Former National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn will return to the NT for the first time since his departure in 2004 to direct the opening production of next year’s Travelex £10 Season in the Olivier. Nunn’s revival of Peter Shaffer’s 1964 play The Royal Hunt of the Sun - which was the first new work to be staged by the National company under Laurence Olivier at the Old Vic – will open on 12 April 2006 (previews from 30 March).

Intent on the conquest of Peru, Spanish soldier Pizarro entices recruits with the promise of inconceivable riches, while the Church claims the cause for Christianity. The ensuing clash between the two cultures leaves thousands of unarmed Inca troops slaughtered and sparks an intense battle of wills between the sun-god and his captor, as the Spaniards plunder for gold.

Shaffer’s other plays include Black Comedy, Equus, Amadeus, Yonadab (all previously presented at the National), The Gift of the Gorgon and Five Finger Exercise. The new production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun will be designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Paul Groothuis. No casting has yet been announced.

Nunn was artistic director of the National from 1997 to 2003, during his numerous award-winning productions included Arcadia, Not About Nightingales, Oklahoma!, The Merchant of Venice, Troilus and Cressida, Summerfolk, Albert Speer, The Cherry Orchard, My Fair Lady, The Coast of Utopia, A Streetcar Named Desire, Anything Goes and Love’s Labour’s Lost. He was succeeded by current NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner in April 2003. Since then, Nunn’s productions elsewhere have included The Lady from the Sea at the Almeida, The Woman in White in the West End and about to open on Broadway, and at the Old Vic Hamlet and, currently starring Kevin Spacey, Richard II.

Although no further productions in the 2006 reduced price period have yet been announced, the National have confirmed today that foreign exchange company Travelex has renewed its sponsorship of the £10 Season for a further three years from next year. Launched when Hytner took over in 2003, when it was named the Theatre Event of the Year in the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the season comprises four productions running in rep for half the year, during which two thirds of the seats are reduced to £10 (with the remainder at £27.50). Over the past three years, the season has attracted 660,000 people to the National, of whom 155,000 have been first-time visitors.

In a statement released today, Lloyd Dorfman, Travelex’s executive chairman, said: "I am delighted to announce the renewal of our sponsorship of the Travelex £10 Season. The scheme has successfully attracted many newcomers to the National by offering world class theatre at an unbelievable price. This initiative is closely aligned to the Travelex business, sharing our brand values of innovation, value and service which is why the decision to extend the partnership for another three years was an easy one to make."

The NT’s Hytner commented: “I am delighted that Travelex will continue their generous collaboration with us. The Travelex £10 Season has become an established beacon for thousands of theatregoers, both newcomers and regulars, and it’s great that we can continue to create theatre that is affordable, contemporary and accessible.”

- by Terri Paddock