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Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Gillian Lynne Theatre, London

I tend to think very associatively, so for me the reflexive way of making sense of a lot of theatre things is by using references to other things. (Upon viewing the musical in 2019 I wrote Standing at the Sky’s Edge was a 21st century Blood Brothers (it is), I also said it must transfer to our National Theatre (that it did). 

And when a new blog gets published, I’ve noticed an increasing number of readers saying that they’re saving it to read with a cup of tea or glass of wine. 

So, thanks for reading. 

Anyway, I feel blessed to have seen the debut of Standing at the Sky’s Edge at Sheffield’s Crucible theatre in 2019, before the pandemic. When it was restaged in Sheffield in 2022. At our Royal National Theatre in 2023. 

And, amazingly, witnessing it win two Olivier awards: best new musical and best original score – is something I will never forget. 

But here we are, 5 years on, a lot has happened in the world and the musical finds its home from home at the concrete fortress that is the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

In fact, I can now see that Standing at the Sky’s Edge is what helped me to find a way of writing about theatre that I hoped would be more accessible. 

Uncovering shows that excavate living history and contain work with diverse communities. 

“THAT neon’s been a bastard since day one,” says a workman passing by Sheffield’s Park Hill – Grade 2-listed brutalist council estate. 

“Should’ve torn the whole place down when they had the chance,” says another, looking up. 

“No, life in it yet,” comes the response. 

Indeed.

Here, brutalist blocks overlooking the UK’s ‘steel’ city – recreated with great flair in Ben Stones’ soaring concrete walkways: Sheffield’s Park Hill estate represents nothing less than the ruin of the ideals upon which Britain’s welfare state is based, the raw emotions of which resonates long after you leave the theatre. 

References are made to Henderson’s Relish, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United football teams and resentment at the gentrification; it’s good to see regional theatre being just that – relevant and local, especially now. 

The whole thing packs a hefty punch, both personal and political.

This heartfelt show – directed by Robert Hastie, fuelled by indie crooner Richard Hawley’s folk-rock songs and a brilliant book by Chris Bush – is a continuous theatrical experience rooted in Sheffield that keeps building, becoming ever more intense and euphoric. 

It refers to itself as “a love letter to Sheffield” and details the lives of three Northern working-class families. There’s inequality, too: generational, social, and regional, between the property haves and have-nots.

And this production may benefit from being a National Theatre co-production with 15 other producers, but it was born through tenacity and public subsidy; outside the M25 and thanks to shrewd partnerships and a world class passionate creative team.

Starting points are more or less three elections / political moments: the 1979 one that brought Thatcher to power, the Brexit referendum and the inevitable levelling-up letdown are the unavoidable background to the stories. 

We start in the 1960s, a home of the newlywed Rose (Rachael Wooding) and steelworker, Harry (Joel Harper Jackson), followed by a Liberian refugee Joy (Elizabeth Ayodele), and finally Poppy (Laura Pitt-Pulford), a middle-class Londoner dealing with the breakdown of her relationship with Nikki (Lauryn Redding).

I want to say that Rachael Wooding’s power as Rose is astounding… She bites right through the soapy domestic pulp; the finale reprise scene ‘As the Dawn Breaks’ is shattering, and it won’t go away.

Anyway, the great virtue of Standing at the Sky’s Edge (the track featured on Hawley’s 2012 album of the same name) is that it captures both the internal and external struggles individuals face in finding a home. It is also put across by a cast who sing, dance and act with exemplary commitment.

But the pleasure in Bush’s increasingly funny book is in the way that, with designer Stones, they gradually expand the journeys that each family go on. 

Yet, Hastie is playing a subtler game with the subject material, turning the musical into a study of the power of community against the backdrop of industrial decay. 

This musical argues smartly, with practical political sense, that it is not enough simply to build more houses: there must be a plan in which homes are created where there is work. 

The faults can be quickly explained. At almost three hours, the show is too long and loses some momentum particularly in the final quarter. Likewise, the dots connecting the three overlaid narratives occasionally slide. 

If you are a Tory, you will probably find it unsettling.

What is clear, however, is that, this is the most original and important musical in the West End. I hope that audiences get behind it. A first-rate piece of work by a director who’s daring and agile… It’s heaven; alive in a way that West End musicals rarely are.

Park Hill in 1961 … the ‘streets in the sky’ – designed to be wide enough to drive a milk float along. 

