Hytner Ushers in New NT Regime with First SeasonDate: 23 January 2003
Incoming National artistic director Nicholas Hytner (pictured), who takes over from Trevor Nunn on 1 April 2003, announced full details of his inaugural season at a press conference held today at the theatre.
In addition to a wide-ranging programme of productions, Hytner's new regime is distinguished by a marked return to repertory (which the National has gradually edged away from over the past year), the appointment of a large advisory panel of associate actors, director and designers, and major reductions of ticket prices, to include an experimental six-month season in the NT Olivier (the largest of the South Bank complex's three auditoria) where two-thirds of the seats will be reduced to just £10 (with the other third priced at £25).
Programming-wise, there's a significant departure from revivals of Broadway musicals in a schedule that will include: new plays by David Hare, Michael Frayn, Martin McDonagh and Mike Leigh; starring performances by Simon Russell Beale, Alex Jennings, Robert Lindsay, Stephen Rea, Adrian Lester and Zoe Wanamaker; and direction from Howard Davies (who has been signed up as Hytner's sole associate director, alongside the advisory associates), Cheek by Jowl's Declan Donnellan, Out of Joint's Max Stafford-Clark, David Leveaux, Peter Gill, John Crowley and Broadway's Jack O'Brien.
In the Olivier
As previously reported (See News, 18 Dec 2002), the NT Olivier's £10 season will kick off with Hytner's first of his own productions as director of the National, Shakespeare's Henry V with Adrian Lester in the title role and Penny Downie creating the chorus. The first-ever production of Henry V at the National, it will open on 13 May 2003 (previews 6 May).
Joining it in repertory from 5 June (previews 29 May) will be the stage premiere of His Girl Friday, the 1940 film classic directed by Howard Hawks which was based on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's original stage play The Front Page. Newly adapted by Six Degrees of Separation author John Guare, His Girl Friday will star Alex Jennings as Walter Burns and Zoe Wanamaker as star reporter and love interest, directed by American Jack O'Brien in his National debut.
Come summer 2003 and beyond, the Olivier will house productions of: Tales from the Vienna Woods by Odon von Horvath in a new version of David Harrower, directed by Richard Jones; Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, freely adapted by Irish poet Derek Mahon, with Irishman Stephen Rea in the title role directed by Howard Davies; and Hytner's second production, the stage premiere of Philip Pullman's children's book trilogy His Dark Materials, adapted into two plays by Nicholas Wright. Of the last, Hytner admitted today: "It's completely unstageable so that should keep me busy."
In the Lyttelton
The NT Lyttelton season will begin with the previously announced full-length premiere of the new "trailer trash" musical Jerry Springer - The Opera (See News, 4 Dec 2002), which opens 29 April 2003 (previews 9 April). It is written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, who also directs.
It's followed from 7 June (previews 19 June) by a revival of Tom Stoppard's 1972 play Jumpers, starring Simon Russell Beale as moral philosopher George Moore. The production also features John Rogan and Nicholas Woodeson, is directed by David Leveaux and designed by Vicki Mortimer, with costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Paule Constable and aerial choreography by Aidan Treays. In addition to its London run, Jumpers will tour to seven regional venues, including Newcastle, Sheffield and Salford.
Further ahead, the Lyttelton will see: Three Sisters (the first NT production of the Chekhov play since Laurence Olivier's 1967 mounting), in a new version by Nicholas Wright, directed by Katie Mitchell, who last autumn directed the Whatsonstage.com-nominated Ivanov; and Mourning Becomes Electra, directed by Davies who also directed the Almeida's multi award-winning 1998 production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, starring Kevin Spacey in the West End and on Broadway.
In the Cottesloe
The NT Cottelsoe, the smallest of the National's auditoria, will "be devoted almost exclusively to the production of new work of all kinds", says Hytner. First up in the new season will be Scenes from the Big Picture, written by Owen McCafferty whose Closing Time premiered in last year's Transformation season at the NT Lyttelton. Set in Belfast over 24 hours, it features 20 characters and 40 scenes directed by playwright and former associate director Peter Gill. It opens 10 April (previews 2 April).
Kwame Kwei-Armah's new play Elmina's Kitchen, unfolding along the "murder mile" in east London's Hackney borough, is directed by Angus Jackson and designed by Bunny Christie (See The Goss, 20 Jan 2003). It premieres 29 May (previews 23 May). And finally, Nick Dear's Power, starring Robert Lindsay in his NT debut and directed by Lindsay Posner with music by Michael Nyman, winds up the spring season, opening 3 July (previews 27 June). A comedy, it deals with the rise and fall of Nicolas Fouquet, chief financier to Louise XIV and creator of the chateau that inspired Versailles.
Further ahead, the Cottesloe will premiere: The Pillowman by The Lieutenant of Inishmore's Martin McDonagh; David Hare's New Labour inspired satire The Permanent Way (See The Goss, 31 Dec 2002); Nikolai Erdman's lost comedy The Mandate in a new version by Declan Donnellan, who also directs; and as-yet-unnamed new plays by both Michael Frayn and Mike Leigh.
For more reporting from today's news conference, including information on policy shifts, click here.