National Theatre’s 2017 Autumn Press Conference

Thanks Here’s what to expect from the NT in 2018. Let’s start with the Olivier. Ian Rickson is set to direct Brian Friel’s Translations, a powerful account of language and nationhood. The show will be actor Colin Morgan’s NT debut and will feature designs by Rae Smith, lighting by Neil Austin and music by Stephen Warbeck. Translations opens in May 2018.


Surrounded by his court, an unpredictable, and belligerent and magnetic king – once all-powerful – rages against the inevitability of his own decline. Sound familiar? Well Patrick Marber is adapting and directing Ionesco’s gloriously dark comedy Exit the King. Returning to the NT are Rhys Ifans as the King and Indira Varma as his Queen. The show opens in July 2018.

It was wonderful to hear of the casting of Sophie Okonedo in Simon Godwin’s Antony and Cleopatra, opening in September 2018. Okonedo will join Ralph Fiennes and the production will be broadcast worldwide as part of the NT live season.

The final production announced for the Olivier’s programming was Pericles, Shakespeare’s late romance that will be adapted by Chris Bush and directed by Emily Lim. Choreographed by Imogen Knight with music composed by James Fortune, Pericles marks the first PUBLIC ACTS production featuring a large community ensemble and a small cast of professional actors.

What is PUBLIC ACTS? Well, it is inspired by PUBLIC WORKS, The Public Theater’s ground-breaking programme of participatory theatre in New York. PUBLIC ACTS will be a nationwide initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community.

The NT will build on sustained partnerships with organisations that share their vision for theatre as a force for change. Current partners in the mix include the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, Body & Soul, Open Age, Thames Reach, The Havering Asian Social Welfare Association, Bromley by Bow Centre, Coram and Three Faiths Forum.

The Lyttleton’s programming is just as exciting. 30 years after its initial staging, Joe Hill-Gibbins returns to the NT to direct Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell; a plunge into post-war Soho, full of despair, longing and a need to escape. Opening in April 2018, the cast is still to be announced. Creatively, set design is by Lizzie Clachan, costume by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Jon Clark and sound by Paul Arditti.

Carrie Cracknell is set to direct an updated version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Polly Stenham will twist this tale to focus on a more contemporary London. Upstairs, the party is dying but Julie still dances. Downstairs, Jean and Kristen listen and wit. Vanessa Kirby plays the lead and the show opens in June 2018.

For me one of the most exciting announcements was that the NT would be staging Stefano Massini’s The Lehman Trilogy. It was a hit around Europe, and now will be staged in an English Adaptation by Ben Power, directed by the hard to pin down Sam Mendes. Stefano Massini’s vast and poetic play unfolds over three parts in one single evening.

On a cold September morning in 1844, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside. Dreaming of a new life in the new world, his two brothers soon join him and an American epic begins. 163 years later the firm they establish, Lehman Brothers, spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, and triggers the largest financial crisis in history. This is a story of a family and a company that changed the world.

David Hare’s 18th play for the NT I’m Not Running opens in autumn 2018. Pauline Gibson has unintentionally become a national treasure by staying out of party politics, while one of her close friends from university, Jack Gould, is making his way to the top of the Labour Party. The 20-year span of their adult lives and their contrasting fortunes raise sharp questions about how to do good in the new century. Neil Armfield directs.

That’s the Lyttleton, now onto the Dorfman. In a co-production with the Tricycle, artistic director Indhu Rubasingham returns to the NT to direct The Great Wave, a play by Francis Turnly. Developed, while on a Channel 4 playwriting bursary at the Tricycle, the play is set in Japan and North Korea and tells a story of two sisters, Hanako and Reiko, who are struck by a gigantic wave. Reiki survives, whilst Hanako is, seemingly, lost to the sea. Their mother, however, can’t shake the feeling her daughter is still alive.

I was so happy to hear of the news that Roy Alexander Weise will make his directing debut at the NT. After seeing his productions of The Ugly One at the Park Theatre and NYT’s Jekyll and Hyde I cannot wait to see what he will do with Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night – a funny and touching exploration of the rituals of family. The nine nights extended wake is an important custom in West Indian families. But for Gloria’s children and grandchildren, marking her death with a party that lasts a week and a half is a test that forces them to confront themselves and others.

Ned Bennet’s highly praised production of An Octoroon transfers to the NT. Laura Wade makes her NT and Theatre Clwyd debut with Home, I’m Darling, a new comedy about sex, cake and the quest to be a perfect 50s housewife. And Justin Audibert directs a new production of The Winter’s Tale for primary schools, opening in the Dorfman in February 2018.

At the Young Vic, the NT have co-produced The Jungle by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson of Good Chance Theatre. The piece tells stories of loss, fear, community and hope. Europe’s largest unofficial refugee camp, the Calais ‘Jungle’ became a temporary home for more than 10,000 people at its peak – many desperate to find a way to enter the UK.

The NT announced a schools tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in a specially staged production which will visit selected secondary schools from Autumn 2018 targeting areas of the country with lower engagements in theatre. Also on tour, both War Horse and Hedda Gabler opened this week, and the acclaimed NT’s productions of People, Places & Things and This House will also reach audiences from across the country. Internationally, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tours the world, visiting the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. People, Places & Things will transfer to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, with Denise Gough reprising her Olivier award-winning role. It’ll be a busy time for Gough as Angels in America opens on Broadway on March 21st.

NT live is going from strength to strength. Hamlet, Follies, Marx, Young Marx, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra are just some of the productions that will be broadcast to 60 screens across the globe.

With audiences calling for more accessible opportunities to participate, it is no wonder that the NT is taking note. They have teamed up with Spotlight to create ProFile, a new resource to champion this talent pool by offering industry professionals the opportunity to watch d/deaf and disabled actors in action on an online video database. It is a free service, both for performers and industry users, and is available for the use of film, TV and theatre professionals across the UK. It’s aim is to widen the pool from which CD’s draw their talent, with a view of creating a more inclusive industry in the long term, and one that better represents the diversity of the nation.

I was fortunate to attend the pilot launch of the NT’s brand new tech innovation, Open Access Smart Capture. The NT have teamed up with Accenture, to develop new technology, which will mean for the first-time access service users will be able to attend any performance thanks to a transformative, always-on closed captioning and audio-description service.

In short, it means you can watch a performance through these glasses with the subtitles appearing directly on front of you. You can change the font, size, positioning and really make it user-friendly for yourself. Olivia Williams and Olivia Colman were kind enough to perform an excerpt from Mosquitoes to demonstrate the technology. At first it took some getting used too; you were occasionally balancing the words on the performers head, but the NT are certainly on the right track.

Captioned performances are currently restricted at the NT, with the theatre programming only four captioned and three audio-described performances per production. Over the next year the pilot phase will rigorously test this unique access system and during this time the NT will evaluate the Open Access Smart Capture technology, initially in the Dorfman, with the system being further developed on large scale shows in its other two theatres.

So that’s it – not much, right? It’s safe to say that the NT are continuing in their goal to be a world-leading theatre for progressiveness and innovation, and I for one cannot wait to attend all of these performances.

Written by Alistair Wilkinson.

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Written by Theatrefullstop