The National Theatre has announced programme details for new productions in its first booking period of 2008, covering January to March. Simon Russell Beale will star in NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s revival of George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 classic Major Barbara, which launches the sixth annual Travelex £10 Season in the NT Olivier (See News, 2 Oct 2007). Other highlights include new plays by Roy Williams, Dennis Kelly, Lin Coghlan and Lucinda Coxon and a new translation of avant-garde Austrian Peter Handke’s 1992 play The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other.

In the Olivier

Major Barbara opens the Travelex £10 Season on 4 March 2008 (previews from 26 February). Major Barbara works tirelessly for the poor at a Salvation Army shelter until a large but morally dubious donation is welcomed from her estranged father, Andrew Undershaft (Simon Russell Beale), a millionaire weapons manufacturer. But when she visits the factory itself, the well-fed workers in their thriving model town make a devastating case for arms trade profits and a whole new set of ideals.

Ahead of Major Barbara, Russell Beale opens in the NT Olivier next month, opposite Zoe Wanamaker, in Hytner’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, which joins the rep from 18 December (previews from 10 December). His many other NT credits include The Alchemist, The Life of Galileo, Volpone, Jumpers, Candide and Hamlet (Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards). His other credits include, at the Donmar Warehouse, The Philanthropist (Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards), and Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night (Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards); and on Broadway and in the West End, King Arthur in Monty Python musical Spamalot.

In the Lyttelton

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other - in a new translation by Meredith Oakes, directed by James Macdonald, whose revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is currently in the West End – joins the NT Lyttelton rep from 13 February 2008 (previews from 6 February). Written by the “great experimental figure of European theatre” Peter Handke, the piece features 450 characters performed by 25 actors – and no dialogue. The play without words is set in a bright empty town square, where figures dart across, the bizarre and the humdrum, fleetingly connected by proximity alone.

The NT cast will include Pip Carter, Lisa Dillon, Callum Dixon, Noma Dumezweni, Susannah Fielding, Amy Hall, Daniel Hawksford, Mairead McKinley, Daniel Poyser, Sara Stewart, Giles Terera, Jason Thorpe, Simon Wilson and Sarah Woodward. The production is designed by Hildegard Bechtler, with costumes by Moritz Junge, lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Mel Mercier and sound by Christopher Shutt.

In the Cottesloe

Lucinda Coxon’s new play Happy Now? receives its premiere in the NT Cottesloe on 24 January 2008 (previews from 16 January), in a production directed by Thea Sharrock, whose production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine has just opened at the Almeida. Olivia Williams (pictured) stars as Kitty who has a chance encounter at a conference hotel, which leaves her struggling to balance personal freedom with family life, fidelity and a testing job.

Williams’ stage credits include The Changeling, The Hotel in Amsterdam and, at the National, Love’s Labour’s Lost. She’s also well known for her films including The Sixth Sense, Rushmore, Peter Pan, The Postman and The Heart of Me. She’s joined in Happy Now? by Jonathan Cullen, Emily Joyce, Anne Reid (Into the Woods, The York Realist, Epitaph for George Dillon on stage, The Mother on screen), Dominic Rowan and Stanley Townsend.

Following the success of Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship, a new trio of plays for teenagers – this time written by Roy Williams, Dennis Kelly and Lin Coghlan – is launched from 28 February 2008 (previews from 16 February). Each under an hour long, they’re billed as “cool, honest snapshots of life in the transition to adulthood”.

In Williams’ Baby Girl, Kelle is 13 and still a virgin and worries if sleeping with wide-boy wannabe Nathan will prove a step too far. Kelly’s DNA centres on a group of teens who do something really bad, then panic and cover the whole thing up, growing closer in the process. And in Coghlan’s The Miracle, a canal bursts its banks, delivering a holy statue – and new skills – to 12-year-old Veronica. Originally developed for the Connections programme, all three are directed by Paul Miller.

- by Terri Paddock