After an acclaimed 1999-2000 inaugural season, the National Theatre's repertory company, the NT Ensemble, returns in the autumn with a new slate of productions in the Olivier and Cottesloe Theatres, including Shakespeare' s most famous love story, stage classics from Norwegian Henrik Ibsen and Irish writer JM Synge, a premiere of a new Pinter adaptation and a much-loved children's Christmas show.

The season kicks off in October in the Olivier Theatre with Ibsen's Peer Gynt, opening 24 October, and Romeo and Juliet, opening 26 October. Ibsen's verse drama about the adventurous journeys of an innocent young man was first performed in 1867, with music composed by Grieg. Here, it receives a new treatment, care of Frank McGuinness, and directed by Patrick Mason.

Romeo and Juliet follows the NT Ensemble's critical hits with Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and The Merchant of Venice. The tragedy is directed by former Young Vic artistic director Tim Supple, whose last production at the National was Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The title roles are performed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, currently appearing in Blue/Orange at the Cottesloe, and Charlotte Randle.

In other casting news, stage veteran Ronald Pickup will join the ensemble for both Peer Gynt and Romeo and Juliet. The star of The Rector's Wife and A Dry White Season last appeared at the National in David Hare's hit, Amy's View. The production, which also starred Judi Dench, subsequently transferred to the West End and Broadway, and earned Pickup an Olivier nomination for Best Supporting Performance.

The NT Ensemble stages the premiere of Harold Pinter and Di Trevis's version of Michel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in November. Proust's epic, partly autobiographical work about a man's physical and emotional life journey is directed by Trevis whose previous work includes Inadmissable Evidence at the National. Remembrance of Things Past opens at the Cottesloe Theatre on 23 November.

The first NT Ensemble production of 2001 will be JM Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, which opens in the Cottesloe on 22 February. The Irish classic, first performed at Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1907, is about a man who claims that he has killed his father and becomes a hero in his village as a result. The Playboy of the Western World is directed by Conall Morrison whose previous productions of Tarry Flynn and The Colleen Bawn have both visited the National.

The NT Ensemble's shows to date - including Troilus and Cressida, Candide, Money, Summerfolk and The Merchant of Venice - have received numerous accolades and awards. At the 2000 Laurence Olivier Awards, NT Ensemble productions won no fewer than six Oliviers between them, with NT artistic director Trevor Nunn personally scooping his third Best Director award, after the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards, for The Merchant of Venice and Summerfolk.