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Hytner criticises Olympic doom-mongers at NT annual report launch

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The National Theatre released its annual report today (1 October 2012), detailing finances for the period March 2011 to March 2012.

The headline figures are once again impressive: attendances averaged 92% at the South Bank venue over the 12 months, while the West End run of War Horse at the New London averaged 99%.

The NT had another strong financial year under the watch of artistic director Nicholas Hytner and executive director Nick Starr. It generated a record income of £80million - more than double that of ten years ago; 56% of this represented box office receipts, while 23% comprised Arts Council funding.

At today's press briefing, Hytner drew attention to the National's track record for turning subsidised shows into box office successes. "If you set out to create hit shows, you'll fail" he said, revealing that runaway hit One Man, Two Guvnors had merely been an attempt to stage "something light" to counterbalance the "rather bleak" productions running in the other venues at the time.

He issued a strongly-worded riposte against the government's ongoing programme of arts funding cuts, accusing the coalition of "neglecting" the arts and causing a "double blow" to regional theatres. Referring to the success of the London Olympics and Cultural Olympiad, he said it was "impossible now to make the argument" for cutting funding to the arts.

Hytner also criticised the doom-mongers in the run up to the Olympics who had predicted a "bloodbath" for West End venues during the Games. "I, along with every other shop keeper and business owner in the West End, got sick of hearing the Mayor's voice," he said. "In the end we had a spectacular summer."

One Man's NT Live record

The National staged 23 new productions over the period, giving 1,746 performances in London, employing a total of 526 actors and musicians. Highlights included revivals of The Comedy of Errors starring Lenny Henry, 18th century comedy She Stoops to Conquer and Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen.

New works included Mike Leigh's Grief, Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork's verbatim musical London Road and the year's biggest hit, Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors, which subsequently transferred to the West End and Broadway. Guvnors also proved the most successful NT Live broadcast to date, seen by 54,000 people worldwide including 32,000 in the UK.

The NT's coffers were once again boosted by the continued success of War Horse, which entered its third year at the New London Theatre and is now booking until October 2013. The production, adapted from Michael Morpurgo's novel, will open in Australia and Berlin in the coming year and will embark on a ten-month tour of the UK and Ireland in autumn 2013.

Hytner also offered a tantalising glimpse of next year's programming, confirming rumours that Tori Amos' new musical is now on the "front burner" and that a revival of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II is also in the offing.

However, he refused to be pinned down on a leaving date, saying he had "nothing to add" to previous indications that he will continue until the end of 2014, when the next phase of the NT Future work has been completed, including redevelopment of the Cottesloe.

Read our tweets from the NT's annual report conference in the CoverItLive box below...


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