Democracy - which premiered at the National in 2003 and went on to award-winning success in the West End and on Broadway - was meant to be Michael Frayn’s last play. The playwright, now 74, told NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner as much. “This summer, Michael Frayn told me he’d retired,” Hytner recounted at this week’s press briefing to launch the National Theatre’s 2006-7 Annual Report (See News, 2 Oct 2007). “He threatened that Democracy was his last play, but it absolutely isn’t.”

Hytner discovered Frayn’s change of heart when director Michael Blakemore - who has helmed numerous Frayn premieres, including Democracy, over the years – came to Hytner with the script of Frayn’s “big” new play. Hytner has now programmed the piece to open at the NT in 2008.

Speaking to journalists, Hytner said that, as part of his job, he took enormous pleasure in “re-encouraging this remarkable group of experienced playwrights that we have”, amongst them Frayn and David Hare, who will also premiere a new play at the National next year as well as direct the Broadway transfer of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking starring Vanessa Redgrave. “Playwrights are supposed to have golden periods when they’re young and then tail off, but that’s not happening with these guys,” Hytner marvelled.