Michael Frayn's latest play Democracy has announced new dates at the National Theatre for 2004. The world premiere production - directed by Michael Blakemore is a sell-out at the NT Cottesloe, the theatre's smallest auditorium, where it has been playing in rep since 9 September 2003 (previews from 30 August).

It will continue at the Cottesloe until 30 December 2003 and then will return for a straight run at the larger NT Lyttelton, where tickets are now available for dates from 8 to 27 March 2004 with additional February performances to be announced shortly. Olivier Award winners Roger Allam (Summerfolk, Privates on Parade) and Conleth Hill (Stones in His Pockets) will continue in their roles as, respectively, West German chancellor Willy Brandt and his personal assistant Gunter Guillaume.

Another Frayn play that, like his multi award-winning Copenhagen, melds 20th-century European historical fact with fiction, Democracy is set in 1969 in West Germany where Brandt begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly 40 years. Always present but rarely noticed is Guillaume, who's a devoted PA to Brandt as well as a devoted spy for the East German Stasi secret police.

Allam and Hill are joined in the cast by Steven Pacey, Jonathan Coy, Paul Gregory, Paul Broughton, David Ryall, Glyn Grain, Nicholas Blane and Christopher Ettridge. The production is designed by Peter J Davison, with costumes by Sue Wilmington, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Neil Alexander.

Though exact dates for all have yet to be fixed, the National has also re-confirmed details about several other new productions scheduled for 2004 (See News, 23 Jan 2003).

Playwright David Hare will return to the National for the first time since 1997's Amy View with his new play about the transport chaos brought about by privatisation - and gross mismanagement - of the British railway network (See The Goss, 7 Jul 2003). Co-produced by the National and Out of Joint, whose artistic director Max Stafford-Clark will direct - The Permanent Way will run in repertory at the NT Cottesloe, from January to May 2003, as part of a UK-wide tour.

Also expected in the NT Cottesloe are: Marivaux's The False Servant, newly translated by Martin Crimp and directed by the Almeida's former joint artistic director Jonathann Kent; Nikolai Erdman's lost comedy The Mandate, adapted and directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by his long-time Cheek by Jowl partner Nick Ormerod; and a stage adaptation of 1970s MGM cult classic Theatre of Blood, devised by and co-produced with Improbable Theatre, whose founders Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch who also collaborated on the multi award-winning "junk opera" Shockheaded Peter.

In the NT Olivier, Hytner's own much-anticipated two-part Christmastime staging of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials will be followed in April of next year by Rostand's class comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, freely adapted by Irish poet Derek Mahon, with Irishman Stephen Rea in the title role, directed by Howard Davies.

- by Terri Paddock