Latest news  and updates from National Theatre


The Lehman Trilogy enters its final four weeks in the West End

National Theatre

The National Theatre and Neal Street Productions’ critically acclaimed production of The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power and directed by Sam Mendes, has now entered its final four weeks at the Piccadilly Theatre, with just 28 performances remaining.

The Lehman Trilogy opened in the West End on 22 May, direct from the production’s triumphant New York debut at the Park Avenue Armory, where it garnered huge critical acclaim. The New York Times called it a ‘magnificent play, a genuinely epic production out of London, directed with surging sweep and fine-tooled precision by Sam Mendes…with a design team that understands the value of simplicity in doing justice to complex matters.’ Prior to New York, The Lehman Trilogy played a sold-out run at the National Theatre.

The Lehman Trilogy must close on Saturday 31 August. Tickets are available from £18 with a limited number of day seats available to buy at the Piccadilly Theatre Box Office on the day of each performance.

The story of a family and a company that changed the world, told in three parts on a single evening. The Lehman Trilogy weaves through nearly two centuries of Lehman lineage. 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. He is joined by his two brothers 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.

Dominik Tiefenthaler has joined the company, playing the role of Emanuel Lehman alongside Simon Russell Beale and Adam Godley for the final four weeks.

The Lehman Trilogy features Olivier Award-nominated set designs by Es Devlin, costume design by Katrina Lindsay, video design by Luke Halls, and lighting design by Jon Clark. The Composer & Sound Designer is Nick Powell, the Co-Sound Designer isDominic Bilkey, with music direction by Candida Caldicot, movement by Polly Bennett and voice by Charmian Hoare. The Associate Director is Zoé Ford Burnett. The Lehman Trilogy is produced in the West End by the National Theatre and Neal Street Productions.


National Theatre’s Public Acts initiative continues with Shakespeare’s As You Like It at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

As You Like It Public Acts Company

Following triumphant performances of Pericles at the National Theatre in summer 2018, the next Public Acts production, As You Like It begins rehearsals this week and will play from 24-27 August at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul directs this musical adaptation first seen at the Delacorte Theater, New York, in 2017 as part of The Public Theater’s Public Works programme.

Forced from their homes, Orlando, Duke Senior, his daughter Rosalind and niece Celia, escape to the Forest of Arden, a fantastical place where all are welcomed and embraced. Lost amidst the trees, they find community and acceptance under the stars.

This UK premiere sees more than one hundred community members, professional actors, and performance groups from across London, come together for this magical tale of faithful friends, feuding families and lovers in disguise. Our Public Acts community partners are Body & Soul, Bromley by Bow Centre, Coram, DABD, The Faith & Belief Forum, HASWA (Havering Asian Social Welfare Association), Open Age, Queen’s Community Group and Thames Reach.

The cast includes Beth Hinton-LeverLinford JohnsonEbony JonelleRohan Reckord and Vedi Roy, alongside over 100 performers recruited through our community partners and cameo groups.

This version of As You Like It, adapted by Laurie Woolery and Shaina Taub, featuring music and lyrics by Shaina Taub, will be directed by Queen’s Theatre Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul, and will feature set and costume design by Hayley Grindle, musical director Yshani Perinpanayagam, choreographer and movement director Sundeep Saini, lighting designer Paul Anderson, sound designer Leigh Davies. The score is infectious, with sounds ranging from calypso to pop, Broadway musical to soul.

Emily Lim, Director of Public Acts said, “We have had a wonderful second year deepening our relationships with all our exceptional community partners and the brilliant Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. We can’t wait to bring everyone together to get started on rehearsals for our summer production. We are particularly excited to be working with a brand new creative team on this joyful, ambitious adaptation and to be welcoming lots of new community members to the company”.

Douglas Rintoul said, “Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is thrilled to be the first Theatre partner working with the National Theatre on their excellent Public Acts programme. I can’t wait for our stage here in Outer East London to be the home for As You Like It. The project is transforming lives, communities and organisations (ours included) and we are immensely proud that Hornchurch will be at the heart of that this summer.”