In that context, North-south wealth inequality in England is on course to grow, stating the richest 10% hold almost half of all wealth, according to a new report by thinktank IPPR North; a new and widening class divide has been created through systemic neglect.

In fact, the housing crisis in Britain is now so bad that empty high street shops and offices could be converted to homes. 

Anyhow, this week, at the press night I bumped into Richard Hawley.

“Things will get better. Won’t they?” I asked.

“Things will change, pal. As long as we learn from history,” he eloquently said with a fag in his mouth. 

A memo to the Prime Minister and Chancellor ahead of this week’s budget that investment in public services and funding are key to reversing the growing scandalous regional divide and a broken country where nothing really works. 

Later this year we head to the polls, do batten your hatches accordingly. 

Standing at the Sky’s Edge runs at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, London until August 2024

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Finally Some Good News: Indhu Rubasingham appointed new director of National Theatre

I remember asking Indhu Rubasingham what she wished somebody had told her when she was starting out in theatre. She replied that she wished someone had told her that she had a right to be part of this industry, and that her voice was important. “One of the skillsets that you need is tenacity and to keep going,” she said.

This week, Rubasingham, 53, has been announced as the first woman and first person from an ethnic minority to be appointed director of the National. She will succeed Rufus Norris, who will leave in spring 2025, and joins the organisation as director designate in spring. Important stuff.

Born in Sheffield and with Sri-Lankan heritage, she will be the seventh director since the National was founded by Sir Laurence Olivier in 1963. In the six decades since it was founded, all the artistic directors have been white men. 

“For me, this is the best job in the world,” Rubasingham said of her new appointment, in a statement.

She added: “The National has played an important part in my life – from tentative steps as a teenage theatregoer, to later as a theatre-maker, and to have the opportunity to play a role in its history is an incredible privilege and responsibility.”

Rubasingham landed her first theatre job at the age of 18, when she directed a production of Roy Williams’s Starstruck at The Kiln – then known as the Tricycle Theatre. As artistic director of the Kiln, her credits include The Wife of WillesdenPass OverWhite TeethRed Velvet and Handbagged. She steered the North London theatre through some of the most difficult years in living memory.

The NT may be 60 years old. It remains, however, an enduring, advancing, uncompleted project whose future will be determined by a unique variety of headwinds: by the quality of the team around her, by the perils of the British economy and, not least, by the impending General Election that the country so desperately needs.  

Inevitably, the gig had taken a toll on her predecessors. Peter Hall wrote in his diaries of his suicidal feelings. In his National Service, Richard Eyre, the director from 1987 to 1997, admits to “melancholia, a shrinking of the spirit”, along with, yes, “recurrent thoughts of suicide”. Yikes.

In 2022 Arts Council England, the funding body, slashed the National’s subsidy by 5 percent, to £16.1 million , as part of a drive to reallocate grants to institutions outside London. From next Autumn, the NT will face further budgetary hell when it must start repaying a covid loan worth £19.7 million. 

Rubasingham – who has directed a number of plays at the NT over the past 25 years – was among panellists discussing arts provision in schools as part of The Big Arts and Education Debate that I organised, held at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2018. Industry professionals gathered to discuss the fact that diversity would suffer because of the cuts to arts in schools.

She said at the time: “It’s so frustrating that the creative industries are worth £91.8 billion to the UK economy and [the government] is not valuing them We’re world-class [at the arts], and if we keep going this way, we’re not going to keep the pipeline, we’re not going to be able to get a diversity of voices, in terms of class and race.”

One of the reasons, then, I am thrilled about this landmark appointment is because Indhu cares. She cares about stuff that matters. I believe that she will flourish in this role, because to run the UK’s flagship theatre you must find the opposite of schadenfreude: you must take joy in other people’s successes.

In fact, Indhu is an expert in enabling others to do their best. This is brilliant news – the sort of news about theatre leadership that happens in a country that deserves better, but that no longer expects it.

So, onwards.

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Rufus Norris is stepping down in 2025 as artistic director of the National Theatre

What will his legacy be?

As you may by now have read, The National Theatre’s artistic director, Rufus Norris, announced his departure this week; he had been an associate director at the NT since 2011.

When Norris took over the NT in 2015, it felt like an institution at the height of its powers. It was also the heady days pre-Brexit, social media was not such a cesspool and there was plenty of cash in the reserves.

