Joint Chief Executives Rufus Norris and Lisa Berger welcomed journalists to their announcement of the coming season in the gigantic Gorby Rehearsal Room, more like a gymnasium than a backspace rehearsal area.
Following the storm after the last season announcement, when more by coincidence than design there were no female playwrights or directors, the ladies are making a big comeback to put the theatre back on track towards its 50-50 gender goal.
The season is also characterised by the return of many National Theatre favourites, along with a few hot newcomers.
Melly Still is to bring the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel sequence My Brilliant Friend by April De Angelis, which was a great hit at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack take the leading roles.
Jeremy Herrin is to direct new version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s blackly comic masterpiece The Visit, or The Old Lady Comes To Call from Tony Kushner starring Lesley Manville.
Jack Absolute Flies Again is a new play based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals relocated in time to the Battle of Britain. It will be co-written by Richard Bean and Oliver Chris (who worked so successfully together on One Man, Two Guvnors) and directed by Thea Sharrock.
Popular writer / poet / performer Kate Tempest will make her NT debut with an adaptation of Philoctetes by Sophocles entitled Paradise. Ian Rickson directs a cast led by Lesley Sharp.
Although it had already been announced, the bones have been fleshed out with regard to Three Sisters in a new Nigerian version from Inua Ellams.
The co-production with Fuel is directed by Nadia Fall and will tell Chekhov’s story from the perspective of the Biafran Civil War in 1968.
Lucy Kirkwood’s The Welkin is to be directed by James Macdonald and takes viewers back to a 1759 murder trial in Suffolk. Maxine Peake leads a which cast also includes Cecilia Noble.
Moira Buffini returns to the National with Manor, a play that will be directed by her sister Fiona and star Nancy Carroll.
Anyone who saw Robert Lepage’s epic masterpiece The Seven Streams of the River Ota in 1996 will never have forgotten an experience that stretched to seven hours but was totally intoxicating. A new addition returns in March 2020 as part of a world tour.
Alexander Zeldin presents Faith, Hope and Charity, the third part of his trilogy about people forgotten by society. Diyan Zora directs.
Annie Baker has made the National her London home and it will host latest play, The Antipodes. The playwright and designer Chloe Lamford will co-direct a British cast led by Conleth Hill.
The Dorfman Christmas offering is an adaptation by Joel Horwood of Neil Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Katy Rudd, who has worked closely on many of Marianne Elliott’s recent National Theatre productions, directs.
The multi-talented Clint Dyer has co-written Death of England with Roy Williams and also directs a solo performance by Ralph Spall. By doing so, Dyer will become the first black British artist to have acted, written and directed at the National.
In addition, Francesca Martinez will be directed by Ian Rickson in All of Us, a play that she has written and stars in about the difficulties of living with cerebral palsy and Nadia Fall has penned and will direct a verbatim play Welcome to Iran.
Following its initial success with an acclaimed production of Pericles, Public Acts will feature co-productions of As You like It with the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and The Caucasian Chalk Circle with Cast, Doncaster. Both productions will take place at the regional theatres.
National Theatre Collection
In addition to various touring productions, previously announced outings to new theatres in White City and at Wembley and transfers to the West End and Broadway, the main off-stage announcement is the launch of National Theatre Collection.
This venture in partnership with Bloomsbury and ProQuest aims to make many NT Live productions available to libraries, schools, universities and the education sector around the world.
15 plays will be released in September with a similar number in March 2020. The list includes:
- Greek classics such as Medea by Euripides, in a contemporary adaptation by Ben Power, directed by Carrie Cracknell with Helen McCrory in the title role.
- Modern stagings of Shakespeare, such as Twelfth Night, directed by Simon Godwin, with Tamsin Greig in the role of Malvolia.
- 20th century classics such as Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs and the Young Vic’s production of Lorca’s Yerma, adapted and directed by Simon Stone with Billie Piper in the title role.
- Literary adaptations, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein adapted by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.
- Comedies such as She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, directed by Jamie Lloyd with a cast including Cush Jumbo and Katherine Kelly, and One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, directed by Nicholas Hytner and featuring James Corden's Tony Award-winning performance.