British director Peter Hall, who founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960 and is credited with the boom of post-war British theatre, has died at the age of 86, the National Theatre said on Monday.
Actors Vanessa Redgrave and Patrick Stewart led the tributes to Hall, the son of a railway stationmaster who also worked with Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins in a career spanning more than five decades.
"He was a fascinating director," said Redgrave, an Oscar winner and human rights campaigner who remembered taking part in a 1959 production of "Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by Hall.
Between 1955 and 1957, Hall ran the Arts Theatre in London.
There he directed the English-language premiere of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", which transformed his career.
"Above all he was the person who insisted that new plays belonged in the classical repertory, on the same stage and given the same status," said David Hare, a playwright.
"It was his idea to play (Harold) Pinter alongside Shakespeare. Every living playwright owes him a debt," he said.
Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in "Star Trek", said Hall "transformed classical and modern UK theatre and gave me a career".
Hall stayed at the Royal Shakespeare Company until 1968, after which he became head of the National Theatre in 1973 and oversaw its transfer to the South Bank arts centre.
His last production was "Twelfth Night" at the National Theatre in 2011, the year he was diagnosed with dementia.
"We all stand on the shoulders of giants and Peter Hall's shoulders supported the entirety of British theatre as we know it," said Rufus Norris, the theatre's current director.
"His legendary tenacity and vision created an extraordinary and lasting legacy for us all," he said.