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Top director Peter Hall puts focus on future work – at 79



Date Published: {J}

The influence of director Peter Hall in the world of theatre is impossible to estimate – the word enormous barely begins to do it justice.

Peter Hall established the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1961 to bring the work of England’s greatest playwright to a wider audience. Later, from 1973-88, he served as second ever director of the National Theatre in London, following in the footsteps of the legendary Laurence Olivier. He has served as Artistic Director of the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and the Peter Hall Company, which he also founded.

He recently directed a cast that included Judi Dench at Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in London’s Rose Theatre in February. Judi Dench first played Titania for Peter Hall with the RSC in 1962.

At the age of 79, Peter is currently drawing up rehearsal plans for his next shows, Sheridan’s The Rivals in Bath’s Theatre Royal in September, starring Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) and a production of Twelfth Night in the National in November. The Twelfth Night production – which will feature his daughter, the supremely talented Rebecca Hall, as Viola – is to mark his 80th birthday.

Here in Galway, people will get a chance to hear Peter Hall discuss his life and work when he joins The Guardian’s theatre critic Michael Billington in conversation on July 24 in the Town Hall Theatre.

“I had such a very brief visit the last time, I felt I had to come back,” he says from his London home about his return trip to Galway.

Peter Hall attended the closing night of last year’s Arts Festival to see The Merchant of Venice, directed by his son Edward, who runs his own all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller Theatre.

“He’s the real deal,” says his father, praise indeed from a man who was knighted in 1977 for his services to the arts and who holds honorary doctorates from several universities including Bath, York and Cambridge, for the same reason.

It was at Cambridge University that Peter Hall first began acting and directing, having developed a love of theatre in childhood.

He was born in Suffolk where his father was the station master Bury St Edmonds’ small station which “had four trains a day and a goods train at lunchtime”. Had the Halls stayed there, Peter might never have become involved in theatre, but they moved close to Cambridge, which was, he recalls, an extraordinary place around the time of World War II.

Because of the war and the bombing of London, many theatre and opera companies premiered their work in Stratford before touring, something that left a lasting impression on him. Even before that, he saw John Gielgud play Hamlet, which he still remembers.

Peter graduated from Cambridge in 1953, the year he made his professional directing debut, before going on to run London’s Arts Theatre during the time when Waiting for Godot received its English-language premiere there.

He took up a job with The Shakespeare Memorial Company in Stratford in 1959. By 1961 he had established an ensemble company that was officially named the Royal Shakespeare Company, with bases in London and Stratford.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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