Organizers of the Oliver Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Tonys, apologized “unreservedly” Tuesday for omitting theater legend Peter Hall from the awards ceremony’s “In Memoriam” segment last weekend and said the prize for best director would henceforth be named after him.
The Society of London Theatre, which organizes the Oliviers, came under heavy criticism for what it acknowledged was a “serious error” in leaving out Hall from the roll call of prominent industry figures who died in 2017. Hall, who won two Tony Awards and founded the Royal Shakespeare Company, died last September at the age of 86.
The Society of London Theatre said Hall “was a giant of British theater and is sorely missed in the industry.” It has also issued an updated “In Memoriam” video including him.
“In recognition of Sir Peter’s phenomenal contribution to British theater over many decades, and in close consultation with the Hall family, [we have] taken the decision to rename the Olivier Award for Best Director the ‘Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director’ from next year’s ceremony and in perpetuity thereafter,” the society said in a statement.
While omissions from “In Memoriam” segments at awards ceremonies often cause a stir on social media, the absence of Hall on the Oliviers’ list was seen as particularly egregious. Upon his death last year, the Times of London called Hall “the most important figure in British theater for more than half a century.”
Hall was nominated for the Tony Award for best director nine times, winning twice, for “The Homecoming” in 1967 and “Amadeus” in 1981. He founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960 alongside Peter Barton, who died in January this year, and also served as director of Britain’s National Theatre, in London. The National’s first artistic director when it opened in 1963 was Laurence Olivier.
This year’s Olivier Award for best director was awarded Sunday night to Sam Mendes for his production of “The Ferryman,” a new play by Jez Butterworth, the writer of “Jerusalem.”
The Society of London Theatre said it is now reviewing the process by which people are included in the annual “In Memoriam” segment.