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Dramaturg, Tom Lyons, Queer Theatre at the National Theatre. Interview: “Culture is fundamentally connected to LGBT+ history as a motivator of change and as a response to political change.”

Tom Lyons

The National Theatre is marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales by staging its first Queer Theatre event series. A group of world class creatives are examining how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings and post-show discussions in the Lyttelton Theatre. But this bold and extremely well put-together programme of work is anything but a drag.

I caught up with the National Theatre’s Dramaturg, Tom Lyons after a rehearsal on a sunny day on the Southbank and asked him why this was such a significant moment to mark. “It felt like it was very important to mark the 50th anniversary of 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. Culture is fundamentally connected to LGBT+ history as a motivator of change and as a response to political change.” He continues: “With Angels in America being this totemic show, it felt important to mitigate against historicing homosexuality. Angels is a beautiful piece and exists in a luminal space – but equally it centres around a very specific point in time and it’s not the most positive point of time – but it is an important one. It was an exciting opportunity to contextualise this history by looking what happened before that period, since and what might happen after it by looking back.”

So, what does a dramaturg do? Tom is a member of this rare but flourishing species. “A dramaturg is a curious job title – nobody really knows what it means; it kind of has a European heritage which I guess we have appropriated,” he says. “There’s some aspects of literary management, commissioning and dramaturgy. I would say it’s primarily a combination of seeking new voices and new work, developing new writing and projects.”

The National Theatre’s Artistic Director, Rufus Norris, is doing a solid job of balancing classics and experimental writing and is programming work that speaks to the nation. Lyons is based in the new work department at the National. “We used to have a literary department and a studio; the studio was where we developed work and the literary department was the commission centre of the building and with Rufus’s increased focus on putting new work into the stages and treating old work like new work it was important to merge those two departments. The outcome was the creation of the new work department with a focus on how we develop work.”

The Queer Theatre events include, but are not limited to, Wig Out! by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Certain Young Men by Peter Gill, Bent by Martin Sherman and The Drag by Mae West. It is worth mentioning that there is currently an excellent free exhibition: ‘In Visible Ink-Tracing LGBT+ stories at the NT’ running. This exhibition traces a timeline of some of the political, social and cultural events and stories that have impacted the LGBT + community over past 25 years. Later this month eight actors will take to the stage to perform a series of monologues, curated by Mark Gatiss at The Old Vic. In a post Brexit Britain, this kind of work is very important; perhaps regional theatres should take note.

Angels in America

Angels in America. Click on the image to book your tickets for the NT Live broadcast of Part One

How did Tom go about selecting five plays from all the queer plays that are in existence? “It is impossible because LGBT+ people are not culturally homogenous, it’s not a single culture by any means. Politically there is a unification in the cause but absolutely not culturally,” he says. “Well, there is something challenging about choosing five plays that capture a collective experience that is different for each person – which is a fool’s errand,” he pauses. “But the idea is that it will agitate people to suggest other texts that were significant and start a bigger conversation.”

Twenty-five years after its first production, Angels in America, a play about the Aids crisis and an imperishably pertinent commentary on US politics, is enjoying a barnstorming run in the Lyttleton. Controversially, I think this production of Angels in America will work even better when it is screened via NT Live. Lyons doesn’t disagree with me. “I guess it is very cinematic… It is an epic event and a thrilling piece of writing. As a piece of art – is beautiful and one that you can abstract from what it is saying,” he says. “It’s not stunt casting: Andrew Garfield is giving an incredible performance. Seeing it at NT Live will be a really interesting opportunity to experience it on film and Marianne Elliott’s production is a real theatrical treat that advances a lot of ideas.”

The Queer Theatre series runs until 10 July at the National Theatre in association with Pride in London. https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

There are NT Live broadcasts of Angels in America on 20 July (part one) and 27 July (part two) http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

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First Look: Rehearsal images: SALOMÉ – a new play by Yaël Farber

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Previews from 2 May, with Press Night 9 May. Continuing in the repertoire until 15 July. Broadcast to cinemas by NT Live on 22 June.

The story has been told before, but never like this.
An occupied desert nation.  A radical from the wilderness on hunger strike.  A girl whose mysterious dance will change the course of the world. This charged retelling turns the infamous biblical tale on its head, placing the girl we call Salomé at the centre of a revolution.

Internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs) draws on multiple accounts to create her urgent, hypnotic production on the Olivier stage.

