Derek Wilkin­son


SIR Peter Hall was re­garded as one of the most im­por­tant in­flu­ences this cen­tury on Bri­tish theatre.

He had an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion as the fore­most au­thor­ity on Shake­spearean di­rect­ing, hav­ing di­vided 30 years al­most equally be­tween the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany, which he founded, and the Na­tional Theatre.

He was a worka­holic and to this end spread his tal­ents as a pro­ducer-di­rec­tor with en­thu­si­asm be­tween theatre, film, tele­vi­sion and opera.

He was de­voted to the idea of theatre with­out com­mer­cial­ism and even af­ter leav­ing the Na­tional he worked to achieve this ideal through the Peter Hall Com­pany, which he set up in 1989.

The com­pany found a home af­ter two years at Jef­frey Archer’s theatre, the Play­house at the Em­bank­ment.

Sir Peter put on four plays a year, each run­ning for 12 weeks, with the only pro­viso from the Play­house board of di­rec­tors that they should not make a fi­nan­cial loss.

Like so many peo­ple who suc­ceed in do­ing or get­ting what they want, he had his crit­ics.

His style of di­rec­tion was metic­u­lous and achieved great flair but his per­sonal im­age tended to be that of the show­man with pru­dence thrown to the wind.

He was not slow to raise the bat­tle cry, most no­tably in his pub­lic lam­bast­ing of the gov­ern­ment and the Arts Coun­cil over fund­ing for theatre.

In a sep­a­rate is­sue there was also his row and fi­nally his res­ig­na­tion a year early from Glyn­de­bourne Fes­ti­val.

Born in Bury St Edmunds on Novem­ber 22, 1930, he was the son of a Suf­folk sta­tion­mas­ter and grand­son of a rat­catcher.

His par­ents were work­ing­class peo­ple who be­lieved in ed­u­ca­tion as a means of over­com­ing the class sys­tem and they en­cour­aged him to ex­cel.

Right from the start they pro­vided him with the best they could, start­ing with a pri­vate kinder­garten.

Af­ter el­e­men­tary school he won a schol­ar­ship to Perse School, Cam­bridge. He did well, go­ing on to ob­tain his school cer­tifi­cate, higher cer­tifi­cate, a schol­ar­ship to Cam­bridge and he even be­came head boy.

But through­out his school days he said he felt an out­sider as a schol­ar­ship boy hav­ing to use handed-down books with “mi­nor scholar book” stamped over them.

He first went to the theatre when he was just four to see at the Play­house, Bury St Edmunds.

Dur­ing the war many plays that would have been put on in Lon­don were pro­duced in Cam­bridge and young Peter took full ad­van­tage of this, some­times go­ing with his par­ents who only en­joyed the plays be­cause he did.

In his teens he joined school vis­its to plays at Strat­ford and went reg­u­larly to stay with an aunt in Lewisham so that he could go to West End the­atres.

From early on he knew he wanted to di­rect, per­haps not in so many words but he wanted to be the one who “made it all hap­pen”.

Be­fore go­ing to univer­sity he spent his na­tional ser­vice in the RAF and be­came an act­ing sergeant teach­ing eco­nomics and busi­ness man­age­ment at a de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion cen­tre in Ger­many, a pe­riod in his life which he looked back on with loathing.

He then went on to get a de­gree in English at St Cather­ine’s Col­lege, Cam­bridge.

But his pri­or­ity was to get as much Shake­speare and theatre as he could and he di­rected a to­tal of 20 stu­dent pro­duc­tions.

Two weeks af­ter leav­ing Cam­bridge he was di­rect­ing pro­fes­sion­ally with Wind­sor Reper­tory Com­pany, which had been im­pressed with his work for the Cam­bridge Fes­ti­val.

He went on to di­rect at var­i­ous reps around the south of Eng­land as well as hold­ing an as­sis­tant’s job at the Arts Theatre in Lon­don.

Sud­denly he was put in charge of di­rect­ing at the Arts and one of his first plays was some­thing no­body else wanted to touch – a new play, The re­sponse was mixed but it was enough to get Peter Hall no­ticed.

Ten­nessee Wil­liams asked him to di­rect his plays in Lon­don and he was also asked to di­rect at Strat­ford, his am­bi­tion since the age of 15.

His spec­tac­u­lar rise as an over­lord of the theatre was helped by luck but it was his in­stinc­tive tal­ent as a di­rec­tor, know­ing the right thing to do, that led to his suc­cess.

He took over di­rect­ing at the Memo­rial at Strat­ford at a time when it was most in need of a new broom. Sir Peter es­tab­lished a sys­tem­atic mix of clas­si­cal and mod­ern reper­tory.