This week, low-key Norris, who has also served as chief executive of the NT since 2015, described his time in charge as the “greatest privilege” of his career but also “the most challenging in our history”.

Having steered the NT through the pandemic and Brexit, Norris, has been dealing more recently with an £850,000 DCMS budget cut by Arts Council England.

Norris made his feeling known that Levelling-up in the arts should “not be at the expense of London.”

He added: “What London contributes to our economy and creative status in the world is enormous and outweighs the small amount of money we are talking about”.

Point of fact, the six artistic directors in the theatre’s history have all been white men: Sir Laurence Olivier (1963-73), Sir Peter Hall (1973-88), Sir Richard Eyre (1988-97), Sir Trevor Nunn (1997-2003), Sir Nicholas Hytner (2003-15) and Norris.

You wonder, then, if the NT may explore dual leadership, like the recent appointment of Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey as co-artistic directors at the RSC. Perhaps the first person of colour will take the reins.

Indeed, Norris also made a handful of structural changes that will have a legacy.

First up? Norris has actively championed environmental sustainability (the NTs energy bill has gone up from £800,000 a year to £3.5 million per year) and a green agenda.

During the pandemic and at a time of great uncertainty, Norris appointed brilliant Clint Dyer as deputy artistic director to oversee the theatre’s creative output.

The absolute highlight of Norris’s entire tenure for me, though, saw him oversee The National Theatre Collection, set up in 2019, that is now streamed in 85% of secondary state schools, for free.

Let’s not forget National Theatre at Home, too.

Furthermore, on stage the NT has had success on the increased diversity, and gender equality front.

And over the next 12 months, 19 out of the NT’s 21 productions will be by living writers and 60% of the directors at the NT over the past eight years have made their debut. 

Of course, hits included Small Island, Jack Absolute Flies Again, The Lehman Trilogy, Mosquitoes, and current play The Motive and the Cue.

But did we get a mega hit like War Horse? No, sadly. 

Personally speaking, I found a lot of the artistic commissioning during his tenure indifferent. Norris regularly failed to introduce a basic level of quality control. See: wonder.land, Macbeth, SaloméSaint George and the Dragon, Manor, Common, Cleansed, When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, and Kerry Jackson.

In fact, a journalist I was sat next to at a First Night summed up his tenure perfectly: “It’s not that Rufus has bad taste, it’s that he has no taste.”

Recently, he was also accused of “blatant nepotism” by employing his wife Tanya Ronder as book writer on baffling musical Hex

Yup, what it needed, of course, was a decent producer to tell him: “Do not remount this (again), or employ your wife at a time when creative freelancers are struggling, you’re ruining Christmas.”

Opinions, I understand, will differ on that one, as they do on nearly all matters in the theatre. It’s a tough gig.

But look, in terms of Norris’s opening mission statement, his mission to make the NT for everyone has served its purpose and more if we judge him by these words: “I think it is very important that we reflect the city and the country we are in. We have to be national in terms of what we are debating, the subjects we are looking at, and particularly the people and stories we are representing.”

Mission accomplished. Mostly.

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Olivier Awards Nominations 2023: Who Will Win & Who Should Win?

First: a great deal of joy in most nominated musical Standing At The Sky’s Edge for its tremendous successes on this year’s nominations list. 

Richard Hawley and Chris Bush’s hit show, about Sheffield communities, has a load of nominations including Best Musical, Best Set Design for Ben Stones and Best Actress in a Musical for Faith Omole.

Standing At The Sky’s Edge

Naturally, much acclaimed My Neighbour Totoro, the stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s 1988 animated film, takes pole position with 9 nominations in categories Best Entertainment or Comedy Play, Best Director, Best Theatre Choreographer, Best Original Score and a Best Actress nod for Mei Mac.

Donmar Warehouse’s production of The Band’s Visit gets 6 nominations and it’s good to see Katie Brayben land Best Actress in a Musical for her solid performance as Tammy Faye

However, the Best Actress category is impossible to call – though it could well be that Patsy Ferran will clinch it for her tremendous performance as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. Not backing Jodie Comer is now practically a treasonable offence, but a victory for her will happen at the expense of a subtler performance. 

Paul Mescal has added an Olivier nod for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire to his recent Oscar nomination. 27 actors are first-time Olivier nominees.

