National Theatre's Summer Season Includes New Play by Mike Bartlett; Fela! Confirmed for November

News   National Theatre's Summer Season Includes New Play by Mike Bartlett; Fela! Confirmed for November London's National Theatre has confirmed its plans for the summer season, as well as the transfer of Broadway's Fela!, to open in the Olivier Theatre in November. 

The summer season includes the previously announced premieres of Moira Buffini's new play Welcome to Thebes and Michael Grandage's National directorial debut with Bűchner's Danton's Death (both as part of the theatre's ongoing annual Travelex-sponsored £10 season), and the newly announced premiere of Mike Bartlett's new play Earthquakes in London that will be directed by Rupert Good.

In addition, Alan Bennett's new play The Habit of Art returns to the repertoire, with Desmond Barrit and Malcolm Sinclair replacing Richard Griffiths and Alex Jennings as the actors respectively portraying WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, prior to a U.K national tour.

Fela!, which will begin performances Nov. 6 prior to an official opening Nov. 16 in the Olivier Theatre, feature Sahr Ngaujah (who won an Obie Award for his performance) and Kevin Mambo, who alternate the title role in New York, leading a new British cast. Described in press materials as "a provocative and wholly unique hybrid of dance, theatre and music," the production explores the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), Fela! reveals Kuti's controversial life as an artist and political activist.

Originally premiered Off-Broadway in September 2008 before transferring to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill in November 2009, it will continue to run there when it opens at the National. The show has book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, and music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, with additional lyrics by Jim Lewis and additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean. It is based on the life of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel. The production is directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, the designer is Marina Draghici, with lighting design by Robert Wierzel, sound design by Robert Kaplowitz, projection design by Peter Nigrini; and wig, hair and make-up design by Cookie Jordan. It is produced in association with Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glazer, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky, Knitting Factory Entertainment and with Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson.

Welcome to Thebes will begin performances June 15, prior to an official opening June 22, in the Olivier Theatre. Former National Theatre artistic director Richard Eyre, currently represented in the West End by his production of Noel Coward's Private Lives, returns to direct a cast led by Nikki Amuka-Bird and David Harewood. The cast also includes Madeline Appiah, Rakie Ayola, Omar Brown, Jessie Burton, Jacqueline Defferary, Daniel Fine, Karlina Grace, Rene Gray, Tracy Ifeachor, Irma Inniss, Chuk Iwuji, Alexia Khadime, Ferdinand Kingsley, Aicha Kossoko, Simon Manyonda, Bruce Myers, Pamela Nomvete, Calre Perkins, Victor Power, Daniel Poyser, Joy Richardson, Vinette Robinson, Zara Tempest-Walters and Michael Wildman. The production will be designed by Tim Hatley, with lighting by Neil Austin, music by Stephen Warbeck, choreography by Scarlett Mackmin and sound by Rich Walsh. The play revolves around Eurydice (Amuka-Bird), the first democratic president of Thebes, who promises peace to her nation. But without the aid of Theseus (Harewood), the leader of the vastly wealthy state of Athens, she doesn’t stand a chance. But he is arrogant, mercurial and motivated by profit. Set in the present day, but inspired by ancient myth, the play explores an encounter between the world’s richest and poorest countries, set in the aftermath of a brutal war.

Georg Bűchner's Danton's Death, which will be presented in a new version by Howard Brenton, begins performances July 15, prior to an official opening July 22, also in the Olivier Theatre. Michael Grandage and Toby Stephens make their National Theatre debuts as director and lead actor, respectively. The cast also includes Max Bennett, Stefano Braschi, Kirsty Bushell, Jason Cheater, Judith Coke, Emmanuella Cole, Ilan Goodman, Taylor James, Barnaby Kay (as Camille), Gwilym Lee, Elliot Levey (as Robespierre), Eleanor Matsuura, Elizabeth Nestor, Alec Newman (as St Just), Chu Omambala, Rebecca O’Mara, Rebecca Scroggs, Jonathan Warde and Ashley Zhangazha. The production will be designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Paule Constable, and music and sound by Adam Cork.

Earthquakes in London, a new play by Mike Bartlett, will begin performances in the Cottesloe July 28, prior to an official opening Aug. 3. Directed by Rupert Goold and presented in a co-production with Goold's Headlong Theatre, the cast will include Anna Madeley, Bill Paterson, Jessica Raine, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Lia Williams. The production will have set designs by Miriam Buether, costume designs by Katrina Lindsay, lighting by Howard Harrison, choreography by Scott Ambler, projection designs by Jon Driscoll and sound by Gregory Clarke. Barlett's most recent play Cock at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs won the venue an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre; his other plays also include Contractions and My Child (also both seen at the Royal Court) and Artefacts at the Bush.

According to press materials, "An all-pervasive fear of the future and a guilty pleasure in the excesses of the present drive Mike Bartlett’s rollercoaster of a play from 1968 to 2525 and back again." In the play, a fast and furious metropolitan crash of people, scenes and decades as three sisters attempt to navigate their dislocated lives and loves, while their dysfunctional father, a brilliant scientist, predicts global catastrophe.

Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art will return to the repertoire of the Lyttelton from July 14, with Desmond Barrit (who also previously took over from Richard Griffiths as Hector in The History Boys, appearing in the play at the National, on tour, in the West End and briefly on Broadway, and was most recently seen in the West End in Wicked) and Malcolm Sinclair (last seen at the National in David Hare's The Power of Yes) leading a new cast. The production will also tour to Birmingham's Rep Theatre (Sept. 28-Oct. 2), Salford's Lowry (Oct. 5-9), Venue Cmymru in Llandudno (Oct. 12-16), Milton Keynes Theatre (Oct. 19-23), Belfast's Grand Opera House (Oct. 26-30), Newcastle's Theatre Royal (Nov. 16-20) and Glasgow's Theatre Royal (Nov. 23-27).

Public booking, by phone and online, opens for the new productions April 30. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7452 3000, or visit ww.nationaltheatre.org.uk.

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