Peter Hall and Bill Kenwright in permanent split?Date: 20 October 1998
Director Peter Hall and his West End and Broadway producer Bill Kenwright appear to have parted ways permanently.
According to an interview with Hall in The Independent on Sunday (published on October 18), they have fallen out so badly that if they passed on the street, Hall is reported as saying he'd cut Kenwright. 'The situation is irrevocable', he adds.
When Hall left the National Theatre in 1987 (where he had been its artistic director), he set up his own producing company in the West End, the Peter Hall Company. Early projects, co-produced with West End impresario Duncan C Weldon, included productions of Tennessee Williams's Orpheus Descending(with Vanessa Redgrave) and The Merchant of Venice (with Dustin Hoffman playing Shylock), both of which subsequently transferred to Broadway.
After an amicable parting of the ways with Weldon, Hall subsequently formed alliances with another producer, Lee Menzies, basing his company at the Playhouse Theatre which Menzies then ran (and where projects included productions of Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo and Moliere's Tartuffe), and subsequently Bill Kenwright. During the last seven years, Hall and Kenwright have collaborated on some sixteen plays, including a revival of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband that travelled to Broadway's Barrymore Theatre and has only recently ended yet another return run in the West End that saw it enjoy a peripatetic existence, shuttling between theatres including the Gielgud, Theatre Royal Haymarket, Old Vic and Albery Theatre.
During 1997, the Peter Hall Company was based at the Old Vic, where its then owners, Ed and David Mirvish, funded the existence of the company. One project, a production of David Rabe's Hurlyburly, transferred to the Queen's under Bill Kenwright's auspices. When the Mirvishes announced their intention to sell their interest in the Old Vic at the end of last year, the Peter Hall Company was left temporarily homeless, until Kenwright relocated it to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End, where productions this year have included revivals of Beckett's Waiting for Godot (a play Hall originally staged the first English staging of some forty years ago), Moliere's The Misanthrope (with Elaine Paige making her legitimate stage debut away from the musical theatre) and Shaw's Major Barbara.
In mid-August, however, Hall was in the midst of rehearsals for another project: the new production of Amadeus, opening at the Old Vic on Wednesday this week, that he originally staged at the National Theatre in 1979 (with Paul Scofield as Salieri) and subsequently on Broadway (with Ian McKellen), and now starring David Suchet. The producer is Peter Wilson's PW Productions (responsible for the long-running West End production of another staging first seen at the National Theatre and subsequently on Broadway, An Inspector Calls). Kenwright was to co-produce it, but failed to strike a deal. 'It dragged on and on and on', Hall told The Independent on Sunday. 'So the last week of rehearsal he pulled out and said to me, 'I want you to walk out too, then they will see reason and give me what I want.' I said, 'I won't do that'. He said, 'Right, I'll cancel all your productions from now on', which he did. But the theatre owners of the Piccadilly reminded him that he couldn't do that, so we're doing Filumena and Kafka's Dick, but that's it. It's over. I won't be treated as furniture and fittings to be sold.'
Filumena, with Dame Judi Dench in the title role, has just opened to rave reviews, including a rare three-star rating from the Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh (the highest he can accord, and has only done so twice before in his entire tenure as the Standard's chief drama critic). Kafka's Dick, a new production of the play by Alan Bennett, opens at the Piccadilly on November 19, following previews from November 6, with John Gordon-Sinclair (also to be seen in Filumena, and still best known perhaps from the film Gregory's Girl), Julia McKenzie and Eric Sykes starring.