Hytner Suspends Schedule to Review NT's TouringDate: 16 April 2003
Nicholas Hytner (pictured), who officially took over as artistic director of the National Theatre at the start of this month, has confirmed that the NT will temporarily halt its national touring programme while practices are reviewed. For up to 18 months from October 2003, the National will cease presenting productions outside of London, ahead of a planned increase.
Speaking last night to the BBC’s Front Row programme, Hytner admitted that over the past few years "our touring has been sporadic and not particularly good value for money …. We need to review our touring arrangements”, something, he said, which had not been done for some 20 years.
During the touring "breather", all aspects of the regional programme will be looked at, in particular how it fits in with the South Bank's repertoire system, newly relaunched under Hytner. At the end of review - which Hytner promised would last a "maximum of 18 months", the NT would be upgrading its schedule in order to tour "more often, more widely and more efficiently".
During the touring moratorium, co-productions - such as those of previous NT hits An Inspector Calls and Humble Boy as well as this year's upcoming premiere of David Hare's The Permanent Way, which is being mounted with Out of Joint - will continue as normal.
The touring review is just one of a number of overhauls embarked upon by Hytner at the National (See News, 23 Jan 2003). He has, as mentioned above, re-introduced an ambitious repertoire system while also slashing ticket prices (with two-thirds of seats in the NT Olivier priced just £10 for his opening season), appointing a large and diverse board of advisory associates and discontinuing use of the temporary, 100-seat Lyttelton Loft studio.
Ironically, in the final days of his tenure, Hytner's predecessor Trevor Nunn said that one of his proudest achievements during his five and a half years at the National was in "widening the spectrum of our audience both graphically and generationally". Key to the first aspect of that wider spectrum, said Nunn, was "doubling" the NT's touring output while last year's five-month Transformation season - for which the Lyttelton Loft was created - was lynchpin to the second (See News, 24 Mar 2003).
The National has recently been granted a 16.5% increase from the Arts Council England, taking its annual subsidy up to £17.3 million in 2005/2006. Hytner has said that the resumption of touring will coincide with the theatre's funding increase and will offer both regional venues and theatregoers a better deal.
- by Terri Paddock