Hytner Confirms Lester's Black Henry V for May 2003Date: 18 December 2002
Nicholas Hytner has confirmed that Henry V, starring Adrian Lester in the title role, will be the first production he himself will direct in his role as artistic director of the National Theatre (See The Goss, 6 Dec & 18 Jul 2002).
Appointed back in September 2001, Hytner at last takes over from incumbent Trevor Nunn at the start of April 2003. As already announced, the first production under Hytner's new reign will be the full-length premiere in the NT Lyttelton of Jerry Springer - The Opera in April (See News, 4 Dec 2002), which will be directed by co-creator Stewart Lee.
Hytner's own production of Henry V will then open in repertory in the NT Olivier, with a press night in mid-May, though exact dates are yet to be finalised. Rumours about other aspects of Hytner's inaugural season - which is thought to include Simon Russell Beale in a revival of Jumpers, an adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and, later, a return of Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words - have been circulating for some time. The opening schedule is due to be announced in mid-January.
As for Henry V, the key is in the casting of a black actor as the monarch. Neither Lester nor Hytner are strangers to dismantling race barriers. The actor played the first black Bobby in the Donmar production of Stephen Sondheim's Company (for which he won the 1996 Olivier for Best Actor in a Musical), while the director was responsible for casting musical star Clive Rowe as the usually-as-white-as-his-name Mr Snow in the NT's 1992 production of Carousel.
Last year, Lester took the title role (pictured) in Peter Brook's reinvention of The Tragedy of Hamlet. His other stage credits include Sweeney Todd and Six Degrees of Separation while, on film, he has appeared in Primary Colours, Love's Labour's Lost, Dust, The Final Curtain and Maybe Baby.
- by Terri Paddock