Peter Hall has had another big bust-up, this time with his old friend the impresario Bill Kenwright. But he is still a national treasureby David Nathan / December 20, 1998 / Leave a comment
At the age of 68 and with three hits running in London, possibly to be joined by a fourth, Peter Hall is concerned about his place in English theatre. He is out there with the begging-bowl trying to drum up money to back a season at the Old Vic. He has little hope of success.
It is ten years since he left the subsidised theatre which he had dominated for 25 years, first at the RSC and then the National. He left protesting about the low level of subsidy. It is now much worse and he knows he is unlikely to get the ?500,000 a year guarantee against loss he feels he needs before he can accept the Old Vic’s invitation to resume his residence there.
At the same time there has been a spectacular fall-out with Bill Kenwright, the West End impresario who produced his original Old Vic season. Accusations and counter-accusations are flying; anyone who tries to report what one is saying faces the possibility of a writ for libel by the other. Here, trying to be fair to both sides, are the bare bones of the quarrel.
Kenwright: “You’re going to see Peter? He is losing no opportunity to knock me in print. I don’t wish to join in with that except to say that the picture he paints doesn’t come near the truth.”
Peter Hall: “Bill Kenwright? He is a liar. I must make this absolutely clear. And I have documentary proof, a letter from his lawyer.”
It seems that Hall’s production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, which opened last month at the Old Vic to thunderous approval, was to be jointly produced by Kenwright and PW (the initials of Peter Wilson) Productions. Hall’s version is that there were months of negotiations and discussions between Kenwright and Wilson over Amadeus, much of it to do with the terms under which it would go to the US after its Old Vic run.
The negotiations broke down; according to Hall, Kenwright told him to abandon Amadeus. Hall: “I told him I wouldn’t do that to Peter Shaffer [the author] or to David Suchet and the other actors. I said I don’t behave like that and I am not a pawn in your negotiating game.”
Hall then claims that Kenwright threatened to put up the notices on Major Barbara, call off Filumena and cancel Kafka’s Dick, all in, or…