The watchwords coming out of the NT’s plans for the remainder of 2021 and beyond, announced at its first ever Zoom press briefing, might be “equality”, “diversity” and “community” as well as “adaptability and evolution”.
A very slick online event was prefaced by comments from a wide range of theatre makers—everyone from Deputy Artistic Director Clint Dyer, who also enthusiastically introduced the third part of what will become the Death of England Trilogy, Jeremy Herrin and Michael Sheen to technical and front of house staff from many disciplines.
The theatre has had a very tough 15 months, during which its income has shrunk to negligible levels—just 25% of pre-pandemic budgets—so the management have been forced to make one-third of the workforce redundant in order to survive and the theatre has seen no option but to take on millions of pounds (£19.7m over 20 years with a 4-year payment holiday) of additional debt from the Culture Recovery Fund, following the Government’s decision that large arts organisations would not be entitled to receive any outright grants.
In that light, there will inevitably be a greater concentration on co-productions, visiting productions and those created on a rather smaller scale than has been traditional.
In his opening address, Rufus Norris, Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre, said, “theatre is a world-class UK industry, and brings with it a bucket-load of economic and social benefits. The National Theatre has a crucial role to play in supporting the nation’s creativity; it’s an incredible place full of amazing people and elicits enormous affection, pride and passion in audiences around the world. National Theatre Together celebrates the work we create with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences—and asks our friends to once again stand with us and equip us to do what we do best: shape a bright, creative future for this nation.”
The headline announcement introduced National Theatre Together, described by Norris as “a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.”
The programme in the South Bank building features a mixture of shows that had already been slated, some postponed for over a year, and new announcements.
As live theatre returns to the venue, the Olivier is to be temporarily set up in-the-round.
Paradise by Kae Tempest finally makes it to the stage in August, followed by a revival of Larry Kramer’s play written in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, The Normal Heart.
For Christmas, Hex, is a new musical version of Sleeping Beauty with a book by Tanya Rhonda, music by Jim fortune and lyrics by Rufus Norris, who also directs, is set to enchant audiences.
In early 2022, Indhu Rubasingham will direct The Father and the Assassin by Anupama Chandrasekhar. This intriguing drama follows the life of Gandhi’s assassin.
Rockets and Blue Lights by Winsome Pinnock, which was first staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester but summarily cut short last March, appears in August and will mark Miranda Cromwell’s National Theatre directing debut.
This will be followed by Trouble in Mind, an American play about civil rights written by Alice Childress and directed by Nancy Medina.
Daniel Evans will direct Our Generation by Alecky Blythe in a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre. This verbatim drama that has been five years in the making follows the trials and tribulations of youngsters today.
Having been transformed into a film studio for over a year, this space is currently being used to develop Death of England: Face to Face, a feature film by Roy Williams and Clint Dyer starring Giles Terera, Phil Daniels and Neil Maskell.
Thereafter, Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s revival of East is East by Ayub Khan Din will celebrate its silver jubilee at the National under the direction of Iqbal Khan.
Over 18 months after its slated arrival, Manor by Moira Buffini, directed by Fiona Buffini, will finally make it to the stage starring Nancy Carroll.
After a similarly long period of gestation, Wuthering Heights, adapted for the stage by Emma Rice, will finally appear in February 2022 in a co-production with Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic and York Theatre Royal that will be on tour extensively.
In April 2022, Nicola Walker will lead the cast in The Corn is Green by Emlyn Williams.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Ocean at the End of the Lane will both be touring across the UK and Ireland.
Although it is currently unable to produce in Europe or generate new overseas touring work, the Lehman Trilogy and Hadestown are due to return to Broadway in the autumn and both will then tour across the United States and, in the case of Hadestown, to South Korea.
Online and cinema
Both National Theatre at Home and the National Theatre Collection continue to prosper and expand their libraries. In addition, the NT Live broadcast of Follies will be shown in cinemas later in the year.
Community and Education
Future plans include two projects for young people, Story Seekers and Speak Up. There is also a fresh commitment to working collaboratively with a wide range of theatre-makers from beyond the National to create shows across the country via the New Work Department. The intention is that at least one-third of those will be for work outside London.
It will take another year, but the Public Acts production with Cast in Doncaster will finally hit the stage in August 2022 under the new title The Doncastrian Chalk Circle.