Gill, Peter (8 of 14). The legacy of the English Stage Company.
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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
Gill, Peter, 1939- (speaker, male)
Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)
Part 8: [Session 7, 10 December 2009] PG’s plans for Christmas: family Christmas presents; dinner with friends; Christmas Day with Rosemary Wilton [RW] and Penelope Wilton [PW]; friends to tea on Boxing Day. Problems with visiting Wales. Childhood Christmas in Wales; Midnight Mass. Wartime Christmas: chicken for dinner; plucking a goose; walking home from visits; home-made toys; stocking; problems with Christmas lights. Christmas annuals. Magic of Christmas morning. Paper crib. Lack of surplus money; Christmas clubs; no alcohol. Knitted presents. Theatrical family of RW and PW [15.45]; meeting PW, a student, at Drama Centre; collaborating with RW on BBC TV film; nature of BBC at the period; directing later BBC TV play [late 1960s?], ‘Girl’, low fee for leading actress. PG rejecting chance to work at BBC; reasons for not wanting to be TV or film director. Directing Sam Shepherd’s ‘Fool For Love’ at NT, without any politicking. PG’s dislike of certain elements of TV and film dealings. Thoughts on early 20th century British theatre; lack of contracts. Running of script department in early days of RCT. Dramaturgy. Comments on Stanislavsky as a director [29.40]; satirical novel about Stanislavsky; comparison with practice at RCT; dramaturgy vs Hollywood. Directing badly structured plays; dependence on actor playing leading part. Making something of play by Tunde Ikoli, ‘Scrape Off the Black’, in mixed race season at Riverside. PG’s relationship with writers, compared with that of other RCT directors. Inventing bridging collage for John Atrobus comedy ‘Crete and Sergeant Pepper’. Rewriting DH Lawrence play, for clarification. TR’s production of ‘The Changeling’; seeing BG’s production of Middleton’s ‘Chaste Maid in Cheapside’; improvisations based on a scene from this play at BG’s comedy studio; PG’s fascination with the play, cutting it up, rewriting it [45.09] BG’s production of the play at RCT. PG’s fascination with Middleton; production of ‘Changeling’ at Riverside; making plot and sub-plot work together (explanation). Revival of interest in Jacobean plays. PG’s productions at RS; choice of plays; eclecticism, high art, vs social conscience. Running café on unprofitable basis. Small productions, new pieces. Samuel Beckett, Athol Fugard, Kantor, Bread and Puppet Theatre. Mixed race season. Relations with Hammersmith Council; nature of council; their various arts schemes [55.18]; difficulties of dealing with local government. Lyric Hammersmith scheme. Need to have public meetings when at RS; Hugh Willet’s role in meetings. Contentious issues. Grants from GLC and Arts Council. Relative artistic freedom. Liberal councillor wanting to close RS. Attempts to get local people to use RS; naughty kids coming to RS, also posh kids. Problems in attracting upper working class. Dustman Willy; egalitarian spirit of theatre people; Willy’s reply to Dario Fo. Politics of getting RS open. PG’s enjoyment of having a wide programme; dance at RS; Balanchine company fund-raising. PG’s intuition that Thatcher government meant end of RS; decision to leave; wearing black arm-band to meeting. International reputation of RS. Continuance of RS after PG’s departure [1.10.00]; Jenny Stein, her art gallery at RS; her inexperience running RS; David Gothard and David Levaux, their financial difficulties. Motley Theatre Design course at RS. Peter Hall’s invitation to PG to be associate at NT; various attempts to organise running of three theatres; PG’s experimental studio work at NT; moving to Old Vic Annexe, founding of NT Studio; making the building work, keeping the paint frame, renting it out, explanation. Purpose of NT Studio [1.23.30]; fantasies of having permanent company; need for somewhere for actors to work, take classes. Play readings to encourage very new writers; small budget for commissions. Providing material for reopened Cottesloe Theatre from NT Studio. Successful studio nights, booked by audiences sight unseen. Description of layout of NT Studio. Putting on readings, chatting to writers. Small productions. Workshops, summer schools. Schemes for young designers. Development of PG’s own plays, and adaptation of William Faulkner, ‘As I Lay Dying’. Plays in Cottesloe season; lukewarm reviews by Observer newspaper. Bringing in new talent, for classes. PG’s text classes; lack of understanding of text by contemporary actors [1.38.00]. Changes in view of acting in 20th century. PG’s recent production of ‘Epitaph for George Dillon’ with Joseph Fiennes. Social class of actors such as Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft, compared with Victorian period. Legitimate theatre vs popular theatre. Acting becoming largely a middle class profession. ‘An Inspector Calls’; lack of great working class actresses in 1940s.
Life story interview with Peter Gill, theatre director, playwright and actor.