In 1960, at just 30 years old, he founded the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany, in­sist­ing on a per­ma­nent com­pany with a home at Strat­ford and a com­ple­men­tary base at the Ald­wych in Lon­don. He stayed with the RSC un­til 1968 dur­ing which time he re­ceived a CBE in 1963.

He worked for four years un­til 1972 as a mem­ber of the Arts Coun­cil and then joined Lord Lau­rence Olivier as co-di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Theatre, tak­ing over as di­rec­tor the fol­low­ing year.

When Sir Peter took on the Na­tional, the op­ti­mism which had in­spired its cre­ation was dwin­dling as the ex­pense of main­tain­ing the three the­atres in the face of in­fla­tion and in­dus­trial un­rest mounted.

But a per­son­al­ity such as Sir Peter’s thrived in bat­tling against the prob­lems and, com­bined with his own cre­ativ­ity, it opened in 1976. He was sub­se­quently knighted in 1977.

How­ever, his cam­paign­ing of­ten at­tracted crit­i­cism, both in his deal­ings with boards and com­mit­tees and as di­rec­tor, when he had been ac­cused of mega­lo­ma­nia.

Both at the RSC and the NT he man­aged to keep the ideals of tra­di­tional theatre and link them to new ideas which call for metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to Shake­spearean text as well as en­cour­ag­ing mod­ern work.

Con­cur­rent to his in­volve­ment in the theatre was his work at Glyn­de­bourne from 1970 un­til 1990. He later went on to di­rect three fur­ther pro­duc­tions with the com­pany: in 1998, in 2001 and 2005’s

He be­came artis­tic di­rec­tor in 1984 and di­rected 16 op­eras.

His great achieve­ments in the arts were recog­nised through­out his ca­reer and awards in­cluded Che­va­lier, Or­dre des Arts et Let­tres in 1965, Lon­don Theatre Crit­ics’ Award for Best Di­rec­tor in 1963 for

and in 1965 and the An­toinette Perry Award for Best Di­rec­tor for in 1981.

Among the books he wrote, mainly adap­ta­tions based on his work in the theatre, was the pub­li­ca­tion in 1983 of his di­aries,

which were a re­veal­ing in­sight into the life of this pas­sion­ate and highly cre­ative man.

He was mar­ried four times. His first wife was the ac­tress Les­lie Caron, his sec­ond was his for­mer per­sonal as­sis­tant Jac­que­line Tay­lor, his third was the opera singer Maria Ewing and his fourth was Nicki Frei, a for­mer press of­fi­cer, his ju­nior by 30 years.

Sir Peter is sur­vived by his widow, Nicki, chil­dren Christo­pher, Jen­nifer, Ed­ward, Lucy, Re­becca and Emma and nine grand­chil­dren. FOR­MER SH­EFFIELD Wed­nes­day winger Derek Wilkin­son has died, the club has an­nounced.

He passed away, aged 82, af­ter a pro­longed bat­tle with ill health.

The tricky wide­man plun­dered 57 goals in 231 ap­pear­ances for the Owls be­tween 1953 and 1965.

Derek was a key per­former as Wed­nes­day clinched the 1959 Divi­sion Two ti­tle, scor­ing 11 goals in 39 games.

He guided Wed­nes­day to an FA Cup run­ners-up spot in the old Divi­sion One in 1959.

An­other high­light for Staly­bridge prod­uct Derek came when he played against Span­ish giants Barcelona for the Owls in the last eight of the Fairs Cup in 1962.

The pacy wide­man was forced to hang up his boots at the age of 29 be­cause of a per­sis­tent groin in­jury in 1965 and, one year later, more than 10,000 fans at­tended his Hills­bor­ough tes­ti­mo­nial against an All Star XI.

Af­ter foot­ball, he re­turned to his na­tive Manch­ester and restarted his ca­reer as a French pol­isher and later be­came a fork­lift truck driver in Stock­port un­til his re­tire­ment in 2000.

More re­cently, in 2014, Derek made me­dia head­lines when his home of 50 years in Ash­tonUn­der-Lyne was se­verely dam­aged by ad­verse weather con­di­tions.

Wed­nes­dayites came to­gether to raise thou­sands of pounds to en­sure Derek’s house was swiftly hab­it­able – and Sh­effield United sup­port­ers also con­trib­uted to the fund.

Sir Peter Hall en­joyed a spec­tac­u­lar rise as over­lord of the theatre.

Derek Wilkin­son scored 57 goals for Wed­nes­day.

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