Happy birthday ALAW & “Goodbye” Sir Peter Hall
The posting of ALAW #52 means that it is now a year since the first one was published (on 24 September 2016 to be precise). I suppose that is a modest achievement insofar as I managed not to miss a week. Some I thought good, some were make-weights, and some I was really pleased with. I think I shall carry on with them!
This week’s ALAW doesn’t celebrate the anniversary, instead it arises amidst a bit of a conundrum.
My profile on the blog says that I value decency over achievement. I do, but what if someone who has been described variously as controversial, vituperative, deceitful, detested, brutal, disloyal and embittered, and whose private life was unstable to say the least, had achieved something that gives you lasting pleasure? Is that to be valued? Well, I take the easy way out. “Yes”, it is to be valued, but with much less respect for the person whose achievement it was compared to the personal respect for someone that had achieved less but whose fundamental decency shone through in all things!
Sir Peter Hall, who died this week, founded the Royal Shakespeare Company. His obituaries tell of that and his many other accomplishments, with a couple reflecting on some of the adjectives listed above, but it is the RSC that does it for me thanks to the late John Kremer, an English Literature teacher who instilled his enthusiasm for the Bard into a fourteen year old rugby-playing, science-orientated schoolboy (one who, years later, ‘out-Shakespeared’ his more arts-inclined, academic and intellectual brother, much to the surprise of the said brother’s family!).
So, with whom did Hall fall out (apart from walking-out on three wives as soon as he had found ‘another’)? Well, Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Tynan, Jonathan Miller, John Osborne, Bill Kenright and Harold Pinter to name six from the top drawer of British theatre of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Quite a collection really.
This is the RSC’s eulogy for Hall (a quote taken from Cassius’ lines in Julius Caesar):
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.”
which is a bit double-edged because Cassius’ words actually reflect his concern that Caesar had put himself above others and attained too much power (which, ironically, was a criticism of Hall made by his detractors).
And so to the limerick …
His theatrical nous and esprit
Gave birth to the famed RSC.
All the world was his stage
‘Till that terminal age
When, alas, he was then ‘not to be’!