Live captioning and audio description will be available at all five performances.

Public Acts is inspired by Public Works, the Public Theater’s ground-breaking programme in New York and by the visionary participatory work of other theatres and artists across the UK.

Supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Hertz, Mr & Mrs A Mosawi, Simon & Sue Ruddick and Garfield Weston Foundation.

The National Theatre’s Partner for Learning is Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


National Theatre and Fane Productions announce Authors on Stage – a series of events featuring celebrated UK and international writers

National Theatre

The National Theatre and Fane Productions have announced a series of events across August and September as the Lyttelton stage becomes the arena for a diverse range of contemporary voices in conversation.

Featuring established authors and the launches of anticipated new publications, the series offers fresh perspectives on contemporary issues – as well as opportunities for audiences to engage in Q&As and to meet the authors in post-event signings at the National Theatre Bookshop.

In August, former doctor, author and comedian Adam Kay, whose book This is Going to Hurt, has sold over a million copies, will be in conversation with comedian Rob Delaney (Catastrophe) as they discuss their shared passion for the NHS.

Beloved culinary icons Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi will be exploring food and identity in a discussion chaired by writer Bee Wilson.

British-Turkish writer and activist Elif Shafak, the most widely-read female author in Turkey, will begin the series shortly after the publication of her new novel in June, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, a highly anticipated return following her highly praised bestselling The Bastard of IstanbulThe Forty Rules of Love and most recently, Three Daughters of Eve.

Mae Martin, author of Can Everyone Please Just Calm Down: A 21st Century Guide to Sexuality, will be in conversation with Deborah Frances-White, author, comedian and creator of celebrated podcast and book, The Guilty Feminist.

Following on in September, Stacey Dooley will speak with Fiona Campbell, Controller of BBC Three, about her work as an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker and the evolution of her career as a reporter in an ever-changing media landscape.

Candice Carty-Williams, a rising star of the London literary scene, will then take to the stage following the recent release of her Sunday Times bestselling novel Queenie.

Matt Haig, celebrated author of Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet will take the audience on a journey through the modern world, offering a closer look at the challenges posed by our ever changing technological landscape and his advice on how best to navigate it.

Edna O’Brien, author of more than twenty works of fiction, will launch her new novel, Girl, her first since 2015’s multiple award-winning The Little Red Chairs.

Fatima Bhutto, author of bestselling memoir Songs of Blood and Sword and most recently The Runaways, discusses radicalism and our current global political climate in a debate and discussion with Gary Younge, The Guardian’s editor-at-large and author of, most recently, Another Day in the Death of America.

The series culminates in the already announced launch event of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, her highly anticipated sequel toThe Handmaid’s Tale, which will also be broadcast live to over 1,200 cinemas around the world on the date of its publication (

Director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris said: “We’re greatly looking forward to welcoming such an inspirational roster of writers to the National Theatre this summer. The Authors on Stage events will provide a platform for them to explore a huge breadth of topics. As with the plays on our stages, we hope that audiences will be entertained, challenged and inspired by what they have to say.”

Managing Director of Fane Productions Alex Fane said: “At Fane Productions we aim to take inspirational and diverse voices to the widest audience possible. Working alongside the National Theatre to create this series has been a unique opportunity to showcase some of the most celebrated and relevant authors of our era at one of the nation’s most iconic venues.”

Tickets will be available via the National Theatre website with member booking from Monday 3 June, and public on sale at 10am on Friday 7 June.

Full schedule:

12 Aug, 7.30pm          Elif Shafak

13 Aug, 7.30pm          Adam Kay & Rob Delaney

14 Aug, 7.30pm          Mae Martin & Deborah Frances-White

15 Aug, 7.30pm          Nigella Lawson & Yotam Ottolenghi

5 Sep, 7.30pm            Edna O’Brien

7 Sep, 1pm                 Stacey Dooley & Fiona Campbell

7 Sep, 4pm                 Candice Carty-Williams

7 Sep, 8pm                 Matt Haig

9 Sep, 7.30pm             Fatima Bhutto & Gary Younge

10 Sep, 7.30pm          Margaret Atwood


National Theatre announces new exhibition RONAN MCKENZIE: PHOTOGRAPHS

Ronan McKenzie: Photographs

Inspired by Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Helen Edmundson’s adaption for the National Theatre, photographer Ronan McKenziehas been commissioned by the National Theatre to respond to the post war journeys undertaken by Caribbean men and women between 1948 -1971. Photographed in Leigh-on-Sea on the shores of the Thames estuary, McKenzie’s documentary style images subtly connect ideas of seascapes, water, arrivals and new beginnings to Levy’s Small Island.

