The Travelex season will begin with Nicholas Hytner directing England People Very Nice, a new play by Richard Bean, and continue with Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman, directed by Rufus Norris. Elsewhere in the NT's new season, Howard Davies will direct Peter Flannery's Burnt by the Sun, for which both Ciarán Hinds and Rory Kinnear will return to the National; James Macdonald will stage Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage; Rupert Goold will make his NT directorial debut with JB Priestley's Time and the Conways; and Stephen Daldry will direct David Hare in a reading of Berlin, Hare's 55-minute meditation about Germany's restored capital, both what it represents in European history, and the peculiar part it has played in his own life.
England People Very Nice, which begins performances Feb. 4, 2009, prior to an official opening Feb. 11, is described in press materials as "a riotous journey through four waves of immigration from the 17th century to today. As the French Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews and the Bangladeshis in turn enter the chaotic world of Bethnal Green, each new influx provokes a surge of violent protest over housing, jobs, religion and culture. And the emerging pattern shows that white flight and anxiety over integration are anything but new." The comedy, written by Richard Bean — whose previous plays include The Mentalists (seen at the National), Harvest, Honeymoon Suite, Under the Whaleback and Toast (all for the Royal Court), The English Game (UK tour) and In the Club (Hampstead Theatre and tour) — follows a pair of star-crossed lovers amid cutters' mobs, Papists, Jewish anarchists and radical Islamists across four tempestuous centuries.
The cast includes Olivia Colman, making her National Theatre debut, who is best known for five seasons of TV's "Peep Show," "That Mitchell and Webb Look" and "Green Wing," and Sacha Dhawan, last seen at the National as Akthar in the original cast of The History Boys, a role he also created on film. His theatre work also includes Free Outgoing (Royal Court) and Pornography (Edinburgh Festival and Birmingham); his screen work includes "Wired," "Bradford Riots" and "Splintered." Also in the cast are Jamie Beamish, Paul Chequer, Rudi Dharmalingam, Trevor Laird, Elliot Levey, Aaron Neil, Fred Ridgeway, Sophie Stanton and Howard Ward.
The play is directed by Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the NT since 2003. The production is designed by Mark Thompson; the director of animation is Pete Bishop with lighting by Neil Austin, music by Grant Olding and sound by John Leonard.
Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman will begin performances April 1, 2009, prior to an official opening April 8, as the second production in the 2009 Travelex £10 season. The play, set in Nigeria in 1943, "takes place after the King dies, and tonight his Horseman must escort him to the Ancestors. As Elesin Oba dances through the closing marketplace, flirting with the women, pursued by his praise-singer and an entourage of drummers, he promises to honour the ancient Yoruba custom of ritual suicide and so accompany his ruler on the final journey. But a life so rich is hard to leave, and this is a British colony where such customs are not tolerated, no matter how sacred. Set against the conflict of indigenous and invader, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's play uses Elesin's transition from the living to the dead to examine the essence of corruption and the power of the human will." Soyinka's previous plays include A Dance of the Forests, The Bacchae of Euripides (commissioned and produced by the National Theatre, 1973), Madmen and Specialists and Opera Wonyosi. The play is directed by Rufus Norris, associate director of the Young Vic.
Peter Flannery's Burnt by the Sun, from the screenplay by Nikita Mikhalkov and Rustam Ibragimbekov, will begin performances in the Lyttelton Feb. 24, 2009, prior to an official opening March 3, with a cast that includes Ciarán Hinds and Rory Kinnear, under the direction of Howard Davies. Set at the beginning of Stalin's Great Terror, the play "shows a brutal future encroaching on the last days of a fading world. It revolves around a decorated hero of the Russian Revolution, Colonel Kotov, who is spending an idyllic summer in the country with his beloved young wife and family. But on one glorious sunny morning in 1936, his wife's former lover returns from a long and unexplained absence. Amidst a tangle of sexual jealousy, retribution and remorseless political backstabbing, Kotov feels the full, horrifying reach of Stalin's rule."
Flannery's previous plays include Our Friends in the North (subsequently adapted into a nine-part serial drama for BBC TV), Singer and Savage Amusement, all for the RSC.
Hinds last appeared at the National in the original production of Patrick Marber's Closer; he was also seen in the Broadway company of the National Theatre production of Conor McPherson's The Seafarer in 2007. Kinnear's most recent role at the NT was as Vindice in The Revenger's Tragedy, and he has also been seen at the National in Philistines, Southwark Fair and The Man of Mode, the last of which won him an Olivier Award and 2007 Ian Charleson Award. He can currently be seen in the cinema in the new James Bond film "Quantum of Solace," playing Judi Dench's right-hand man Bill Tanner. Director Howard Davies is an associate director at the National, where he is currently also represented by his production of David Hare's new play Gethsemane.
Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage — his first play, written when he was an undergraduate — will be revived by director James Macdonald for an official opening March 24, 2009, in the Cottesloe Theatre. In the play, Aeneas lands on the shores of Carthage when he seeks refuge from a storm. There, Queen Dido, moved by his retelling of the fall of Troy and bewitched by a malevolent Cupid, soon burns with love. Their ensuing passion, manipulated by the watching, warring gods, can only end in tragedy.
Macdonald has previously directed James Joyce's Exiles and Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other for the NT.
JB Priestley's 1937 play Time and the Conways will begin performances April 28, 2009, prior to an official opening May 5, under the direction of Rupert Goold in the Lyttelton, in the first production of a play by Priestley since An Inspector Calls was launched to international acclaim there in 1992. The play looks at a seemingly golden family — safe and well after the First World War, who are looking forward to future careers, marriages and a brave new world. In Priestley's play, we look into their future and back again to where the seeds of their downfall were planted. Goold's recent productions include Macbeth, for which he won Olivier and Critics' Circle Awards for Best Director (Chichester, West End and Broadway) and The Glass Menagerie (West End); he is currently represented in London by his productions of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of An Author (first seen at Chichester and now at the Gielgud); No Man's Land (first seen at Dublin and now at the Duke of York's); King Lear (now at the Liverpool Everyman and transferring to the Young Vic in January 2009); and Oliver! (beginning performances at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in December).
For eight performances in February and March, David Hare will present a reading of Berlin, his 55-minute meditation about Germany's eponymous capital — both what it represents in European history, and the part it has played in his own life, since he has been visiting the city for his whole adult life. Stephen Daldry, who previously shepherded him through his one-man show Via Dolorosa (first at the Royal Court and subsequently on Broadway) will direct. The reading will be presented at 6 PM Feb. 10-12, 2009 and March 6, 9, 11, 19-20.
Public booking (by phone or online) opens for these productions on Nov. 21. To book tickets, contact the box office at 020 7452 3000 or visit www.nationalhtheatre.org.uk.