Jealous insecurities … Paul Mescal and Anjana Vasan in A Streetcar Named Desire. Photograph: Marc Brenner

Elsewhere, super producer Sonia Friedman is back on top with 17 nominations for her shows including 6 for To Kill A Mockingbird, 3 for Patriots, 1 for Jerusalem and 7 nods for Oklahoma!

On the play front, my guess is that A Streetcar Named Desire will win almost all its categories, My Neighbour Totoro will, in fact, sweep the board and New Diorama’s hit For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide – soon to run in the West End – could land Best New Play. 

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide


Anyway, let’s have a recap of the nominees plus a guide to who should win each category.

Full list of nominations for Olivier Awards 2023 with Mastercard:

Noël Coward Award for Best Entertainment or Comedy Play

Jack And The Beanstalk at The London Palladium

My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

My Son’s A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at Garrick Theatre & Ambassadors Theatre

One Woman Show at Ambassadors Theatre

Will win: My Neighbour Totoro

Should win: My Neighbour Totoro 

Gillian Lynne Award for Best Theatre Choreographer

Matt Cole for Newsies at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Lynne Page for Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Kate Prince for Sylvia at The Old Vic

Basil Twist for Puppetry Direction for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Will win: Matt Cole for Newsies 

Should win: Lynn Page Standing At The Sky’s Edge 

Best Costume Design

Frankie Bradshaw for Blues For An Alabama Sky at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Hugh Durrant for Jack And The Beanstalk at The London Palladium

Jean Paul Gaultier for Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show at Roundhouse

Kimie Nakano for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Will win: Kimie Nakano for My Neighbour is Totoro

Should win: Kimie Nakano for My Neighbour is Totoro

Cunard Best Revival

The Crucible at National Theatre – Olivier

Good at Harold Pinter Theatre

Jerusalem at Apollo Theatre

A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Will win: A Streetcar Named Desire 

Should win: A Streetcar Named Desire

Magic Radio Best Musical Revival

My Fair Lady at London Coliseum

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Sister Act at Eventim Apollo

South Pacific at Sadler’s Wells

Will win: Oklahoma! 

Should win: South Pacific 

d&b audiotechnik Award for Best Sound Design

Bobby Aitken for Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Tony Gayle for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Drew Levy for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Ben & Max Ringham for Prima Facie at Harold Pinter Theatre

Will win: Standing At The Sky’s Edge 

Should win: Standing At The Sky’s Edge 

Best Original Score or New Orchestrations

David Yazbek, Jamshied Sharifi & Andrea Grody – Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Orchestrations by Jamshied Sharifi & Additional Arrangements by Andrea Grody – The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Joe Hisaishi & Will Stuart – Music by Joe Hisaishi & Orchestrations and Arrangements by Will Stuart – My Neighbour Totoro for Barbican Theatre

Daniel Kluger & Nathan Koci – Orchestrations and Arrangements by Daniel Kluger & Additional Vocal Arrangements by Nathan Koci  – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!  Young Vic

Richard Hawley & Tom Deering – Music and Lyrics by Richard Hawley & Orchestrations by Tom Deering – Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Will win: Standing At The Sky’s Edge 

Should win: Standing At The Sky’s Edge 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh & Kaine Lawrence for For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at The Royal Court Theatre

Will Keen for Patriots at Almeida Theatre

Elliot Levey for Good at Harold Pinter Theatre

David Moorst for To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

Sule Rimi for Blues For An Alabama Sky at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Will win: Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh & Kaine Lawrence for For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide

Should win: Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh & Kaine Lawrence for For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Rose Ayling-Ellis for As You Like It at @sohoplace

Pamela Nomvete for To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

Caroline Quentin for Jack Absolute Flies Again at National Theatre – Olivier

Sharon Small for Good at Harold Pinter Theatre

Anjana Vasan for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Will win: Anjana Vasan for A Streetcar Named Desire 

Should win: Anjana Vasan for A Streetcar Named Desire 

Blue-i Theatre Technology Award for Best Set Design

Miriam Buether for To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

Tom Pye for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Ben Stones for Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Mark Walters for Jack And The Beanstalk at The London Palladium

Will win: Tom Pye for My Neighbour Tototoro 

Should win: Tom Pye for My Neighbour Tototoro 

White Light Award for Best Lighting Design

Natasha Chivers for Prima Facie at Harold Pinter Theatre

Lee Curran for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Jessica Hung Han Yun for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Tim Lutkin for The Crucible at National Theatre – Olivier