Ronan McKenzie said: “For me this series represents the multiplicity and diversity in experiences of Caribbean immigrants, that begun in 1948 with the arrival of the Empire Windrush. Both being islands, The Caribbean and United Kingdom are linked by water, which inspired the artistic direction for the series. Similarly, immigration and personal journeys are sentiments that many people can relate to on a number of levels, and the clusters of people within my images aim to depict the connection between many of these stories.”

Curated by Natasha Bonnelame, the exhibition takes water as a central theme reflected not only in terms of the location but also in the colour of the textiles and the intricate finger waves of the hairstyles. Beautifully crafted shots of individuals are grouped with images of the collective, an important and significant detail in the development of the African Caribbean experience in the UK. The subjects in the photographs are all theatre makers living in or around London today.

Natasha Bonnelame said: “The majority of Windrush images are of young men, but women were there too. They were defiant and purposeful. We see this in Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Ronan McKenzie’s considered and arresting images centre the women in the collective. This is both important and necessary.”

Related Talks and Events

Caribbean Women’s Diaspora: Calling the West Indies Sat 18 May 2019, 2pm

The Stuart Hall Project (film screening) Mon 20 May 2019, 6.30pm

A New Beacon: Caribbean Artists Movement Thu 23 May 2019, 6.30pm

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Streams ahead: NT LIVE

National Theatre Live is invaluable. You could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the notion of a “broadcast theatre performance” in a cinema. Since launching, NT Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 7 million people. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include Follies, Angels in America, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hedda Gabler.

Upcoming broadcasts include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell and Julius Caesar featuring Ben Whishaw. The National broadcast some of the best of British theatre to 2,500 venues in 60 countries around the world including over 700 hundred in the UK.


Obviously, it’s better to be in the theatre, that goes without saying. Nevertheless, it is true that it is much better to sometimes sit in a cinema in comfort, with a drink in your hand than it is to sit in the worst seat in a theatre. Seats in some theatres are bloody terrible. There are some seats at the top level of The Barbican where you can see more of what is going on in the wings that what is happening on the stage.

It is worth remembering that not everyone has a theatre on their doorstep. In general, NT Live is the most revolutionary thing to happen to the theatre in our lifetime because theatre, which is often condemned as elitist, is now available to anyone who wants it – anywhere: If you can get to a cinema you can see the best of theatre –  at a fraction of the price.

NT Live screenings are a welcome addition to the local Odeon or Picture House for any culture vulture. But they are no alternative. That doesn’t mean it’s not amazing, it just means we need to focus on the future but not lose sight of the value of live performance.

I attended the ‘studio audience’ for the NT Live broadcast of Follies from the theatre. There were rows of seats blocked off in the stalls, with cameras flying overhead and the lighting ever so slightly adjusted for film. It was a wonderful experience and the spectacle of the production carried across to film remarkably well. 

Anyway, I put some questions to the NT Live team and they cleared up some queries that I had, which was ideal.  (You’re welcome)

What is NT Live? 

National Theatre Live started in 2009 as a way to increase access to our work for those audiences who might not have the opportunity to see it. It was initially conceived for UK audiences but the response was so positive, we started screening internationally too. We currently screen to 2500 venues in 60 countries, 700 of which are in the UK which is around 90% and the same as a Hollywood blockbuster.

Our first broadcast was Phedre with Helen Mirren which was seen by over 50,000 people. Our single biggest broadcast is Hamlet with Benendict Cumberbatch which has been seen by more than 800,000 people. Our current worldwide audience is almost 8 million

Who owns it and where are the NT Live offices?

