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Cooke Comedy of Errors Leads Court's NT Charge

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Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke will make his National Theatre debut in 2011 with a new production of The Comedy of Errors, running in the NT Olivier. It will be Cooke’s first new Shakespeare production since taking over at the Royal Court in 2007, after serving for several years as an associate director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner revealed his success in luring Cooke to the South Bank at a press briefing coinciding with the publication of the National’s 2009-10 Annual Report, which shows the NT in rude good health, thanks largely to the West End transfer of War Horse, which started life in the Olivier in 2007 (See Today's Other News for more financial analysis).

Ahead of The Comedy of Errors, the 2011 £10 Season in the NT Olivier will comprise four new productions. As previously reported, Howard Davies’ revival of The Cherry Orchard, starring Zoe Wanamaker, will open the annual reduced-price ticket programme. It will be followed by Ibsen’s rarely seen – and longest – play Emperor and Galilean (1873), about the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate and his wrestling with Christianity, adapted by Ben Power and Mike Bartlett and directed by Jonathan Kent.

The £10 Season will conclude with Bijan Sheibani’s production of Arnold Wesker’s 1957 debut play The Kitchen, set in the frantic basement kitchen of a large restaurant. The fourth offering, which Hytner was unable to disclose today, is likely to be “a big new play”, sharing Emperor and Galilean themes of “faith and politics”.

Also in 2011, the National will renew its relationship with the Southbank Sinfonia orchestra, with whom it had a 2008 success with Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, to stage St Matthew’s Passion, Jonathan Miller’s dramatisation of JS Bach’s famous piece.

Other highlights for next year which Hytner previewed today will include the previously reported production of A Servant to Two Masters, in a “really” new version by Richard Bean, which will star James Corden and be directed by Hytner.

Ahead of making his directorial debut at the National, Dominic Cooke’s Royal Court is leading the charge in a resource-sharing initiative between the National and London’s other main subsidised houses, all bracing themselves for the government’s forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October 2010, with fears that cuts to the arts may be as high as 25% to 35%.

The National’s annual subsidy from the Arts Council was £19.7 million for 2010/11, making it by far the largest theatre recipient of government funding. Hytner said today that he recognises that, with that, comes a responsibility to the rest of the sector.

As part of the proposed new scheme, he said the NT would invest in the administrative staff necessary to make the National’s extensive resources – including legal, human resources, IT, storage and contracting support - available to other subsidised houses, who will struggle more in the face of cuts.

A spokeswoman from the Royal Court told Whatsonstage.com the plan was currently in the “germination” stage, but that Cooke’s company and other theatres would move “swiftly” in response to the cuts they all know are coming. The scheme should help “share best practices and reduce costs” amongst all the participating theatres.

Other producing houses involved in the talks are: the Almeida, Donmar Warehouse, Tricycle, Hampstead, Lyric Hammersmith, Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Bush, Soho, Young Vic and Greenwich theatres and Battersea Arts Centre.


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