News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference

All sorts of goodies were announced today for the upcoming slate of productions at the National Theatre, including Small Island, Peter Gynt, and Top Girls 

Olivier Theatre

Small Island, a new play adapted by Helen Edmundson from Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize-winning bestselling novel, will open in the Olivier Theatre in May. Directed by Rufus Norris, the play journeys from Jamaica to Britain through the Second World War to 1948, the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Small Island follows the intricately connected stories of Hortense, newly arrived in London, landlady Queenie and servicemen Gilbert and Bernard. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as, with epic sweep, the play uncovers the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Small Island will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide as part of NT Live.

Peter Gynt, by David Hare after Henrik Ibsen, will open in the Olivier Theatre in July in a co-production with Edinburgh International Festival, directed by Jonathan Kent, with set and costume design by Richard Hudson. David Hare kidnaps Ibsen’s most famous hero and runs away with him into the 21st century, where he’s propelled into a free-wheeling world of music, dance, poetry, weddings, coronations, trolls and two-headed children. James McArdle takes the title role in this epic new production following his acclaimed performances in Platonov and Angels in America. He is reunited with David Hare and Jonathan Kent, the team behind the triumphant Young Chekhov at Chichester Festival Theatre and the NT. Peter Gynt will transfer to Edinburgh for the International Festival in August 2019.
Lyttelton Theatre

A ferocious new version of Molière’s comic masterpiece, Tartuffe, by John Donnelly, will open in February. Directing this classic European comedy, Blanche McIntyre makes her NT debut. Orgon is the man who has everything: money, power, a beautiful home and family. But lately he’s been questioning the point of it all. When he invites the irresistible Tartuffe into his seemingly perfect household, he unleashes a whirlwind of deception and seduction that threatens everything. With Orgon under Tartuffe’s spell, can his family outwit this charismatic trickster? Are Tartuffe’s wild claims truth or fiction? This mysterious stranger may not be quite the villain he appears. A scalpel-sharp comedy looking at the lengths we go to to find meaning – and what happens when we find chaos instead. With set and costume design by Robert Jones, lighting design by Oliver Fenwick and music and sound design by Ben and Max Ringham. Tartuffe previews from 9 February, on sale until 30 April with further performances to be announced. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15.

For the first time the NT stages Top GirlsCaryl Churchill’s wildly innovative play about a country divided by its own ambitions. Collaborating for the first time since Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, NT Associate Lyndsey Turner directs. Marlene is the first woman to head the Top Girls employment agency. But she has no plans to stop there. With Maggie in at Number 10 and a spirit of optimism consuming the country, Marlene knows that the future belongs to women like her. With set design by Ian MacNeil, costume design by Merle Hensel, lighting design by Jack Knowles and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Top Girls previews from 26 March, on sale until 22 April with further performances to be announced.

Last performed at the NT 25 years ago, Githa Sowerby’s revolutionary Rutherford and Sondirected by Polly Findlay, opens in May. Set against the backdrop of the industrial north east, Rutherford and Son features Roger Allam as the bullish Rutherford, whose tyranny over his children collides with their own hopes for their future, in this searing depiction of generational warfare and class discrimination. With set and costume design by Lizzie Clachan, and sound design by Paul Arditti.

Hansard, the debut play from actor Simon Woods which opens in September, tells the story of Robin and Diana, a married couple reckoning with a fundamental difference they cannot resolve. What starts as witty ribbing and the familiar tracks of marital scrapping turns to blood-sport, and a shared howl of regret. Directed by NT Associate Simon GodwinHansard looks at personal and political responsibility and our collective accountability for the lives changed by the votes we make. Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings return to the NT to play Diana and Robin.

Inua Ellams returns to the NT in the autumn with a new play, Three Sistersafter Chekhov, in a co-production withFuel. Directed by Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director, Nadia FallThree Sisters transports the play to 1960s Nigeria, before, during and after the Biafran Civil War. Originally commissioned by Metta Theatre. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15.

Dorfman Theatre

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, will preview from 16 January, playing until 2 March. Martin Crimp’s play breaks through the surface of contemporary debate to explore the messy, often violent nature of desire, and the fluid, complicated roles that men and women play. Using Richardson’s novel as a provocation, six characters act out a dangerous game of sexual domination and resistance. Directed by Katie MitchellCate Blanchett makes her National Theatre debut alongside Stephen Dillane. The cast also includes Babirye BukilwaJessica GunningEmma Hindle and Craig Miller. With set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Sussie Juhlin-Wallén, lighting design by James Farncombe, sound design by Melanie Wilson and movement direction by Joseph Alford. Tickets will go on sale via a ballot which opens on 22 November at 12 pm.