It’s run and managed by the National Theatre and the NT Live team are based at the National Theatre building.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof captured live at the Apollo Theatre during its West End run on February 22

Who are NT Live personnel? 

There are a dedicated number of people who work on NT Live across production, distribution, marketing and press. We work with a freelance team of operators across cameras, sound and lighting for the broadcasts themselves. The Bridge are using NT Live to broadcast Julius Caesar. The team at the Bridge are great friends of ours. Nicholas Hytner is our former director and Nick Starr former executive director here. We hope to broadcast more of their productions in the future. Working with other theatres has been part of the NT Live programme since our second year and supports us in bringing the best of British theatre to cinema audiences.

Is it a stand-alone live broadcast company?

NT Live is run and managed by the National Theatre.

Does it get public funding?

Our pilot season in 2009 was made possible by seed funding from Arts Council England and NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and subsequently through a mix of National Theatre investment and sponsorship. We also have a partnership with Sky Arts which is a year old but has been a great success in its first year and we’re looking forward to see where it will go next.

Can any theatre pay for it and use it? e.g. The Globe.

The Globe and ENO already broadcast their own shows which they organise themselves, this means working with other theatres in London We regularly work with other London theatres including the Young Vic, The Old Vic and the Donmar Warehouse as well as other West End producers. We really enjoy working with other theatres and getting to show their great productions to cinema audiences around the world.

How about a regional theatre?

We have worked with Complicite to broadcast A Disappearing Number live from Theatre Royal in Plymouth as well as Manchester International Festival to broadcast their production of Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh. We also broadcast Of Mice and Men on Broadway, broadcasting more regional theatre is something we’re keen to do more of in the future. Some find it confusing that it has the name NT Live. It both gives it prestige and seems to limit it. What particularly excited us about this concept was the fact that it was captured and broadcast live and that’s why the live is there.  


Imelda Staunton who plays Sally Durrant and Janie Dee who plays Phyllis Rogers Stone waiting to go on stage © Ellie Kurttz

 How are cinema prices decided?

Each cinema chain decides on pricing according to their individual pricing plans.

How do Encore Screenings work?

We programme Encore screenings as a way for audiences to access our productions at more convenient times but also so we are able to give more opportunities to see our most popular broadcasts.

How are the age ratings given?

We are subject to BBFC ratings in the UK and provide the broadcasts to them for classification. They also provide guidance for our live broadcasts based on information we provide to them ahead of the broadcast taking place.

So there we have it. 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof captured live at the Apollo Theatre during its West End run on February 22, Julius Caesar live from the Bridge Theatre on March 22 and Macbeth live from the National Theatre on May 10

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Playwright, David Eldridge interview: “There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

As David Eldridge’s new play Beginning opens at the National Theatre’s Dorfman, he talks about his son, ticket prices, inspirations and success.

We meet in his office at Birkbeck University, London, where he lectures in Creative Writing. Chatting with Eldridge about his career opens up other windows on his experience. For instance: he’s a dad (“I always think about my son Bertie when I write, and he spurs me on”) For instance: despite having written landmark plays like Under The Blue Sky, Market Boy and In Basildon, he remains very grounded. (His best mate is a fireman in Essex, where he grew up). For instance: his new play Beginning was written unsolicited, but with the National Theatre in mind (“I wrote the play and then decided the NT would be a good home for it and sent it to Rufus Norris. Luckily for me he agreed”.)

His new play explores what it means to be lonely in a big city, features two actors and has no interval. “Beginning is a real actors’ piece,” says Eldridge emphatically. “The two characters in the play are on stage for the whole evening without a break. We were looking for people who didn’t just feel absolutely right in terms of the casting but who had the technical ability, personality and guts to do it. On-and-off that casting process took seven months, much of that due to director Polly Findlay’s availability, but we wanted to be absolutely sure.”

