Peter Zadek

Authored by: Michael Raab

The Routledge Companion to Directors’ Shakespeare

Print publication date:  April  2010
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415400442
eBook ISBN: 9780203932520
Adobe ISBN: 9781134146482


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Born in 1926 in Berlin as the son of Jewish parents, Zadek’s family emigrated to London in 1933. During the Second World War, he was an outsider on two counts: as a Jew and German among the English and as somebody strongly anglicised among the other refugees. He decided not to finish his studies in French and German at Jesus College in Oxford. Instead, he got a place at the Old Vic School where Tyrone Guthrie became his main mentor. Kenneth Tynan called Guthrie’s approach an ‘infuriating blend of insight and madness’ (Tynan 1975: 259). The same could be said about his pupil’s later Shakespearian efforts. After having started out in weekly rep at Pontypridd and Swansea, followed by similar jobs in the English regions, Zadek’s last British production was the world premiere of Jean Genet’s The Balcony at the Arts Theatre in London. The enraged author protested against what he perceived as a vulgarisation of his text, threatened to shoot the director and had to be barred from attending the first night.

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