Artistic director Nicholas Hytner warned today that the National Theatre’s hugely successful Travelex £10 season – in which two-thirds of the seats in the South Bank complex’s largest auditorium are reduced to just £10 (with others at £27.50) for six months of the year – may finish in 2007.

Launched in 2003, in its inaugural year the Travelex £10 Season was named the Theatre Event of the Year in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (See News, 3 Feb 2004). Its success has been credited with attracting a much broader, younger audience and achieving unprecedented attendance figures at the National. The scheme has since been emulated by many other arts institutions and commercial producers.

But speaking at an NT press conference to announce details of new 2007 programming, Hytner said that, with inflationary increases, tight budgetary targets and 750,000 tickets to shift every year, it would be financially “irresponsible” for the UK’s flagship theatre not to re-evaluate the long-term viability of £10 tickets. “Although we will not be abandoning the concept (of cheap tickets), we will be looking for a way to reinvent the concept,” he declared.

In real terms, he said, £10 tickets are now effectively worth £12 while production and other costs continue to rise. To make ends meet, at the least the National will have to raise the price of its cheap tickets or make fewer available. The National is in talks with Travelex about how and if it may continue to be involved in some form of promotion beyond 2007.

The fifth – and perhaps final – Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier opens next month with the already announced revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, starring Zoe Wanamaker and with Hytner now taking over from director Steven Pimlott, who died last night (See Today’s Other News). It will continue over the summer with the new screen-to-stage adaptation of A Matter of Life and Death, Marianne Elliott’s revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, starring Anne-Marie Duff, and a fourth production still to be announced.

This year, the scheme has also been extended to two productions already programmed for the NT Lyttelton (See News, 2 Nov 2006): Katie Mitchell’s tenth anniversary revival of Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life and modern South African classic Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, in which John Kani and Winston Ntshona recreate their roles 35 years on from their first performance.

The new 2007 season at the National will also feature new plays by Joe Penhall, Ayub Khan-Din, Simon Stephens and Matt Charman (formerly commercial manager at Whatsonstage.com); an adaptation of Michael Morpugo’s children’s book War Horse; Ian Rickson’s first production since stepping down as artistic director of the Royal Court; a new Much Ado About Nothing with Zoe Wanamaker and Simon Russell Beale as Beatrice and Benedick; and a line-up of other stars including Douglas Hodge, Tom Hollander, Alex Jennings, Larry Lamb, Meera Syal and Bollywood’s Harish Patel.

In the NT Olivier

Following The Rose Tattoo, which opens on 29 March 2007 (previews from 19 March), the Travelex £10 season gets into full gear with A Matter of Life and Death, based on the 1946 by Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 film about young airman Peter Carter (played by David Niven on screen) who survives a fatal jump thanks to an angelic blunder caused by an English pea-souper. It’s adapted by Tom Morris and Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice, who also directs. The cast includes Douglas Hodge (as the Doctor), Tristan Sturrock (Peter), Lyndsey Marshal (his beloved, June) and Theatre Vesturport’s Gisli Orn Gardarsson. It runs in rep from 10 May (previews from 3 May) to 21 June 2007.

Saint Joan is then due to join the Travelex rep from 11 July 2007 (See The Goss, 15 Jan 2007). George Bernard Shaw’s 1923 play tells the story of the 19-year-old French girl, made a Catholic saint after being burnt at the stake by the English in Rouen in 1431. In the title role, Anne-Marie Duff, about to open in Restoration comedy The Soldiers' Fortune at the Young Vic, follows in the footsteps of Sybil Thorndike (for whom the part was created), Uta Hagen, Joan Plowright and Judi Dench.

Further ahead in the Olivier, another Marianne Elliott production, Nick Stafford’s adaptation of Morpugo’s children’s book War Horse, is in the now-annual tradition, à la His Dark Materials and Coram Boy, of a sweeping family epic for Christmas. The collaboration with South African puppet company Handspring, which views the First World War through the eyes of a horse, opens on 17 October 2007 (previews from 8 October) and continues in rep through to February 2008.

In December (exact dates still tbc), the Olivier will also play host to the Wanamaker-Russell Beale-led Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Hytner.

In the NT Lyttelton

The first new production in the NT Lyttelton will be the premiere of East Is East author Ayub Khan-Din’s new play Rafta, Rafta…, which is based on Bill Naughton’s 1963 play All in Good Time about newlyweds who, while living with the groom’s parents, feel too inhibited to consummate their marriage. Khan-Din sets the story amongst a modern British-Asian family. The cast, directed by Hytner, features Meera Syal (Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at Number 42 on TV, Bombay Dreams on stage) and Harish Patiel, star of more than 80 Bollywood films and a regular at the Indian National Theatre. Rafta, Rafta… opens 26 April 2007 (previews from 19 April).

Howard Davies directs Maxim Gorky’s darkly comic 1902 play Philistines, in a new version by Andrew Upton, from 30 May 2007 (previews from 23 May). Amongst a restless bunch of young radicals, sometime law student Pyotr falls for the loose-living lodger while his sister Tanya carps on about the tedium of life and botches her own suicide. Rory Kinnear (currently in The Man of Mode in the Olivier) is Pyotr, with Ruth Wilson (BBC’s Jane Eyre) as Tanya.

Further ahead in the Lyttelton, Ian Rickson, who stepped down as Royal Court artistic director last month after the Sloane Square theatre’s year-long 50th anniversary season, directs Harold Pinter’s “lost” 1980 play The Hothouse in July; in October, Alex Jennings will play Garry Essendine in Noel Coward’s 1942 comedy Present Laughter; and in November, Katie Mitchell will direct Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Women of Troy.

In the NT Cottesloe

The new Cottesloe schedule opens on 29 March 2007 (previews from 5 April) with the world premiere of Joe Penhall’s Landscape with Weapon, directed by and performed by a cast including Tom Hollander (last seen on stage in The Hotel in Amsterdam at the Donmar in 2003), Julian Rhind-Tutt (The Madness of George III) and Jason Watkins. To his family’s horror, Ned reveals he’s the brains behind a new military technology. When the Ministry of Defence demands intellectual ownership, Ned starts to question himself. The production reunites director Roger Michell and the rest of the creative team from Penhall’s breakthrough play Blue/Orange, premiered at the NT in 2000: designer William Dudley and lighting designer Rick Fisher.

In June (exact dates still tbc), Sarah Frankcom will direct the premiere of The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder by Matt Charman, who won the Verity Bargate award for A Night at the Dogs. The cast features Larry Lamb (The Price), Sorcha Cusack, Steve John Shepherd and Clare Holman.

Further ahead in the Cottesloe, Paul Miller will direct The Enchantment by 19th-century Swedish author Victoria Benedictsson, in a new version by Clare Bayley; Anna Mackmin’s productions of Mark Ravenhill’s Citizenship and Enda Walsh’s Chatroom will return in the autumn ahead of a regional tour; and Marianne Elliott will direct the premiere of Simon Stephens’ latest play Harper Regan.

- by Terri Paddock