What are the particular pressures of writing for the National Theatre? “I’m not sure that applies to Beginning because it’s the first play I’ve written in ages that wasn’t a commission for a particular management,” he says. “I think opening a play in any of the major playhouses is incredibly stressful. On the Olivier stage at the National (where Market Boy was produced in 2006) just selling the 1,150 seats for every show used to give me nightmares. I think animating the larger stages at the NT is a craft in itself and both the Olivier and the Lyttleton eat story, so you need lots of narrative red meat and actors who are on the front foot.”

I wonder how he will measure success with Beginning. “I just want to feel happy that the play has gone as well as it possibly can and that audiences have got something out of it,” he states.

“It’s nice when you can see an audience laughing and crying and reflecting upon the action of a play. But it’s also very rewarding when audiences get in touch.” He references his play The Knot of the Heart, which premiered at the Almeida in 2011. “I kid you not, every day an audience member communicated with me in person, by letter, card, email or via social media to tell me how in some way their life had been touched by addiction. It was exhausting. But beautiful and humbling,” he recalls. “Everyone wants to have nice reviews for posterity and to help encourage audiences to see the show. But I’m much less neurotic about them than I was in my twenties.”

Which fellow writers inspire him, I ask? “Robert Holman has been one of the most inspiring playwrights in my writing life,” he replies, “Robert taught me how to be a playwright in many ways; but his own work, his sense of place, theatricality and commitment to the truth of his characters is always inspiring. Caryl Churchill, as Sarah Daniels says, is “our Picasso” and she seems to reinvent the wheel with every play. Her work always pushes me to try new things and to be bold. Edward Albee inspires me to fulfil John Osborne’s aspiration to give audiences “lessons in feeling”. And I learned a lot from adapting Ibsen. I think the work I did on three of his plays helped strengthen the storytelling in my own plays.”

He reckons that the economics of theatre tickets are out of line. “Theatre going has become too expensive. There’s also a part of me that’s still the slightly chip-on-shoulder, scholarship-and-assisted-place Romford kid at the posh school; who resents how much of British theatre is still occupied by privileged white middle-class men. I think the theatre has got a bit better on that score over my writing life, but it’s still a world that can be too dominated by clever posh white people and far too preoccupied with who’s in and who’s out,” he says bluntly. “It’s why I’ve always preferred to make most of my friends outside the theatre.”

We talk about the differences in writing for television. “On screen you’re cutting away to the next scene all the time and often the cut tells the story”, he explains. “On stage you’re trying to sustain the action. Too many scene changes, inelegantly done, make for a tiresome evening in the theatre. I think TV writing, like writing for a large theatre space, eats story and you really have to pique an audience’s interest the whole time. Otherwise people just switch off and look at their smartphone or change channel.”

On the bookshelf there are various framed photographs of his little boy. How has being a dad changed his writing? “You know,” he smiles. “It’s made me more uncompromising.”

But Eldridge is acutely aware of the legacy of putting pen to paper. “I always have this gut feeling that I never want him to read or see my work when he’s older and feel his dad could have done better. I push myself. Although he doesn’t live with me, we spend a lot of time together, and that means like most writers who are parents, I organise when I write accordingly and use the time much more efficiently. There’s less procrastination when you’re a dad.”

Beginning is at the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage, London, until 14 November. Box office: 020-7452 3000.

Polly Findlay and David Eldridge will take part in NT Platform on Thursday 19 Oct, 6pm.

Now you know. 

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Five Things You Should Know About Follies


1.    Let’s cut to the chase: Follies contains some of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in a musical.

It features Stephen Sondheim veterans Philip Quast, Imelda Staunton and Janie Dee. Most incredible of all, the way this sparkly ensemble revisit their former lives from 30 years ago to when they first met while working as Follies dancers. The ghosts of the past send shivers up your spine. Also, Tracie Bennett in particular steals the show on a few occasions in a hall of mirrors for all shades of misery

2.    With a near 30-year history and a world-class reputation, Sondheim shows are no strangers to the National Theatre (Judi Dench appeared in ‘A Little Night Music’ in the Olivier, 1995 and Philip Quast in ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ in the Lyttelton Theatre, 1990 etc, etc and so on).

