There has been a big vote of confidence from theatres in recent weeks and today the National Theatre is the latest major venue to announce a large season of works and activities in all three of its auditoria running into 2022, nationwide tours and community activities, plus new films and digital output. While repertory theatre is out of the window for a while and a slimmed agenda is likely for the next couple of years, Director Rufus Norris, Executive Director Lisa Burger and Deputy Artistic Director Clint Dyer are confident that today’s season launch will deliver the National Theatre’s mission.
The long influence of hybrid theatre forms will be felt in the exciting announcement of a third part to Clint Dyer and Roy Williams Death of England plays. Speaking from his Lyttleton set, Death of England: Face to Face begins filming on Monday, finally uniting the characters of Michael and Delroy in a single drama with the influential figure of Michael’s father Alan. The film will follow Romeo & Juliet in having a Sky Arts premiere in the autumn with Neil Maskell inheriting the role of Michael from Rafe Spall, Giles Terrera returning as Delroy (a role he was unable to perform onstage) and Phil Daniels joining the cast as Alan. One of the great character pieces of the last two years, Dyer and Williams will now have presented this world and its people in all three of the venue’s theatres – a unique achievement.
Live audiences will be welcomed back with social distancing in the immediate future with the delayed revival of Paradise by Kae Tempest in the Oliver, directed by Ian Rickson and staring Lesley Sharp while Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue Lights follows After Life in the Dorfman having found a new lockdown life as a radio drama when forced off the stage at the Manchester Royal Exchange by the pandemic. Other work returning to the National Theatre queue includes The Corn is Greener with Nicola Walker which finally arrives on the Oliver stage in April 2022, while Moira Buffini’s Manor will head to the Lyttleton in November, 18 months after its original premiere date retaining Nancy Carroll in the lead but losing Ben Daniels.
Daniels instead will take a role in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart in the Olivier in September about the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. Directed by Dominic Cooke, this is the play’s first professional revival in London for more than 35 years. Staying with America, Trouble in Mind will also be revived in the Dorfman in December. New play The Father and the Assassin by Anupama Chandrasekhar will open in the Olivier in 2022 charting the radicalisation of Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse, while verbatim play Our Generation by Alecky Blythe will open in the Dorfman in February.
The National’s big Christmas show will follow in the fairy tale footsteps of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Emerald Fennell with a musical version of Sleeping Beauty. Hex by Tanya Ronder, Jim Fortune and Rufus Norris will open in December.
During theatre closures, workshops and socially distanced readings have taken place behind the scenes and the National Theatre Studio have committed to a third of new work being presented outside of London including the Doncastrian Chalk Circle an immersive piece performed in August by the Doncaster Community partnership. UK touring will resume with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, followed by The Ocean at the End of the Lane after its stint at the Duke of York’s Theatre, while The Lehman Trilogy will finally conclude its Broadway run with Adrian Lester replacing Ben Miles who returns to his role as Thomas Cromwell in the RSC’s The Mirror and the Light.
The National Theatre’s announcements suggest a venue eager to return to core business but learning much from its long closure – not least the adoption of Theatre Green Book principles to move towards sustainable and zero carbon practices. Digital output has “expanded our reach exponentially” Burger explained and there are now “more ways than ever to engage with the National’s work.” Whether you’re watching at its Southbank home, another UK or international stage, on television or online, opportunities to engage with this theatre now look very different.