a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


'What do you want to be?'


Lucky to be 'lumped' near Cambridge
Peter Hall Theatre director
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Just before the war, a very extraordinary thing happened. We moved to the outskirts of Cambridge because my father became a relief station master, which meant he went to other stations when the regular man was on holiday or was sick, and he covered the whole of East Anglia from King’s Lynn down to Broxbourne, which is near Liverpool Street, near London. I used to travel with him sometimes in school holidays. I went to a whole variety of stations and sat in the signal box for ages. I loved trains. I still love trains. I used to ride on the lunchtime goods train as it shunted the trucks onto the single line at Barnham, where we lived. I missed out one important fact. When I was four, maybe… four, I think, I was taken to see one of those ancient things, which still affect English theatre life and English audiences fully, the pantomime. I was taken to the pantomime at the Old Picture House in Bury, of Robinson Crusoe. All I remember of it, was… is beating drums, grass skirts, black bodies and an extraordinary erotic charge. At four I remember being actually quite sexually excited. I didn't know that's what it was. That was my first experience of theatre and it's a pretty good one looking back on it. From then on I was… and this is the cliché which so many of my profession utter – I… I built model theatres, I wrote plays for my model actors, I cut out actors and drew them and I'd seen almost no theatre but… I mean, I don't know why I did that. I was humoured in it. My father hoped, I suppose, that I would illustrate Gilbert and Sullivan one day but I didn't. And I was… I was just very interested in shows and how… how they were put together and why they were put together, and the… and the kind of excitement between audience and performer. So, I was lucky, aged eight, to be lumped near Cambridge because the next year the war broke out and Cambridge in… in the war, was the most extraordinary festival of arts, largely because so much was evacuated from London.

British-born theatre director, Sir Peter Hall (1930-2017), ran the Arts Theatre where, in 1955, he directed the English-language premiere of 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett. He also founded the Royal Shakespeare Company when he was only 29, and directed the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988. He was at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon for two season from 1957-1959. He also directed 'Akenfield' for London Weekend Television and ran the Peter Hall Company, which has 40 productions worldwide to its name. In 1963, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and in 1977 was knighted for his contribution to the theatre. In 1999, he was also honoured with a Laurence Olivier Award.

Listeners: John Goodwin

Head of Press at the National Theatre (1974-1988), and earlier at the RSC (1960-1974), John Goodwin is the author of a best-selling paperback, A short Guide to Shakespeare's Plays, and co-author of Trader Faulkner's one-man show, Losing My Marbles. He is also editor of the play, Sappho, based on Alphonse Daudet's novel, and editor of a number of successful books, among them, Peter Hall's Diaries, and, British Theatre Design - the modern age.

Tags: Cambridge, WWII, East Anglia, King's Lynn, Broxbourne, Liverpool Street, London, Barnham, Robinson Crusoe, Gilbert and Sullivan

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: February 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008