It’s hard to avoid the fact that most of Follies’ action takes place on a stage revolve resembling a merry-go-round in West Side Story. The beauty of this show lies in the precision that draws the multi-layered elements together.

3.    There are incredibly few directors who could carry off at least three quarters of this show. Dominic Cooke’s production for the National Theatre has kept the songs in the faithful style – the orchestra are sublime – but when Imelda delivers a refreshingly devastating low-key version of ‘Losing My Mind’, it’s the night’s highlight. A haunting exploration of character.

This is an inventively staged production with a cast and the arrangements are of a phenomenally high standard. As well as being expertly written the majority of these songs are also skilfully structured and only serve to reaffirm Sondheim’s Godlike genius.


4.    The choreography itself is beautiful, reflecting the sorrow, torment and human resilience in both the music and the performances. Everything slots perfectly into place in this magnificent evocation of showbiz. Sweeping across the stage are buckets of Swarovski crystals, sashes, sequined frocks and outfits that reel you in from start to finish.

This is the first time Dominic Cooke has directed a musical. Luckily, there’s a clarity of vision that’s practically unrivalled in the current musical theatre scene. Follies feels effortlessly enchanting.

5.    Vicky Mortimer’s show-making set and costume design uses a crumbling theatre on a revolving set to remind us how the characters’ lives are confined and ravaged by theatre; Bill Dreamer’s vivid choreography, deserves a mention again, his work with ‘Loveland’ pays hymn to the showbiz past; and the orchestra has a glorious, brassy ring.

The production’s centrepiece – to these eyes, anyway – is ‘I’m Still Here’, a track for which Apple Music single song repeat function could well have been invented. A dazzle to watch. 

But the show is not perfect and I can see people’s concerns about Imelda’s suitability as a ‘Showgirl’ or that her vocals may be underpowered. They are missing the point; these things add to the charm of the production. The no interval thing is a bit crap….

Nevertheless, nothing is left to chance here, folks.

I make that a considered, authoritative and concrete 9/10. Also: Looks like my work here is done. Time to go to the pub.

Follies runs in the Olivier Theatre at the National until 3 January.

‘FYI’ Follies will be broadcast by NT Live to cinemas in the UK and internationally on Thursday 16 November.

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So, in 2017 who is getting it right?

Rufus Norris and Carol Ann Duffy

British Theatre is in a state of evolution and everyone has an opinion.

It’s all very confusing. *Stares wistfully out of the window*

This week, critic Michael Billington issued a brutal indictment of the National Theatre’s desertion of classic plays, stating: “A theatre that cuts itself off from its past is denying itself access to world masterpieces. Actors, designers and directors will eventually lose the ability to recreate the works of the past.”  His fellow-critic Matt Trueman responded aspersively: It’s safe to say there are more pressing matters than whether or not audiences appreciate the nuances of Jonson and Moliere.”

Meanwhile, playwright David Hare claimed that classic British drama is ‘being infected’ by radical European staging and the untraditional ‘distortion’ of plays. Lyn Gardner rebuffed this in the Guardian: “All theatre cultures have plenty they can learn from each other. It’s when you stop learning and become insular that theatre culture becomes desiccated and begins repeating itself. Particularly when it comes to classic texts.” I agree – there is room for everything. The debate over the value of new work versus revivals is as old as theatre itself.

Image result for NATIONAL THEATRE

All these opinions have been a joy to read, yet left me cold, angry and in the dark. Why?

It seems to me that there are now two quite separate theatre industries at play. One is generating all the quality stuff that tends to be hidden away. The other is spinning out mainstream froth in a void.

In a 2007 article, playwright Anthony Neilson wrote: “Boring an audience is the one true sin in theatre. We’ve been boring audiences for decades now, and they’ve responded by slowly withdrawing their patronage. I don’t care that the recent production of The Seagull at the Royal Court was sold out. To 95% of the population, the theatre (musicals aside for now) is an irrelevance. Of that 95%, we have managed to lure in maybe 10% at some point in their lives, and we’ve so swiftly and thoroughly bored them that they’ve never returned. They’re not the ones who broke the contract. They paid their money and expected entertainment; we sent them back into the night feeling bored, bullied and baffled. So what are we doing wrong?”