Will win: Natasha Chivers for Prima Facie 

Should win: Lee Curran for A Streetcar Named Desire 

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Beverley Knight for Sylvia The Old Vic

Maimuna Memon for Standing At The Sky’s Edge National Theatre – Olivier

Liza Sadovy for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Marisha Wallace for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Will win: Beverley Knight for Sylvia The Old Vic 

Should win: Marisha Wallace for Oklahoma! 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Sharif Afifi for The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Peter Polycarpou for The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Clive Rowe for Sister Act at Eventim Apollo

Zubin Varla for Tammy Faye at Almeida Theatre

Will win: Sharif Afifi for The Band’s Visit

Should win: Zubin Varla for Tammy Faye 

Best Actor in a Musical

Alon Moni Aboutboul for The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Arthur Darvill for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Julian Ovenden for South Pacific at Sadler’s Wells

Andrew Rannells for Tammy Faye at Almeida Theatre

Will win: Arthur Darvill for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Should win: Julian Ovenden for South Pacific 

Best Actress in a Musical

Katie Brayben for Tammy Faye at Almeida Theatre

Anoushka Lucas for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Young Vic

Miri Mesika for The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Faith Omole for Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Will win: Katie Brayben for Tammy Faye

Should win: Katie Brayben for Tammy Faye

Unusual Rigging Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre

Age Is A Feeling at Soho Theatre

Blackout Songs at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs

The P Word at Bush Theatre

Paradise Now! at Bush Theatre

Two Palestinians Go Dogging at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at The Royal Court Theatre

Will win: The P Word 

Should win: Age is A Feeling 

Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director

Rebecca Frecknall for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Robert Hastie for Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Justin Martin for Prima Facie at Harold Pinter Theatre

Phelim McDermott for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Bartlett Sher for To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

Will win: Phelim McDermott for My Neighbour Totoro 

Should win: Rebecca Frecknall for a Streetcar Named Desire 

Best Actress

Jodie Comer for Prima Facie at Harold Pinter Theatre

Patsy Ferran for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Mei Mac for My Neighbour Totoro at Barbican Theatre

Janet McTeer for Phaedra at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Nicola Walker for The Corn Is Green at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Will win: Jodie Comer for Prima Facie 

Should win: Mei Mac for My Neighbour Totoro

Best Actor

Tom Hollander for Patriots at Almeida Theatre

Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire at Almeida Theatre

Rafe Spall for To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

David Tennant for Good at Harold Pinter Theatre

Giles Terera for Blues For An Alabama Sky at National Theatre – Lyttelton

Will win: Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire 

Should win: Paul Mescal for A Streetcar Named Desire 

Delta Air Lines Best New Play

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at The Royal Court Theatre

Patriots at Almeida Theatre

Prima Facie at Harold Pinter Theatre

To Kill A Mockingbird at Gielgud Theatre

Will win: Prima Facie  

Should win: Patriots 

Mastercard Best New Musical

The Band’s Visit at Donmar Warehouse

Standing At The Sky’s Edge at National Theatre – Olivier

Sylvia at The Old Vic

Tammy Faye at Almeida Theatre

Will win: Standing at the Sky’s Edge 

Should win: Standing at the Sky’s Edge 

And there we have it.

The Olivier Awards will be hosted by Hannah Waddingham and broadcast via ITV and Magic Radio. Further details of the ceremony will be announced soon.

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Standing at the Sky’s Edge Cast Recording Released January 2023

Chris Bush and Richard Hawley’s magnificent across-the-decades musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge Official Cast Recording – recorded live – will be released on digital platforms and CD on 27 January 2023. Now you know.


The award winning musical – set in Park Hill, Sheffield is running at Crucible Theatre until 21 January 2023.

Winner of the Best Musical Production at the UK Theatre Awards and the 2020 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Theatre, Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a celebration of strength and solidarity, set to the irresistible sounds of Richard Hawley.

Standing at the Sky’s Edge runs at National Theatre, London from 9 Feb until 25 Mar 2023.

National Theatre launches new interview series Life in Stages

Life in Stages

The National Theatre today announced a new interview series Life in Stages, profiling some of the biggest names in British theatre. The series, which will be free to watch, will launch on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel on Thursday 22 April at 7pm BST with each new episode added at the same time every Thursday.  

