Playwrights Mark Ravenhill (pictured), Moira Buffini, Gregory Burke and Tanika Gupta have penned a collection of current affairs-inspired reportage monologues to be premiered next month at the National Theatre (See The Goss, 27 Apr 2004). The five-part series, under the collective title National Headlines, will run alongside performances of Stuff Happens, David Hare’s political drama about the lead-up to the Iraq War, now playing in the NT Olivier.

In contrast to Stuff Happens, which largely follows decisions taken at the highest levels of government, the new 20-minute solo pieces, performed by members of the company (casting still to be confirmed), will focus on the personal experiences of ordinary people. The material is adapted from interviews with individuals directly affected by five issues – school league tables, foot-and-mouth disease, asylum seekers, consumer debt and the National Health Service – that routinely hit the headlines.

Each performance will be followed by a discussion about the points raised, with participating panels comprising politicians, journalists, workers and campaigners posing a range of perspectives.

Ravenhill’s Education kicks off the series on 12 October 2004. With the growing pressures posed by league tables and government policy, Education reveals the drastic and controversial measures teachers take to produce results. Ravenhill’s stage credits include Mother Clap’s Molly House, Shopping and Fucking, Some Explicit Polaroids and Handbag.

Buffini’s Asylum, presented on 18 October 2004, gives the personal account of a refugee’s experience within the British asylum system and their vision for the way forward. Buffini’s previous plays are Dinner, Loveplay, Silence, Gabriel, Blavatsky’s Tower and Jordan.

With rampant consumerism contributing to growing middle class debts, Burke’s Debt, performed on 19 October 2004, asks if debt is becoming a national addiction. Burke’s plays include Gagarin Way and The Straits. Gupta’s Health, performed on 21 October 2004, follows one mother’s journey through the NHS, reeling from spiralling waiting lists and alarming accusations of negligence and malpractice. Gupta’s credits include Hobson’s Choice, Inside Out, Sanctuary and The Waiting Room.

The fifth monologue, which follows Education on 14 October 2004, is Farming, written by director Paul Jepson, who is also coordinating the National Headlines series. It examines how one British farmer was affected by foot-and-mouth, an epidemic that contributed to the comprehensive and ongoing overhaul of the farming industry.

- by Terri Paddock