Peter Gill (playwright)

Peter Gill (born 7 September 1939) is a Welsh theatre director, playwright and actor. He was born in Cardiff to George John and Margaret Mary (née Browne) Gill, and educated at St Illtyd's College, Cardiff.


An actor from 1957–65, he directed his first production without décor, at the Royal Court Theatre in August 1965, A Collier's Friday Night by D. H. Lawrence. Having begun his career as an actor, he is now best known for his work as a director and playwright.[1]

Royal CourtEdit

In 1964 he became Assistant Director at the Royal Court and Associate Director in 1970, best known there as the director of three hitherto under-rated plays by D. H. Lawrence, presented as a group in 1968. In 1969 the Royal Court also presented two of his own first plays, The Sleepers' Den and Over Gardens Out, "which revealed that Gill could evoke with economy of means and lyrical skill the circumstances of his Cardiff boyhood."[2]

Riverside StudiosEdit

Gill was appointed artistic director of the Riverside Studios in 1976, and on 30 May 1976, his Nottingham/Edinburgh production of As You Like It (starring Jane Lapotaire as Rosalind, John Price as Orlando and Zoë Wanamaker as Celia, with a stage design by William Dudley) marked the official opening of the Hammersmith arts centre, formerly a film and television studio. His first Riverside production was a staging of his own version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which opened to press acclaim on 12 January 1978 (starring Judy Parfitt as Ranevskaya and Julie Covington as Varya, again with a setting designed by William Dudley).[citation needed]

Writing for The Sunday Times, theatre critic Bernard Levin said:

"It is good to salute the opening of a new theatre; it is thrice good to be able to do so with almost unqualified praise for its first production. At the Riverside Studios, Peter Gill (who is in charge of the whole enterprise) has directed The Cherry Orchard with a cast so astonishingly suitable that I began, hallucinatorily, to believe that they had been assembled first, and that Chekhov had then written the play round them. What is more, they are achieving this effect on an impossible stage; it is seventy-five feet wide (the players have to sprint, never mind run, if they are to get off at all), absurdly shallow, and lacking even the most rudimentary trappings in the way of flies, a thrust or even wings.... Mr Gill and his cast have sought success in the only place it can be found: inside themselves and the play. The effect is magical; The Cherry Orchard has almost never, in my experience, been at once so harrowing and so glittering; nor its fragile rhythms so finely, surely spun, its development so natural, human and real."[3]

When Gill left Riverside in 1980 to be an Associate Director at the National Theatre, a West London theatre critic John Thaxter wrote:

"It is no exaggeration to say that Gill's four years as director have taken Riverside to a leading position in British theatre; both with his own productions (notably The Cherry Orchard and this year's Julius Caesar) and as a generous host to world theatre giants: Tadeusz Kantor and Athol Fugard among them....It would also be fair to say that the major portion of the subsidies making all this possible came from the Hammersmith Council, which this year alone provided £200,000 to Riverside, although its audience is drawn from far and wide."[4]

National TheatreEdit

As an Associate Director of the National Theatre 1980 to 1997, Gill also founded the National Theatre Studio in 1984, which he ran until 1 October 1990. In his own words:

"When I set up the National Theatre Studio the development and analysis of acting was a central part of the work, so that, along with commissioning writers, developing directors and designers, investigating non-text based work, and producing work for the main house, the practice and analysis of acting skills seemed an essential part of any programme of work that was in part concerned with process."[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1962 H.M.S. Defiant Lieut. D'Arblay
1964 Zulu Private 612 Williams


Plays include:

  • The Sleepers Den, 1965; Royal Court, November 1969
  • Over Gardens Out, Royal Court, November 1969
  • Small Change, Royal Court, February 1976
  • Kick for Touch, National Theatre, February 1983
  • In the Blue. National Theatre, November 1985
  • Mean Tears, National Theatre, July 1987
  • Cardiff East, National Theatre, February 1997
  • The Look Across the Eyes, published 1997
  • Certain Young Men, Almeida Theatre, January 1999
  • Friendly Fire, Crucible Youth Theatre, Sheffield, June 2002
  • Lovely Evening, Theatre 503, March 2005
  • The York Realist, Royal Court, 2002
  • Original Sin, Crucible Sheffield, 2002
  • Another Door Closed, Theatre Royal, Bath, 2009
  • Versailles, Donmar Warehouse, 2014
  • As Good A Time As Any, Print Room, 2015
  • Certain Young Men, National Theatre, July 2017
  • The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse & Crucible Sheffield, 2018

Adaptations and versions:

As directorEdit

Royal CourtEdit

Riverside StudiosEdit

National TheatreEdit

Other venuesEdit

Private lifeEdit

He lived from the 1960s until 2006 in a small flat in the Thameside house formerly belonging to George Devine and later bought by playwright Donald Howarth and his civil partner George Goetschuis. Gill gets several mentions in the diaries of Joe Orton, for whom he directed a double bill of former television plays by Orton at the Royal Court called Crimes of Passion.[citation needed]

In 2007 the British Library acquired Peter Gill's papers and supplementary papers consisting of literary works, theatre administration and correspondence.[6] National Life Stories conducted an oral history interview (C1316/08) with Peter Gill in 2008-09 for its The Legacy of the English Stage Company collection held by the British Library.[7]


  • To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill, by Barney Norris, Seren Books (2014); ISBN 978-1781721810
  • Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th Edition, Gale (1981); ISBN 0-8103-0234-9
  • The National: The Theatre and its Work 1963–1997 by Simon Callow, Nick Hern Books (1997); ISBN 1-85459-323-4
  • At the Royal Court: 25 Years of the English Stage Company, ed. Richard Findlater, Amber Lane Press (1981); ISBN 0-906399-22-X
  • Actors Speaking with an introduction by Peter Gill, edited by Lyn Haill, Oberon Books (2007); ISBN 1-84002-776-2


  1. ^ A shining light: Peter Gill, the unsung hero of British theatre, Michael Billington, The Guardian, 4 Sep 2019
  2. ^ Entry by John Elsom in The Cambridge Guide to World Theatre, CUP (1988)
  3. ^ The true magic of Chekhov's World, Bernard Levin, The Sunday Times, 15 January 1978
  4. ^ Peter Gill's swansong at Riverside, John Thaxter, Richmond and Twickenham Times, 31 October 1980.
  5. ^ Introduction to Actors Speaking (2007)
  6. ^ Peter Gill Papers, archives and manuscripts catalogue, the British Library. Retrieved 21 May 2020
  7. ^ National Life Stories, 'Jellicoe, Ann (1 of 14) National Life Stories Collection: The Legacy of the English Stage Company', The British Library Board, 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2018

External linksEdit