Salomé is designed by Susan Hilferty with lighting design by Tim Lutkin, music and sound by Adam Cork, movement direction by Ami Shulman, fight direction by Kate Waters and dramaturgy by Drew Lichtenberg. Cast includes Philip Arditti, Paul Chahidi, Ramzi Choukair, Uriel Emil, Olwen Fouéré, Roseanna Frascona, Lloyd Hutchinson, Shahar Isaac,  Aidan Kelly, Yasmin Levy, Andrew Lewis, Anna Lindup, Theo T J Lowe, Isabella Nefar, Lubana al Quntar,and Raad Rawi

Hundreds of Travelex tickets at £15 available per performance.

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First Look: Twelfth Night rehearsal images, to be broadcast live from Olivier Theatre on 6 April by NT Live

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 The Old Vic to broadcast Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in partnership with National Theatre Live

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

The Old Vic’s 50th anniversary production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by David Leveaux and with a cast including Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig, will be broadcast live from The Old Vic to cinemas around the UK on 20 April 2017 as part of NT Live (dates vary internationally).

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is The Old Vic’s first collaboration with NT Live; and also marks the 50th anniversary of the original National Theatre production premiering at The Old Vic on 11 April 1967.

Against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this mind-bending situation comedy sees two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz (Daniel Radcliffe) and Guildenstern (Joshua McGuire), take centre stage. Increasingly out of their depth, the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of this iconic drama. In a literary hall of mirrors, Stoppard’s brilliantly funny, existential labyrinth sees us witness the ultimate identity crisis.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead previews at The Old Vic from Saturday 25 February, with a press night on Tuesday 7 March, and will run until 29 April.

Artistic Director Matthew Warchus commented:

‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead premiered here 50 years ago as a brand new play steeped in theatrical tradition but forging a revolutionary new path in playwriting. It’s thrilling to welcome it home to The Old Vic to celebrate such a momentous anniversary, in a season which sees new writing and classics from the past shoulder to shoulder. Even more so to be able to share this new production with a global audience in our first live performance broadcast from The Old Vic.’

Daniel Radcliffe plays Rosencrantz. Daniel is a stage and screen actor whose most recent work includes the films Now You See Me 2, Swiss Army Man and Imperium, as well as the production of Privacy (Donmar Warehouse on Broadway). Forthcoming work includes Jungle (slated for release in 2017). Theatre credits include The Cripple of Inishmaan (Noël Coward Theatre and Broadway), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Broadway) and Equus (Gielgud Theatre and Broadway). Film work includes Horns (2013), What If (2013), Kill Your Darlings (2013), The Woman in Black (2012) and the eight Harry Potter films. Television includes My Boy Jack written by and co-starring David Haig (ITV),The Gamechangers (BBC telefilm), A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Extras and voice work in The Simpsons, Robot Chicken and BoJack Horseman.

Joshua McGuire plays Guildenstern. Joshua is an actor whose work spans theatre, television and film. Theatre credits include Future Conditional (The Old Vic), The Ruling Class (Trafalgar Studios), Amadeus (Chichester), Privacy (Donmar Warehouse), The Magistrate (National Theatre), Posh (Royal Court and West End), 66 Books (Bush Theatre), Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Globe), Hay Fever (Rose Kingston). Film work includes Old Boys (2017), Claudio in The Complete Walk: Measure for Measure (2016), Bees Make Honey (2016), Cinderella (2015), Mr Turner (2014), Get Santa (2014) and About Time (2013). TV includes Lovesick series 1 and 2, which is currently on Netflix, Love, Nina, Siblings, You, Me and Them, A Young Doctor’s Notebook, The Hour and Misfits.

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First Look: Cast images released for ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES

Denise Gough

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Public booking for Angels in America will open at 8.30am on Friday 20 January 2017

America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell.

The cast of the National Theatre’s 2017 revival of Tony Kushner’s landmark work Angels in America includes Stuart Angell, Susan Brown, Laura Caldow, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Claire Lambert, Nathan Lane, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Becky Namgauds, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey, Stan West and Lewis Wilkins.

The production will be directed by Olivier and Tony award-winner Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, War Horse, Husbands & Sons) and designed by Ian MacNeil, with costume by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Paule Constable, choreography and movement by Robby Graham, music by Adrian Sutton, sound by Ian Dickinson, puppetry designers Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, puppetry director and movement Finn Caldwell, illusions by Chris Fisher, aerial direction by Gwen Hales and fight director Kate Waters.

Millennium Approaches, the first of the two plays which form Angels in America, received its British premiere at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in 1992, in Declan Donnellan’s original production, and was joined by Perestroika in a double-bill the following year. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the shows.