 The first episode is a conversation between Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman and Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre Rufus Norris, who last worked together at the National Theatre in 2017 on Lucy Kirkwood’s play Mosquitoes.  

 The second episode on Thursday 29 April will feature co-stars of the NT’s critically acclaimed film Romeo & Juliet – filmed in the Lyttelton theatre over 17 days during lockdown – Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. On Thursday 6 May the third episode of the series will see a discussion between actor and director Adrian Lester and writer, comedian and actor Meera Syal. Details of further episodes from this series will be announced later this month.  

 Filmed on the empty Lyttelton stage each pre-recorded episode sees the artists reflect on their theatre careers, and reveal the funny, personal and poignant stories behind everything from their earliest theatre memory to their biggest professional highs and lows. 

 Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, says: “We are thrilled that as we look ahead to our reopening in June, we are able to launch Life in Stages. The interview series has been a fantastic way to take a moment and reflect; to explore the careers of some of the leading figures within our industry, and to consider how the world around us will shape the work we create as we move forwards.  We are so grateful for the time generously given by the artists involved and to Charles Stanley for their support.” 

 The series is supported by Charles Stanley Wealth Management. Speaking about Life in Stages Paul Abberley, Chief Executive at Charles Stanley said: “At Charles Stanley we understand the significance of conversation. We spend time getting to know our clients at every stage of life’s journey to help them achieve their personal and financial goals. Much like Life in Stages, we discuss everything from careers to retirement, lifestyle to responsibilities, family and the wider community. After a tumultuous year for the arts, we are delighted to partner with the National Theatre to celebrate the art of conversation and to have had so many wonderful British Artists join this fantastic and timely series.” 

National Theatre, in partnership with Cast, launches new podcast series Stories To Get Us Through created by the people of Doncaster

Stories to Get Us Through

Launching today, Stories To Get Us Through is a new podcast series featuring stories written and performed by the people of Doncaster, inspired by real life events and created during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 18 short stories are a collection of personal anecdotes, snapshot memories and poetry, and have been created by people from different backgrounds who came together as part of the National Theatre’s Public Acts programme. The series consists of five episodes which explore different themes including imagination, change, fear, friendship and heroes. Muhammed shares memories of his best friend from Gambia and how their lives have intertwined, teenagers Aaron and Beth share their hopes and fears for the future, and Lynn tells the story of finding contentment in her own company.

Stories To Get Us Through is a community performance project through the National Theatre’s Public Acts programme to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community, delivered in partnership with Cast in Doncaster with support from Right Up Our Street. Six community organisations across DoncasterB.FriendConversation ClubEdlington Community OrganisationLGBTQ YouthCast Youth Theatre and darts, have been taking part in the programme and following the postponement of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in summer 2020, are continuing to take part in creative projects remotely. Participants developed their stories remotely, on Zoom, over the phone, and through postal packs with creative writing activities, and recorded the stories at home with professional audio recording equipment. 

James Blakey, Associate Director of Public Acts said, “Stories To Get Us Through is a time capsule of the moment our Public Acts Doncaster community convened around a digital campfire in lockdown to tell their stories to each other and the world. Stories have the power to make us feel as though we’re together, even when we are apart and we can’t wait to share them with you. Despite the challenges and restrictions lockdown posed, we came together as a community to deliver this project and we look forward to when we can create live participatory performances together again”.

Participant Sam said, “I was sceptical at first as I didn’t have a single story in mind that would instil inspiration or start a conversation. But then it occurred to me that there is something I can say, I can talk proudly and push the negative voices down. In sharing stories, we are sharing lives and it is that which gets us through, it’s that you should hold on for. You can learn so much from listening to a person’s story”.

Stories To Get Us Through can be listened to on www.publicactsdoncaster.com/stories-to-get-us-through and is also available on all podcast platforms. 

Stories To Get Us Through is a community performance project delivered in partnership with National Theatre’s Public Acts, Cast and Right Up Our Streetmade possible by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Mr & Mrs A Mosawi and Wates Foundation.