British Theatre should be leading the way in fostering genuinely exciting new work, because now more than ever (as we find ourselves isolated from Europe and tied to a toxic America) we need theatre with bite. In this dismal new world of “alternative facts” and “post-truth”, theatre needs to be properly amazing, i.e. not just a Wobble Board of traditional Ibsen and Ayckbourn.

It’s not all bad news. The state of the world has already inspired quality work at Theatre 503 in the form of ‘Top Trumps’, an evening of satirical plays by a range of writers responding to current affairs. This year at the NT, alongside crowd-pleasers like Angels In America and Imelda Staunton in Follies, Rufus Norris is throwing his hat in the ring with a new Brexit play, ‘My Country; A Work in Progress’, a verbatim piece collated from interviews, fine-tuned by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

But for an industry that is apparently booming, there is little risk taking. There are only two big British West End musicals opening this year: Stiles and Drewe’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ (London Palladium) and Gary Barlow/Tim Firth’s ‘The Girls’ (Phoenix Theatre). Meanwhile, rising ticket prices are pushing West End shows beyond the pockets of all but the affluent. This is bleak, right?

And perhaps restricted resources have limited artists’ disposition to experiment and progress. Traditionalists penalise anything outside a narrow idea of what theatre ‘should’ look like, but I believe that view favours short-term benefits for artists and the theatre as a whole. British theatre-makers should feel like they can do anything. But how can we persuade more people in power to take more chances? It’s worth speculating what might have happened to a cutting-edge writer like Barney Norris or Lucy Kirkwood if their first plays had received little to no mainstream support.

Cultural organisations dependent on public subsidy are preparing themselves for real-terms cuts as Arts Council England has cautioned standstill funding in the next round of national portfolio grants. How can we safeguard opportunities for our mid-career writers, composers, designers and directors to progress to greater spaces that are bountiful? The Arts Council urgently needs to take a chainsaw to publicly-funded rubbish and maybe also have a word with those commissioning work that is not fit for purpose.

Change is imperative – whatever Billington and Hare might say.


Upcoming Platforms, events, debates and exhibitions at National Theatre

National Theatre


An eclectic programme of talks, discussions and interviews, offering the chance to learn more about the National’s work and the arts in general. Running time 45 minutes unless stated.

21 November, 6pm, Dorfman, James Hayes: Shouting in the Evenings

22 November, 6pm, Lyttelton, The Jocelyn Herbert Lecture Rae Smith – 3D Imagination

23 November, 6pm, Lyttelton, Alan Bennett: Keeping On Keeping On

25 November, 5.15pm (1hr), Olivier, A Poem for Every Night of the Year

13 December, 5.45pm (1hr), Lyttelton, An Evening with Private Eye

16 December, 5.30pm, Lyttelton, The Theatre Quiz with Emma Freud

4 January, 6pm, Dorfman, Alexander Zeldin on LOVE

11 January, 5.45pm (1hr), Olivier, Lucian Msamati on Amadeus 

17 January, 6.30pm, Dorfman, Carly Wijs on Us/Them

20 January, 5.30pm, Olivier, Sally Cookson on Peter Pan

23 January, 3pm (1hr), Lyttelton, Ruth Wilson on Hedda Gabler

27 January, 5.45pm, Cottesloe Room, Peter Pan – archetypal adolescent

31 January, 6pm, Lyttelton, Ivo van Hove and Patrick Marber on Hedda Gabler

3 March, 6pm, Lyttelton, Lindsey Ferrentino and Indhu Rubasingham on Ugly Lies the Bone

10 March, 4.30pm, Dorfman, Improbable on Lost Without Words

14 March, 6.30pm, Dorfman, Pádraig Cusack and Rufus Norris on My Country; a work in progress

21 March, 6pm, Olivier, Simon Godwin on Twelfth Night

24 March, 3pm (1hr), Olivier, Tamsin Greig on Twelfth Night

31 March, 6pm, Olivier, Redressing the Balance: Gender in Shakespeare

12 April, 6pm, Dorfman, Roger Michell on Consent

26 April, 6pm, Dorfman, A Question of Consent 


Theatre Dialogue Club

Thu 17 Nov and Thu 26 Jan,

7-8.15pm, £3

This works like a book group: see a performance in your own time, then

Return to the NT to discuss it with other audience members.