In a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Pulitzer Prize-winning ensemble member Bruce Norris’ fiery, provocative new play Downstate, comes to the NT direct from its debut at Steppenwolf, Chicago. In downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where they live out their lives in the shadow of the offences they committed. A man shows up to confront his childhood abuser  but does he want closure or retribution? Downstate zeroes in on the limits of our compassion and what happens when society deems anyone beyond forgiveness. Directed by Tony Award® winner Pam MacKinnon, the American and British cast includes Steppenwolf ensemble members Glenn DavisK. Todd FreemanFrancis Guinan and Tim Hopper, together with Aimee Lou WoodCecilia NobleEddie Torres and Matilda Ziegler. With set design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Adam Silverman and sound design by Carolyn DowningDownstate previews from 12 March, playing until 27 April.

ANNA, a ground-breaking new sonic collaboration created by Ella Hickson and Ben and Max Ringham, opens in the Dorfman Theatre in May. This headphone-based sound thriller will give the audience intimate access to communist East Berlin. Set over one night in 1968, a promising young couple have their love tested by increasing pressure from the state. When crimes of the past and the present blur, who can be trusted? Everyone is listening. ANNA is directed by Natalie Abrahami, with set and costume designed by Vicki Mortimer and movement by Anna Morrissey.

Based on the hilariously anarchic ‘Mr Gum’ children’s book, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – the Musical! opens in the summer. With book and lyrics by the author, Andy Stanton, music by Jim Fortune, directed by Amy Hodge, and set and costume design by Georgia Lowe, it promises an all-singing, all-dancing, occasionally-burping extravaganza for children and adults alike. Can nine-year-old Polly get Padlock the bear to safety? Or will the villainous Mr Gum and his sidekick Billy William III prevail? Full of bizarre characters, surreal whimsy and songs, this is definitely not your average family fare.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker returns to the Dorfman Theatre in October with the European premiere of her play The Antipodes, directed by Lila Neugebauer, making her NT debut. A play about stories and the people who tell them, The Antipodes follows the acclaimed runs of The Flick and John at the NT. The Antipodes features set and costume design by Chloe Lamford.

Richard Pryor on Fire, a one-man play written by and featuring Lenny Henry as the legendary American comedian, directed by Paulette Randall, will open in the Dorfman Theatre in 2020.

Smart caption glasses

The NT today launches smart caption glasses, which will transform access to theatre for audiences with hearing loss. This ground-breaking new service has been developed with the NT’s Partner for Innovation, Accenture. Audience members will be able to view captions at any performance in all three of the NT theatres, seated in any seat, thanks to revolutionary Open Access Smart Capture technology, the result of an ongoing collaboration between the NT’s technical team and speech and language experts led by Professor Andrew Lambourne. The glasses display a synchronised transcript of dialogue and sound from the production directly onto the lenses of the glasses, giving service users the freedom to experience performances how and when they want to.

Following a year of testing with audiences who are D/deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, the smart caption glasses are now available for productions at the NT. They are bookable from today for Hadestown and War Horse and from later this month for all shows in the new season. 

For more information, visit

Public Acts

Following the success of Pericles in the Olivier Theatre this summer, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul will direct next year’s Public Acts production As You Like It, in a musical adaptation first seen at the Delacorte Theater, New York, in 2017 as part of The Public Theater’s Public Works programme. Performances will take place at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from Saturday 24 to Tuesday 27 August 2019.

This version of As You Like It is by Director of Public Works Laurie Woolery and Shaina Taub, featuring music and lyrics by Taub, and set and costume design by Hayley Grindle. The score is infectious, with sounds ranging from calypso to pop, Broadway musical to soul.

Collaborating with Douglas on this production will be Pericles director Emily Lim who assumes the role of Public Acts Director for the National Theatre. We continue to work with Public Acts community partners; Body & Soul,Bromley by Bow CentreCoramDABDThe Faith & Belief ForumHASWAOpen Age and Thames Reach.

The UK premiere of this version will see more than 100 community members, a small group of professional actors and cameo performance groups from across London perform together in this magical tale of faithful friends, feuding families and lovers in disguise. True to Shakespeare’s play, the universal narratives of exile, displacement and reconciliation explored in the piece seem more timely and important than ever.

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, one of the city’s producing theatres working in a part of London that’s rapidly changing, diverse in many ways and often forgotten, was the Theatre Partner for Pericles earlier this year. As You Like It will take the aspirations of Public Acts to its next stage.

In 2020 the NT will partner with Cast in Doncaster for a third Public Acts production, working with community partners from the local area. 

Tickets for As You Like It go on sale via the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch website from next month.

Public Acts is inspired by Public Works, The Public Theater’s ground-breaking programme of participatory theatre in New York.

Public Acts is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Hertz, The Sackler Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation. The National Theatre’s Partner for Learning is Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

National Theatre Live
NT Live currently screens to 65 countries around the globe

Frankenstein – 22 October and 29 October.
Allelujah! 1 November.
The Madness of George III – 20 November
Antony & Cleopatra – 6 December
The Tragedy of King Richard the Second 15 January
I’m Not Running – 31 January
Small Island – date to be announced. 

Sky Arts is the sponsor of NT Live in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *