Theatre News

David Hare Premieres Play About Recession at NT

The National Theatre today announced a previously unscheduled addition to its autumn season: the world premiere of a new play by David Hare written as an “urgent and immediate” response to the current worldwide recession.
The Power of Yes: A dramatist seeks to understand the financial crisis will join the rep in the NT Lyttelton on 6 October 2009 (previews from 29 September) and, in keeping with the belt-tightening effects of the recession, pricing from the £10 Season in the NT Olivier will be carried over for the new production. For every performance, there will be 240 tickets priced at just £10, with the rest at £25 and £35.

On 15 September 2008, capitalism came to a grinding halt. As sub-prime mortgages and toxic securities continued to dominate the headlines, this spring the National’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner asked Hare to respond with a play that sought to find out what had happened, and why.

The Power of Yes is still being written so details are scarce, but it follows meetings between Hare and many key players from the financial world, and it’s billed as “not so much a play as a jaw-dropping account of how, as the banks went bust, capitalism was replaced by a socialism that bailed out the rich alone”.

Over the years to date, David Hare has premiered 14 original plays at the National to date, including Stuff Happens, The Permanent Way, Amy’s View, Skylight, The Secret Rapture, The Absence of War, Murmuring Judges, Racing Demon, Pravda (written with Howard Brenton), Plenty and last year’s Gethsemane. He also recently performed his companion pieces Berlin and Wall – meditations on Germany’s restored capital and the Israel/Palestine separation barrier – at the National and Royal Court respectively.

Unlike Berlin, Wall and his earlier monologue Via Dolorosa, Hare will not perform The Power of Us. It will be a fully cast and staged production, directed by Angus Jackson – who has previously directed Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina’s Kitchen and Fix Up at the NT and is an associate director at Chichester Festival, where his credits include Wallenstein, Funny Girl, The Waltz of the Toreadors, The Father and Carousel – and designed by Bob Crowley.

Further details have also been confirmed for the other previously announced new productions in the National’s July to October 2009 schedule (See New, 14 Jan 2009).

The final production in the £10 Travelex Season in the NT Olivier, Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 polemic Mother Courage and Her Children, starring Fiona Shaw and directed by Deborah Warner, will join the rep on 16 September 2009 (previews from 9 September). Shaw and Warner have previously worked together on Happy Days, Richard II, The Good Person of Sichuan and The Powerbook at the National, as well as Medea (West End and Broadway), Electra, Hedda Gabler and The Wasteland.

Mother Courage is translated by Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Caroline, Or Change) and designed by Tom Pye, with costumes by Ruth Myers and lighting by Jean Kalman. The next new production in the NT Olivier will be Mark Ravenhill’s new epic family adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s 2008 children’s novel Nation, which opens on 24 November 2009 (previews from 11 November).

Nation continuing in the tradition of the NT’s past Christmas successes in the NT Olivier with adaptations of three other children’s novels, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy and Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. Coram Boy’s Melly Still directs the new production, and co-designs the set with Mark Friend. The cast will include Gary Carr and Emily Taaffe.

Set in an alternate world of the 1870s, Nation centres on a South Seas boy and a “proper” English girl marooned together on an island called Nation after a devastating tsunami. Though he hasn’t been involved day to day, Terry Pratchett, who announced his Alzheimer’s disease in December 2007, is very “supportive and interested” in the project, according to NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner. Fourteen of Pratchett’s popular Discworld novels have previously crossed over to the stage, as have Truckers and his earlier children’s book Only You Can Save Mankind.

In the NT Cottesloe, Our Class, a new play by Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek, in a version by Ryan Craig directed by Bijan Sheibani, will premiere on 23 September 2009 (previews from 16 September). In Poland in 1925, a group of schoolchildren declare their ambitions, but as they grow up and their country is torn apart by a succession of invading armies, fervent nationalism develops, betrayals and violence escalate until these ordinary people are driven to commit a monstrous act. The cast includes Tamzin Griffin, Amanda Hale, Edward Hogg, Sinead Matthews and Jason Watkins.

And in the NT Lyttelton, there will be a series of 6pm performances of Caryl Churchill’s Three More Sleepless Nights (ten dates only from 30 July to 27 August) and Richard Nelson’s monologue adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (7, 14 and 21 September only). The actor performing the latter is still to be confirmed; the company for the former comprises Lindsey Coulson, Ian Hart, Hattie Morahan and Paul Ready, directed by Gareth Machin.