National Theatre 2017 autumn press conference

Philip Fisher

At a conference on 3 October 2017, Rufus Norris took the opportunity to unveil the National Theatre’s plans for the coming year both on home ground and elsewhere. He also emphasised the theatre’s concentration on diversity with a number of new ventures to spread the message is widely as possible.

Two of the year’s biggest highlights will take place in the Lyttelton Theatre.

Sam Mendes has agreed to direct The Lehman Trilogy, by Italian playwright Stefano Massini in a new English adaptation by Ben Power. This apparently follows the fortunes of the eponymous brothers from the founding of their bank in the mid-19th century through to its demise in 2008.

An old favourite, Sir David Hare, will write a new play about the Labour Party entitled I’m not Running directed by Australian, Neil Armfield.

In addition, Joe Hill-Gibbins will direct a new revival of Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell and Polly Stern has been commissioned to write a contemporary version of (Miss) Julie directed by Carrie cracked all starring Vanessa Kirby.

The Olivier Theatre also has much to offer. Ian Rickson is to direct Colin Morgan in Brian Friel’s Translations, while Patrick Marber is both adapting and directing Exit the King by Ionesco, starring Rhys Ifans and Indira Varma.

Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are to play Antony and Cleopatra under Simon Godwin, while there is also a brief appearance from a production of Pericles, launching a new community-led project given the title Public Acts, which will feature half a dozen professional actors and up to 200 members of the public who are likely to thoroughly enjoy their 15 minutes of fame on a main stage. More details of this project are given below.

Berfore these, Norris himself will direct Macbeth starring Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff in what remarkably will be the director’s first encounter with Shakespeare in 25 years.

The Dorfman Theatre will feature a number of playwrights making their NT debuts.

Tricycle director Indhu Rubasingham will direct a coproduction entitled The Great Wave by Frances Turnly. While the title might evoke Hokusai, the subject matter feels very much up-to-date as it looks at the relationship between Japan and North Korea.

Actress Natasha Gordon will be lucky enough to see her debut play set amidst the West Indian community, Nine Night opening at the National.

In a co-production with Theatre Clwyd, under its artistic director Tamara Harvey, Laura Wade makes her first appearance at the National with Home, I’m Darling starring Katherine Parkinson.

After great success at the Orange tree, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s satire from the States, An Octoroon also features, along with a children’s version of The Winter’s Tale directed by Justin Audibert.

Other Initiatives

Public Acts, which opens with Pericles, features a partnership based on ideas from The Public Theatre in New York, whose artistic director Oscar Eustis attended the press conference in a show of support.

The National’s version starts out by teaming up with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, while a series of other companies is already lined up to join in future.

ProFile is intended to help deaf and disabled actors to get their fair share of opportunities at the national and beyond.

Open Access Smart Capture is described in more detail in a separate article.

In an attempt to persuade children that theatre-going is cool, a schools tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is being launched.

The National is also making a conscious effort to reach parts of the country that are not currently as well served by theatres as they would like. This means that it will be touring to 40 venues in 36 towns and cities across the UK for a total of 115 playing weeks over the next 18 months or so.

In the vanguard will be tours of War Horse, People Places and Things, This House and Hedda Gabler. In addition, People Places and Things and Angels in America are both heading to New York.

NT Live also goes from strength to strength with productions from the South Bank but also elsewhere, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, two plays from the Bridge Theatre Young Marx and Julius Caesar, as well as the young Vic’s high profile Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.