As previously tipped (See The Goss, 21 Jul 2006), Ralph Fiennes (pictured) will return to the National Theatre in 2008 to take the title role in a new production of Oedipus, directed by former Almeida joint artistic director Jonathan Kent.

At a press briefing this morning to launch the National Theatre’s 2005-6 Annual Report (See Today’s Other News for report analysis and operational plans), artistic director Nicholas Hytner confirmed the production and also revealed future programming highlights including revivals of The Man of Mode and Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, starring Fiona Shaw, as well as new plays by Nicholas Wright, David Hare, Ayub Khan Din and Kneehigh’s Emma Rice. He also announced that the National’s multi award-winning premiere production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys will - at last – transfer to the West End.

Though exact dates have not yet been set, Oedipus, Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy about a man who kills his father and has sex with his mother, will run in the NT Olivier in autumn 2008 ahead of an international tour. Fiennes has just finished a Broadway run in Kent’s revival of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and has previously appeared in Kent’s celebrated Almeida productions of Coriolanus, Richard II and Hamlet. The actor was last seen at the National in Christopher Hampton’s 2003 play The Talking Cure and was last seen on the London stage in 2004 leading a 100-strong cast in Deborah Warner’s epic staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Barbican.

In January 2007, Deborah Warner will also be at the National, directing Fiona Shaw in Happy Days in the NT Lyttelton. In Samuel Beckett's 1961 stage classic, a virtual monologue, Shaw will play sand-buried optimist Winnie, previously famously played by the likes of Billie Whitelaw, Peggy Ashcroft, Madeleine Renaud, Irene Worth and, in the West End in 2003, Felicity Kendal.

In February 2007, Hytner himself will direct George Etheredge’s 1776 comedy of manners The Man of Mode in the NT Olivier. That same month the NT Cottesloe will see the world premiere of The Reporter, a new play by Nicholas Wright about the suicide of 1970s television journalist James Mossman. It will be directed by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre, who directed Wright’s multi award-winning Vincent in Brixton at the National, in the West End and on Broadway. Ben Chaplin will star as Mossman.

In September 2007 in the NT Olivier, newly appointed associate director Marianne Elliott will bring Michael Morpugo’s children’s novel War Horse to the stage, adapted by Nick Stafford. The collaboration with South African puppet company Handspring views the First World War through the eyes of a horse (See News, 15 Feb 2006). The Olivier will also house the premiere of Emma Rice’s A Matter of Life and Death, based on the 1946 film in which David Niven plays a British wartime aviator who cheats death.

Later in the year, Hytner will direct an as-yet unnamed new play by East Is East’s Ayub Khan Din. The artistic director also confirmed that, following its current run on Broadway, where it scooped six of this year’s Tony Awards, his production of The History Boys will at last transfer to the West End, under the National’s own steam. Since premiering at the NT in May 2004, Alan Bennett’s play has returned twice to the National and toured the UK and the world. A film version, also directed by Hytner, is released next month.

Finally, following a fairly public rift, Hytner revealed that the National has made amends with playwright David Hare, who was disgruntled about the NT’s limited scheduling of his 2004 docudrama Stuff Happens. While Hare has premiered 13 plays at the National, he has chosen to launch his next new play, The Vertical Hour, on Broadway later this year, where Sam Mendes will direct (See News, 23 Mar 2006). When asked about the rift today, Hytner nodded and said: “He was pissed off and we were sorry.” However, Hare is now under commission to write another new play for the National.

- by Terri Paddock