The National Theatre's Annual Reports for 2000-2001 reveal that its losses have risen by £462,000 to £626,000. Despite the increased debt, and Nunn's most recent plans to spend over £1 million on temporarily transforming the Lyttleton Theatre, the figures for 2001-2002 should look very healthy thanks to the profits of My Fair Lady. (It should also be noted that the £626,000 figure takes into account pre-production and start-up costs for My Fair Lady but not its earnings.)
A spokesperson for the National has said, "Budgeting for a large arts organization like the National is rather like trying to land a jumbo jet on an aircraft carrier, and we don't consider the deficit to be a significant problem. It represents less than 3 percent of our turnover."
That said, the new head of the National, who will be chosen next month, will be bequeathed a belt-tightening exercise as the chairman, Sir Christopher Hogg, has introduced a tighter operating budget to compensate for the deficit. Production costs for the forthcoming South Pacific need also be taken into account.
These recent budget figures have invariably given rise once again for the press to question the purpose and role of the National. Since its founding nearly 40 years ago, the National's raison d'etre has never been specifically detailed, and some are calling for a need to define what a national theatre is for. On the positive side, attendance figures at the National have improved by several percent on the previous year. While they had aimed for 72 percent attendance, 77 percent capacity was achieved overall. Moreover, the National stresses it is not merely a profit-driven organization.
by Paul Webb Theatrenow