Theatre News

Rufus Norris announces first season as National Theatre artistic director

Chiwetel Ejiofor will return to the venue, and the season features new plays from Caryl Churchill and Patrick Marber plus a new musical by Damon Albarn

Tessa Ross and Rufus Norris
Tessa Ross and Rufus Norris
© National Theatre

Rufus Norris has today announced plans for his first year as artistic director of the National Theatre, which features a raft of new work, including a musical by Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini, and sees Chiwetel Ejiofor returning to the venue in a production of Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy.

Norris said of his programming: "The work we make over the coming years will strive to be as open, as diverse, as collaborative and as national as possible."

Everyman will open the season, running from 22 April 2015 in the Olivier Theatre. Featuring some of the 100,000 Travelex £15 tickets that will be available, the production will be broadcast as part of NT Live on 16 July 2015. Chiwetel Ejiofor will play the title role in Rufus Norris' production.

New work

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor
© Dan Wooller

Norris has appointed several new associates; lighting designer Paule Constable and directors Dominic Cooke, Tom Morris and Lyndsey Turner; Marianne Elliott and Ben Power will continue as associate directors. Norris said at today's press conference that the National Theatre is "committed to the work of living writers".

In a collaboration with the Manchester International Festival, Norris will direct a new musical by Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini called Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, it will run in Manchester from 29 June to 12 July 2015 before transferring to the National Theatre in November.

The season features new and old work from Caryl Churchill, with her 1976 play Light Shining in Buckinghamshire running in the Lyttelton Theatre from 15 April 2015, directed by Lyndsey Turner, and Here We Go, a new play directed by Dominic Cooke running from November in the Dorfman Theatre.

Patrick Marber's The Red Lion, set in the world of non-league football, will run in the Dorfman Theatre from 3 June and will be directed by Ian Rickson, while the season also sees new plays from Alice Birch, (We Want You to Watch running in the Temporary Theatre from 11 June to 11 July 2015); Duncan Macmillan (People, Places and Things running in the Dorfman Theatre from August); and Wallace Shawn (Evening at the Talk House, running in the Dorfman Theatre from November).

Re-imagined classics

As well as the new version of Everyman, the season features several classic plays. George Farquhar's The Beaux's Stratagem opens in the Olivier Theatre on 19 May 2015, directed by Simon Godwin.

Looking into the Summer, the season features Patrick Marber's adaptation of Turgenev's Three Days in the Country, running in the Lyttelton Theatre from July, as well as Sally Cookson's staging of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, which originally ran in two parts at Bristol Old Vic. It will run in the Lyttelton Theatre from September before returning to Bristol in January 2016.

Anne-Marie Duff will lead the cast of DH Lawrence's Husbands and Sons, adapted by Ben Power, in a co-production with Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre. Power is adapting Lawrence’s trilogy of mining dramas, The Daughter-in-Law, A Collier’s Friday Night and The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd into a single play. It will run at the Dorfman Theatre from October, before heading to Manchester in February 2016.

November will feature a version of As You Like It in the Olivier Theatre directed by Polly Findlay, as well as Roger Michell's production of Harley Granville Barker's political tragedy Wastetipped to star Dominic West – in the Lyttelton Theatre.

Anne-Marie Duff - Strange Interlude at the National, Lyttelton
Anne-Marie Duff, pictured here in Strange Interlude at the National, will return next year

Modern revivals

Tricycle Theatre artistic director Indhu Rubasingham will direct Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf**ker with the Hat in the Lyttelton Theatre from 10 June. The play, which received six Tony nominations when it premiered on Broadway in 2011, receives its UK premiere.

Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good directed by Nadia Fall will run in the Olivier Theatre from August, and in January 2016 the Lyttelton Theatre will see the first major London revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, directed by Dominic Cooke.

The Temporary Theatre will host a tenth anniversary revival of Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree which will see Crouch playing opposite a different actor each night, who has not seen or read a word of the play previously. It runs from 23 June to 11 July 2015.

Finally in the Temporary Theatre will be Alexander Zeldin's Beyond Caring, which premiered at the Yard Theatre last year, running from 28 April to 16 May, and a work by Islington Community Theatre titled Brainstorm, running from 21 to 25 July 2015.

Collaborators and musicals

Norris quipped to the gathered journalists this morning that he hoped his first season would appeal to "every child, every woman and every man".

Asked by WhatsOnStage whether he would seek to continue Nicholas Hytner's artistic associations with the likes of Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard and Simon Russell Beale, he replied that he had no intention of "kicking [them] out of the door" and had already had several "fruitful" conversations, including with Tom Stoppard whose new play The Hard Problem premieres in the Dorfman Theatre next week.

Norris also hinted that his collaboration with Damon Albarn on would be part of a longer-term commitment to musical theatre. He added that his film version of London Road is now complete and will be released in cinemas later this year.

Meanwhile, as part of the National's ongoing education work, Tessa Ross announced that three NT Live productions – Frankenstein, Othello and Hamlet – will be released free on-demand in schools this autumn. And the National's new Clore Learning Centre will offer "events and courses for all ages, exploring theatre-making from playwriting to technical skills, often led by the NT's own artists and staff".