Andrew Garfield, playing Prior Walter, said: ‘I feel tremendously grateful and healthily daunted at the prospect of being back in a rehearsal room at the NT to attempt to scale the mountain of Tony Kushner’s masterpiece Angels in America. Thanking God or some other divine force to have Marianne Elliot as our intrepid leader and this incredible company of actors to share the adventure with. What a gift to work on and offer up this play that feels so urgent at this very moment, for all of our souls.’

Denise Gough, playing Harper Pitt, said: “I’m so excited to be going back to the NT to work on Angels in America with such a brilliant team. It’s a great play in exactly the right place and at a time when it is vital that we tell these stories on huge stages.”

Nathan Lane, playing Roy Cohn, said: “I am very honored to be making my NT debut with such a distinguished cast under the direction of the brilliant Marianne Elliott in Tony Kushner’s masterpiece. In light of recent political events here in the U.S. I can’t think of a better or more timely play to be doing.”

James McArdle, playing Louis Ironson, said: “I am delighted to be returning to the NT and especially to be working with Marianne on such a fantastic project. I have always loved this play; in fact, I think it’s one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. And now, with the election of Trump and the world regressing to the right, the play will have a charge and a vitality that will make it all the more relevant.”

Russell Tovey, playing Joe Pitt, said: “The great work is about to begin. The excitement and pride I feel as I embark on rehearsals for this epic play and this majestic production is palpable. I am so incredibly excited to be back at the NT after nearly ten years away with this historic and vitally important piece of theatre at a time when it has never seemed more relevant. I cannot wait to explore the tormented world of Joe Pitt and those tortured souls around him.”

Angels in America will be broadcast by NT Live from the National Theatre to cinemas around the UK and internationally. Dates and venues to be announced.

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Looking forward to 2017 at the National Theatre

Highlights: National Theatre in 2017
Highlights: National Theatre in 2017

Highlights: National Theatre in 2017

Twelfth Night previews from 15 February in the Olivier Theatre, press night 22 February.

Simon Godwin directs a joyous new production of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Tamsin Greig is a transformed Malvolia, alongside a cast including; Oliver Chris, Daniel Ezra, Phoebe Fox, Tamara Lawrance, Doon Mackichan and Daniel Rigby.

Twelfth Night will be broadcast to cinemas worldwide by NT Live on 6 April.

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Ugly Lies the Bone an award-winning play by Lindsey Ferrentino has its European premiere in the Lyttelton Theatre with previews from 22 February, press night 1 March.

After three tours in Afghanistan and months in a severe burns unit, Jess (Kate Fleetwood) finally returns to Florida.  In a small town on the Space Coast, Jess must confront her scars, and a home that may have changed even more than her.  Experimenting with pioneering virtual reality therapy, she builds a breath-taking new world where she can escape her pain.

This honest and funny new drama is directed by Indhu Rubasingham,

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In the days after the EU referendum, the National Theatre began a nationwide listening project. A team of interviewers spoke to people around the country – from Leicester to Derry/Londonderry and Merthyr Tydfil to Glasgow – to hear their views of the country and town they live in, their lives, their future, and the referendum.

Using exact words taken from the interviews, My Country; a work in progress puts those conversations centre stage.  Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, collaborates with Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, to create this new production which plays in the Dorfman Theatre from 28 February– 22 March prior to a tour of the UK and Holland from 27 March – 1 July.

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Mosquitoes by Lucy Kirkwood will have its world premiere in the Dorfman Theatre in July. Rufus Norris will direct this new play about families and particle physics, with a cast that includes Olivia Colman.

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In May, Marianne Elliott will direct Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, with Andrew Garfield returning to the National as Prior Walter. Previews begin on 11 April, with Press Night on 4 May. The company also includes Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey.

Angels in America will be broadcast to cinemas worldwide by NT Live later in 2017 (dates tbc)

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Sally Cookson’s energetic and imaginative adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jane Eyre, a co-production between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, begins a tour of the UK at The Lowry in Salford on 8 April, with its press night on 12 April at 7.30pm, before continuing to Sheffield, Aylesbury, Plymouth, Southampton, Edinburgh, York, Woking, Glasgow, Richmond, Canterbury, Cardiff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Brighton, Leeds, Aberdeen and Birmingham.

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Award-winning production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land will be broadcast in cinemas internationally on 15 December via National Theatre Live

No Man's Land

Ian McKellen plays ‘Spooner’, Patrick Stewart plays ‘Hirst’, Owen Teale plays ‘Briggs’ and Damien Molony plays ‘Foster’ in Sean Mathias’ production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, which will be broadcast internationally on 15 December to cinemas in over 55 countries including the UK, Europe, the USA, Canada, Japan, South America and Russia. Full information on the National Theatre Live screenings can be found at www.ntlive.com.