Course: How to begin Playwriting

Tue 17 Jan – 28 Mar6.30-8.30pm, £400/£350

A ten-week course on how to begin writing a play. Available by application, please see

website for details

In Depth: Adapt or Die – Adaptations from the NT

Tue 31 Jan, 10.30am – 4.30pm, £50/40

Lightbulb Walks

Sat 18 Feb, 2pm and 5pm (1hr), meet in the Dorfman Foyer

Tonic Celebrates: Inspirational Women in Theatre

Thu 23 Feb, 7.30pm (2hrs) Dorfman, £10

Theatre’s leading female artists in conversation with Lucy Kerbel.

The Culture of International Women’s Day

Wed 8 Mar, 11.30am and 6.15pm, £3

Cultural Agenda of Wellbeing

Mon 13 Mar, 5pm £6/£5

Exploring the role of arts and creativity in healing.

In Context: How Do We Remember 

Thu 16 Mar2-5pm, £25/20

Inspired by themes in Lost Without Words

Twelfth Night on stage and screen

Fri 21 Apr, 6pm, £6/£5



24 November, 5.45pm (1hr) Dorfman, Death – final matters

30 March, 5.45pm (1hr) Lyttelton, Return from Duty – the road to recovery

On Screen                                                                                                    

Linked to programmes on our stages.

Emil and the Detectives (dir. Milton Rosner, U)

and Red Balloon (dir. Albert Lamoirsse, U)

Sat 12 Nov, Cottesloe Room, 10.30am £3.50

Wind in the Willows (dir. Rachel Talalay)

Sat 19 Nov Cottesloe Room, 10.30am £3.50

Cathy Come Home (dir Ken Loach, PG)

Fri 9 Dec, Cottesloe Room, 5.30pm, £5

Dark Days (dir. Marc Singer, 15)

In collaboration with Homeless Film Festival

Mon 12 Dec, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5

Spirit of the Beehive (dir. Victor Erice, 1973, PG)

Mon 30 Jan, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Ganashatru (dir. Satyajit Ray,1989, U)

Thu 9 Feb, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Family On Screen: Bill (dir. Richard Bracewell, 2015, PG)

Sat 11 Feb, 11.30am, Cottesloe Room, £3.50

Family On Screen Relaxed: Bill (dir. Richard Bracewell, 2015, PG)

Sat 18 Feb, 11.30am, Duffield Studio, £3.50

Amour (dir. Michael Haneke, 2012, 12)

Sat 4 Mar, 2pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/£3

Family On Screen: City of Ember (dir. Gil Kenan, 2008, PG)

Sat 18 Mar, 11.30am, Cottesloe Room, £3.50


Free, open daily.

Concrete Reality: Denys Lasdun and the Architecture of the National Theatre 

Olivier Circle Gallery

Explore the radical designs and raw impact of architect Denys Lasdun’s masterpiece in this exhibition.

Adapt or Die 

Lyttelton Lounge

Revealing how adaptations have influenced programming at the NT throughout its history.

Art of Make Believe: Staging Children’s 

Wolfson Gallery, from 14 Nov

A playful exhibition exploring how children’s classics stories have been transformed into extraordinary theatre.

Exhibition Insight and Archive Handling Sessions in the Lyttelton Lounge

25 Nov, 27 Jan, 24 Feb & 31 Mar, 12.30pm (30 mins tour and 30 mins handling session). Free but booking required.

Join the exhibition curators or archivists for a 30 minute walk around the Lyttelton Lounge exhibition, followed by a drop-in handling session.


Winter Season 2016-2017 at the National Theatre Live

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.

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