson (TR) (father a chemist), David Giles (father a dentist) lived on same road. Details WG’s first family house. (01:21:03) The Salt High School, Saltaire. (1:29:57) WG taken to ballet by sisters, Princess Theatre, Bradford; tours during War, Sadler’s Wells ballet. JG an admirer of G.B. Shaw, WG was taken. Ballet was special occasion. Pantomime. Dislike of audience participation. Alhambra, Bradford. Leeds Grand. Touring company, Ellen Pollock; Shaw’s ‘The Man of Destiny’ and ‘Village Wooing’; Shaw, G.K Chesterton, Hillaire Belloc touring debates. JG not very interested in theatre, nor music or painting, was an ideas man; MG didn’t have opportunity to go to theatre. WG found Shaw plays magic, idea of going to theatre wonderful. Saw Gielgud’s Hamlet aged c 14, Leeds. Would go regularly to see London shows in Leeds. Gielgud’s Hamlet. Sisters both at Leeds University, would encourage WG to see theatre. Halle Orchestra, Barbiorolli Myra Hess etc. WG played no instruments. Ballet strong during War. WG didn’t see Robert Helpmann in Hamlet until later when shared the lead with Paul Schofield at Stratford on Avon; Helpmann’s Freudian ballet of Hamlet. JG’s reading. Family took News Chronical. [1:42:05] Influence on WG of 78 rpm records Gielgud reading poetry. Other records; importance of radio for classic plays; Proms; Rosmersholm. 2008 Anthony Page production of Rosmersholm at Almedia; the play’s qualities; common qualities of all great drama; Page’s production. Rosmersholm at Royal Court Theatre (RCT), George Devine (GD), Eric Porter and Peggy Ashcroft; production with Swedish actress. RCT productions to balance the books. Men in Ibsen plays. Hugh Griffith. [1:53:32] Didn’t think of self as theatre practitioner, but crazy about paintings, theatre; probably wouldn’t have focused on being a director if hadn’t met TR. David Giles, TR and WG to Bradford Civic Playhouse, major amateur theatre run by professional actress and director, Esme Church [EC]; WG saw many plays there, went to class c mid teens. Would see foreign films at Civic with JG and amateur theatre productions for example ‘Way of the World’ and ’Month in the Country’. EC classes, ‘Twelfth Night’, WG played Malvolio. Watching EC rehearse; directors. WG remembers seeing self in PG when PG started; EC. Through whole of 1930s WG and contemporaries keen to learn about what was going on in theatre; Tyrone Guthrie (TG) and Michel St Denis (MSD) would lecture in Bradford. Importance given to actors’ names on playbills; seasons at Stratford defined by leading actors never directors. Concept of director, recent phenomenon. English films, Gainsborough costume dramas; war films; Powell and Pressburger. TG first director known as director, controversial figure; ‘Carmen’, Sadler’s Wells; ‘Henry V111’, Stratford. Tanya Moiseiwitsch. (TM). WG didn’t play Malvolio with audience, only in class; loves acting in rehearsal and to demonstrate in exaggerated way but not with audience.
Life story interview with William Gaskill, theatre director.