Trevor Nunn, director or co-director of Cats, Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard, Nicholas Nickleby and other major West End and Broadway hits, officially took the reins of London's Royal National Theatre, Oct. 2.
So much hoopla arose from Nunn's announcement that the National Theatre will stage a "lost" early Tennessee Williams play, Not About Nightingales, in March 1998, the rest of the National season went relatively unheralded, even though such names as Ian McKellen, Sinead Cusack, Tom Stoppard, Jenny Agutter and John Wood dot the landscape.
Already, one show is showing strength at the box office. Due to ticket demand, Tom Stoppard's latest, The Invention Of Love, will transfer from the Cottesloe to the Lyttelton Theatre, Dec. 20. Directed by former National artistic director Richard Eyre, Invention covers the life of poet A.E. Houseman. Paul Rhys & John Wood star as Houseman at different times in his life. Also in the cast are Paul Benzing, Michael Bryant, John Carlisle, William Chubb, Emma Dewhurst, Michael Fitzgerald, Stephen Mapes, Robert Portal, Ben Porter, Robin Soans and Benjamin Whitrow.
The show opened Oct. 1 at the Cottesloe, marking the last day of Eyre's tenure at the National before Nunn took over. Previous Stoppard works include The Real Thing and Arcadia. Houseman's best-known poems are collected in the volume, "A Shropshire Lad."
In other National news, a mounting of Noel Coward's Private Lives, directed by Deborah Warner and planned for November, has been cancelled. Also scheduled for the 1997-98 season:
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. Trevor Nunn directs Henrik Ibsen's drama, adapted by Christopher Hampton. Ian McKellen plays a doctor with a martyr complex, destroyed by the town he tries to protect. Designing the show are John Napier, with costumes by John Bright and lighting by David Hersey. (Prev: Sept. 12; opened Sept. 19; Ends Nov. 1997 at the Olivier Theatre.)
Enemy runs in repertory with Guys And Dolls, Fiona Laird's re-staging of Richard Eyre's revival of the Frank Loesser musical adaptation of Damon Runyon's picaresque tales of gamblers and horse players in the New York of old (whew!). Starring in the musical, which runs through November, are Imelda Staunton, Colin Stinton, Clarke Peters and Joanna Riding.
CHIPS WITH EVERYTHING. Howard Davies directs Arnold Wesker's play. (Opened Sept. 4 at the Lyttelton Theatre.)
OTHELLO. Sam Mendes directs William Shakespeare's tragedy, starring David Harewood as the jealous Moor. The show, co-produced by the Salzburg Festival (and playing there Aug. 22-25) opened Sept. 16 at the Cottesloe Theatre. After the National production, the show will tour the Pacific Rim and U.S.
THEATRE STORIES solo for Ken Campbell. (Prev: Oct. 16; opens: Oct. 17 for seven more performances at the Cottesloe Theatre.)
MUTABILITIE. Trevor Nunn directs Frank McGuinness' drama, starring Aisling O'Sullivan. Monica Frawley will design the sets. (Prev: Nov. 14; opens Nov. 20 at the Cottesloe Theatre.)
OH LES BEAUX JOURS. Peter Brook directs Samuel Beckett's play in a French language production (part of "the French Theatre Season"). Natasha Parry and Jean-Claude Perrin star in the production, which premiered at the 1996 Festival d'Automne. Chloe Obolensky designed the sets. (Runs Nov. 27-Dec. 6 at the Riverside Studios.)
PETER PAN. John Caird directs J.M. Barrie's fantasy, newly adapted by Caird and Nunn. McKellen will play Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, Jenny Agutter Mrs. Darling, Alec McCowen the Storyteller. Also in the cast are Daniel Evans (Peter), Clive Rowe (Smee), Michelle Abrahams, Robert Aldous, Claudie Blakley, Sally-Ann Burnett, Wayne Cater, Naomi Capron, Mark Channon, Jim Creighton, