Early life and career
Peter Reginald Frederick Hall was born in Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds, the only son of Grace Florence (née Pamment) and Reginald Edward Arthur Hall. His father was a stationmaster and the family lived for some time at Great Shelford Station. He won a scholarship to The Perse School in Cambridge. Before taking up a further scholarship to read English at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, Hall did his National Service in Germany at the RAF Headquarters for Education in Bückeburg. Whilst studying at Cambridge he produced and acted in a number of plays, directing five in his final year and a further three for The Marlowe Society Summer Festival. He served on the University Amateur Dramatic Club (ADC) committee before graduating in 1953. In the same year, Hall staged his first professional play, The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham, at The Theatre Royal Windsor. In 1954 and 1955, Hall was the director of the Oxford Playhouse where he directed several later prominent young actors including Ronnie Barker and Billie Whitelaw. Eileen Atkins and Maggie Smith were also part of the company as acting Assistants Stage Managers.
From 1955–1957, Hall ran the Arts Theatre in London where he directed the English-language premiere of Waiting for Godot in 1955. The production's success transformed his career overnight and attracted the attention, among others, of Tennessee Williams, for whom he would direct the London premieres of Camino Real (1957) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Harold Pinter. Other productions at The Arts included the English language premiere of The Waltz of the Toreadors by Jean Anouilh.