Three acclaimed plays from the National’s repertory over the past two years – Alan Bennett’s multi award-winning The History Boys, the Complicite co-production of Measure for Measure and Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years - will return for new seasons in the NT Lyttelton over the coming months.

First up, The History Boys will re-enter the Lyttelton rep for 52 performances only 2 December 2005 to 1 February 2006. The production will predominantly feature the current touring cast, headed by Desmond Barrit as unconventional history teacher Hector in a boys’ sixth-form college. Members of the original cast – such as three times Best Actor Richard Griffiths and double Award winner Samuel Barnett – may return for some performances at the end of the run, although no schedule has yet been set.

Griffiths and all of the original boys will then embark on an international tour to Hong Kong (14 to 18 February), New Zealand (24 to 28 February) and Australia (4 March to 8 April), culminating with 20 weeks at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre (See News, 27 Jul 2005).

The History Boys received its world premiere on 18 May 2004 (previews from 8 May) at the NT Lyttelton where, after extensions, it continued until 26 April 2005. Set in the 1980s, the play questions the purpose and means of education. In a school where the headmaster cares only about exam results, a bunch of excitable sixth form boys go about their pursuit of the important things: sex, sport and a university place. The current, Barrit-led UK tour concludes on 26 November in Milton Keynes prior to its London return.

Amongst The History Boys’ shedload of awards to date are: Best Play at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards, Best New Play at the Olivier Awards and Best New Comedy at the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. In addition, Griffiths won a hat trick of Best Actor prizes at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Oliviers; Barnett won both the Best London Newcomer and Best Supporting Actor in the Awards (See News, 15 Feb 2005); and Hytner won the Olivier for Best Director.

For the UK tour, Desmond Barrit (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, HMS Pinafore, Accidental Death of an Anarchist) will lead the cast as Hector. The company will also include Bruce Alexander, James Cartwright, Philip Correia, Marc Elliott, Diane Fletcher, James King, Tobias Menzies, Thomas Morrison, Matt Smith, Kenny Thompson, Steven Webb and Samuel Yates. The tour is directed by Simon Cox, based on Hytner’s original production.

Currently enjoying a sell-out season in the NT Cottesloe, Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years will enter the larger Lyttelton for an open-ended run from 25 March 2006 (See The Goss, 22 Sep 2005), following its regional tour from 7 February to 18 March 2006, when it visits Salford, Newcastle, Warwick, Malvern and Cambridge (See News, 27 Sep 2005).

The writer-director’s first new stage play in 12 years, Two Thousand Years sold out its initial season at the NT Cottesloe long before it opened on 15 September 2005, following delayed previews from 10 September, 18 weeks of rehearsal and months of hype and speculation about its title and content.

Set in modern London, the domestic drama revolves around the strained relationships in a middle-class Jewish family, whose liberal-minded parents are shocked when their son becomes religious. But which views are more rigid: the staunchly non-secular ones or those of a new-found faith? In Leigh’s own words, “the play explores, in a gentle tragi-comic way, a wide range of issues, including politics, religion, identity and the vexed question of Israel and the Middle East.”

The eight-strong cast comprises Adam Godley, Samantha Spiro, John Burgess, Ben Caplan (pictured), Allan Corduner, Caroline Gruber, Nitzan Sharron and Alexis Zegerman. The production continues its sell-out repertory run at the NT Cottesloe until 31 January 2006.

Finally, the Complicite co-production of Measure for Measure will play in the NT Lyttelton rep for five weeks only from 15 February to 18 March 2006 (previews from 10 February). Directed by Complicite co-founder and artistic director Simon McBurney, it was first seen in May 2004 as part of that year’s Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier and subsequently toured internationally. Naomi Frederick will reprise her role as Isabella with Angus Wright playing Angelo, the part for which original star Paul Rhys won a Critics’ Circle Award.

- by Terri Paddock