The Bennett play, as yet untitled, involves poet WH Auden, and is based on an entirely fictional meeting between Auden and composer Benjamin Britten, that takes place when the men are respectively aged 70 and late 50s. No casting is yet available, though two leading actors have already been approached. Hytner and Bennett's association stretches back to the National Theatre productions of The Wind in the Willows, The Madness of George III and The History Boys, the latter two of which Hytner also subsequently filmed, and The Lady in the Van in the West End.
Nation, which is being adapted for the stage by playwright Mark Ravenhill, revolves around a character called Mau, the last surviving member of his nation who finds himself alone on a desert island after everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a tsunami. He's completely alone, or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl, Daphne. They are not alone for long, as other survivors start to arrive to take refuge on the island they call the Nation. Melly Still, who will direct the show, previously staged Jamila Gavin's Coram Boy at the National, and subsequently took it to Broadway's Imperial Theatre.
Also confirmed for this year in the Olivier Theatre is the previously announced revival of Brecht's Mother Courage. Fiona Shaw will play the title character in Deborah Warner's new production, opening in September as the final production of the 2009 Travelex season.
Further casting has also been announced for Marianne Elliott's production of All's Well That Ends Well, opening in late May in the Olivier as part of the Travelex season. Clare Higgins will play the Countess of Rossillion, Conleth Hill will play Parolles, George Rainsford will appear as Bertram, and Michelle Terry will be Helena.
The previously planned production of Georg Buchner's Danton's Death, originally intended to premiere this year under the direction of Michael Grandage, will now take place in 2010. Grandage had to bow out to take over directorial duties on Jude Law's Hamlet. As well as the new Bennett play, other plans for the Lyttelton include a short run of 6 PM performances of Caryl Churchill's Three More Sleepless Nights.
In the Cottesloe Richard Eyre will return to the National to direct Matt Charman's new play The Observer, opening in May with a cast that includes Anna Chancellor, James Fleet and Chuk Iwuji; Jatinder Verma will direct Hanif Kureishi's The Black Album, adapted from his own novel, to open in July. Katie Mitchell will also direct Ferdinand Bruckner's The Pains of Youth, to open in October.
Public booking for All's Well that Ends Well, Phedre and The Observer will open on March 13. Booking details for the other productions are to still be announced. To book tickets, contact the box office at 020 7452 3000 or visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.