The National Theatre supports learning with digital resources for young people and teachers

National Theatre

The National Theatre continues its commitment to supporting teachers and young people across the UK with at home digital resources and learning opportunities in 2021. From full length productions available to streamplaywrighting course, online activities for primary age pupils, resources exploring backstage theatre and the annual Drama Teacher Conference – now online  there is something for both students and teachers

 Free streaming for state schools 

The National Theatre Collection is a digital library of 30 world-class productions available to schools and universities worldwideProductions include adaptations such as Small Island and Jane Eyre, Shakespearean tragedies Othello and King Lear, American classics such as A Streetcar Named Desire (Young Vic) and productions especially adapted for primary schools. 

National Theatre Collection is available free of charge for state schools and Further Education colleges across the UK through Bloomsbury Publishing’s Drama Online platform and teachers can share log-in details with students to watch productions from home when remote learning. New learning resources added for this year include introductory teaching packs, lesson plans and workshop ideas and access to behind-the-scenes content such as rehearsal diaries. 

Other academic institutions including libraries, universitiesindependent and international schools can access National Theatre Collection via a one-time payment for the full collection, or via an annual subscription in partnership with ProQuest and Bloomsbury

Online learning for teachers 

The NT’s annual Drama Teacher Conference will be taking place digitally during the February half-term (15-20 February 2021) and is open to drama teachers across the UK. The conference includes webinars, panel discussions and live interactive sessions with leading creatives in the industry, including theatre directors Katie Mitchell, Marianne Elliott and Matthew Xia, designer Bunny Christie and actor Maxine PeakeSessions are £5 each with bursaries available for state schools.

Additional digital resources 

To discover NT Learning’s range of digital resources including the New Views playwriting course with scripts, video collections about theatre-making, digital exhibitions, recorded talks and resource packs exploring NT productions visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/learning/at-home

Alice King-FarlowDirector of Learning at the National Theatre said, “The National Theatre is determined to continue supporting teachers and students with resources and opportunities to learn about theatre-making, particularly while the majority of young people are learning from home. We are inspired by the way drama teachers have adapted to deliver the subject in new ways and hope the National Theatre Collection will give young people a chance to explore landmark productions while theatres remain closedWe look forward to connecting with drama teachers across the UK through our virtual Drama Teacher Conference to explore new approaches to drama with some of the most exciting practitioners across the industry and continue growing a community of remarkable teachers to share skills and learnings together”.

Bank of America is the National Theatre’s Partner for Learning.

The Mohn Westlake Foundation supports nationwide Learning programmes for young people.

The National Theatre Collection is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Fondation Hoffmann, Sidney E. Frank Foundation, The Attwood Education Foundation, The Candide Trust, The Cranshaw Corporation for Mrs. Robert I. MacDonald, Graham and Joanna Barker, The Borrows Charitable Trust, Barbara G. Fleischman, Linda Hackett and members of the NT Collection Syndicate.

National Theatre to receive emergency loan as part of The Cultural Recovery Fund

National Theatre

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today announced that the National Theatre will receive a £19.7 million loan from the Culture Recovery Fund. The loan is part of the £1.57 billion Government package of emergency sector funding that was secured in the summer to support culture and heritage organisations affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, visited the National Theatre to see the final rehearsals for Dick Whittington which opens for performances tonight. The Culture Secretary met Joint Chief Executives Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger along with members of the cast and production staff working on the pantomime.

Speaking about the Cultural Recovery Fund announcement, Joint Chief Executives of the National Theatre Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger said:

“The National Theatre is incredibly grateful and relieved to secure this emergency loan from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It is a vital lifeline that will form part of our recovery, helping to ensure that the National Theatre will be here for culture and here for the nation, now and in the future.

The NT’s impact extends across the UK and around the world, reaching millions of audience members and young people, and employing thousands of artists and freelancers every year. All of that was put under threat this year by the devastating financial impact of coronavirus closures which cut off 75% of our income overnight. Despite the generosity of our audiences and supporters and the drastic action we took to reduce costs including – very sadly – job losses, we face a multi-million-pound deficit this year and next.

The decision to apply for a loan of this scale was not taken lightly; it is an essential component in our survival. Together with support we hope to secure from our partners, donors and audiences it will enable us to invest in the freelance creative workforce to produce some of the world’s most exciting theatre.

The Culture Recovery Fund demonstrates a clear recognition of the contribution culture makes to the nation. We look forward to continuing to work with Government to ensure this investment is built on in the long term and reaches all parts of our sector.