Winner of the 2016 Evening Standard Award for Best Revival, No Man’s Land is currently playing at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End where it will complete its limited 14 week engagement on 17 December having been seen by over 90,000 people, selling to 100% capacity every night. No Man’s Land was first performed at the iconic Wyndham’s Theatre in 1975 with Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, following its premiere at the National Theatre.

Prior to the West End, this production played to 100% capacity on tour throughout the UK, starting at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield on 3 Augustbefore dates at Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Theatre Royal, Brighton and New Theatre, Cardiff.

Directed by Sean Mathias, No Man’s Land received highly acclaimed reviews at the Cort Theatre in New York whilst in repertory alongside Waiting for Godot, also starring stage and screen friends, McKellen and Stewart and directed by Mathias. The production of Waiting for Godot had transferred from London where it celebrated a sell-out run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, the last time McKellen and Stewart shared a West End stage.

Patrick Stewart (Hirst) says: “No Man’s Land is a masterpiece of 20th Century British Theatre and Ian, Damian, Owen and I love it deeply. It has been a joy to play it first in Berkeley, California, then on Broadway, on tour in the UK and now in London. What a climax to have it in cinemas across the UK and in more than 50 countries around the world. Don’t miss it.”

Ian McKellen (Spooner) says: “I am so pleased that audiences who could not get a ticket for No Man’s Land can now see, all over the world, a live performance in their local cinema. Don’t miss it!”

One summer’s evening, two ageing writers, Hirst and Spooner, meet in a Hampstead pub and continue their drinking into the night at Hirst’s stately house nearby. As the pair become increasingly inebriated, and their stories increasingly unbelievable, the lively conversation soon turns into a revealing power game, further complicated by the return home of two sinister younger men. 

No Man’s Land has set and costume design by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound design and composition by Adam Cork and projection design by Nina Dunn.

This production of No Man’s Land is produced by Stuart Thompson Productions and Playful Productions.

LISTINGS

Website: www.NoMansLandThePlay.com

Instagram: instagram.com/nomanslandplay

Twitter: twitter.com/NoMansLandPlay

Facebook: www.facebook.com/No-Mans-Land-358999847603550/

Wyndham’s Theatre, London

First performance 8 September
Last performance Saturday 17 December

Performances
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm
(Wednesday matinee performances at Wyndham’s Theatre begin from 28 September)

Prices
From £10 (No booking fee on all tickets at the Wyndham’s Theatre)

For full details either visit www.NoMansLandThePlay.com or call: 0844 482 5120

 

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 FIRST LOOK: Gemma Arterton in rehearsals for Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse

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Previews from 9 December 2016 (Press night: 19 December 2016)

The Donmar Warehouse

Artistic Director Josie Rourke will revive Bernard Shaw’s seminal play Saint JoanGemma Arterton will play Shaw’s central character. Other casting includes Matt Bardock as Robert De Baudricourt and D’Estivet, Richard Cant as De Stogumber, Hadley Fraser as Dunois and Elliot Levey as Cauchon. 

 Saint Joan will also be broadcast via NT Live in cinemas around the world, directly from the Donmar Warehouse on Thursday 16 February 2017.

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Winter Season 2016-2017 at the National Theatre Live

No Man's Land
No Man's Land

No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter. Live from Wyndham’s Theatre. Following their celebrated run on Broadway, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return to the UK stage in Sean Mathias’ acclaimed production of one of Pinter’s most entertaining plays. Broadcast live on Thursday 15 Dec, 7pm Encore screenings from Thursday 5 Jan.

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. Lucian Msamati plays Salieri, with live orchestral accompaniment by Southbank Sinfonia. Broadcast live on Thursday 2 February 7pm.

Saint Joan live from the Donmar Warehouse Josie Rourke directs Gemma Arterton as Joan of Arc in Bernard Shaw’s electrifying classic. Broadcast live on Thursday 16 Feb, 7pm Encore screenings from Thursday 2 March

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen in a new version by Patrick Marber. Live from the NT. Ruth Wilson plays the title role in Ivo van Hove’s production. Broadcast live on Thursday 9 March, 7pm Encore screenings from Thursday 23 March.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Live from the NT. Tamsin Greig plays Malvolia in Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity. Directed by Simon Godwin. Broadcast live on Thursday 6 April.

Also in 2017, Yaël Farber’s radical revision of the biblical tale, Salomé and Marianne Elliott’s new production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, will be broadcast live from the NT with dates to be announced.

Find your nearest venue at ntlive.com