While the challenges of this pandemic are not over, we can now begin to rebuild the NT with a renewed commitment to make world-class theatre for everyone that celebrates the diversity of our nation. We will widen digital access, offer opportunities for every child in the country to experience theatre, help develop the next generation of talent, and change lives through participation. We stand ready to play our part in supporting the UK’s economic and emotional recovery from the effects of COVID-19.”

Academy Award-winner Olivia Colman, who appeared in Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes at the National Theatre in 2017 said: “Theatre is at the heart of Britain’s creativity and the National Theatre is a crucial part of that, whether working with young people across the country or making shows to thrill global audiences. Alongside the grants to smaller theatres, it’s wonderful to hear that the NT’s future is being supported by this lifeline loan.”

The National Theatre closed earlier this year on the 16 March following government guidance about coronavirus. At the start of April National Theatre at Home launched which saw 16 NT Live and Archive productions streamed for free on the NT’s YouTube Channel reaching an audience of over 15 million in more than 170 countries. The NT reopened for performances in the remodelled Olivier theatre on the 21 October with Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’ new play Death of England: Delroy, which closed early on the 4 November due to new nationwide coronavirus restrictions. The performance was filmed and streamed free on the NT’s YouTube channel on Friday 27 November during the second national lockdown.

At the start of this month the NT re-launched National Theatre at Home as a brand-new subscription streaming platform making an initial 11 productions from NT Live and the NT’s Archive available online to watch worldwide, anytime, anywhere. Further productions will be added each month. The National Theatre will reopen on Friday 11 December with Cariad Lloyd and Jude Christian’s pantomime Dick Whittington, which will also be available for families to stream for free on YouTube from 23 – 27 December. This month filming has begun for the NT’s made-for-screen version of Romeo & Juliet with Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley which will air on Sky Arts and PBS in Spring 2021.

National Theatre pantomime DICK WHITTINGTON available to watch for free in December on YouTube

DICK WHITTINGTON

The National Theatre is to stream Dick Whittington, for free via the National Theatre and The Shows Must Go On YouTube channels on the 23 December at 3pm GMT. The stream will then be available on demand until midnight on 27 December. The production will be filmed live during the performance in the Olivier theatre on the 19 December, in front of a socially distanced audience. Following the limited-window YouTube streams, it will then be made available on the newly launched National Theatre at Home platform from the 11 January for six weeks. 

 At a time when many theatres across the country have sadly been forced to cancel or postpone their pantomimes, the National Theatre is celebrating panto’s place at the heart of British theatre. The free stream of Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd’s hilarious version of Dick Whittington, directed by Ned Bennett, promises to provide festive fun to homes across the UK and around the world.  

 After a year where the UK’s theatre sector has faced unprecedented challenges, viewers will be encouraged to donate to the National Theatre or support their local theatre either with donations or by booking ahead for 2021 pantomimes.  

 There will also be an interactive ‘Panto Pack’ hosted on the NT website filled with engaging games and crafts for children, available to download for free.  

 First staged at Lyric Hammersmith in 2018 and freshly updated for 2020, Ned Bennett directs this wild and inventive production and explores what it is like to come from a small town and arrive in a big city today. With a host of colourful characters, irreverent jokes, talking animals and popular songs this is Dick Whittington as never seen before.  

 Ned Bennett, Director, says: “We are incredibly excited about presenting a pantomime as it’s such a celebratory, warm and family friendly part of our theatrical history and the broadcast means it will reach an even wider audience. It feels important after everything that’s happened in 2020 to bring some joy, anarchy and silliness! There will be banging pop tunes and sensational choreography from Rhimes!” 

 The cast includes Melanie La Barrie as Bow Belles, Dickie Beau as Sarah, Amy Booth-Steel as Queen Rat, Laura Checkley as Mayor Pigeon, Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings as Dick Whittington, Georgina Onuorah as Alice and Cleve September as Tom Cat. Beth Hinton-Lever, Travis Kerry, Jaye Marshall, Ken Nguyen, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda and Christopher Tendai also join the company.  

 Set and costume designs by Georgia Lowe, choreography by Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe, compositions, arrangements and music production by DJ Walde, music supervision by Marc Tritschler and music direction and additional composition and arrangements by Benjamin Kwasi Burrell. Lighting designed by Jessica Hung Han Yun and Sound Design by Paul Arditti. Denzel Westley-Sanderson is Associate Director, Debbie Duru is Associate Set Designer, Fiona Parker is Associate Costume Designer and Assistant Choreographer is Jackie Kibuka.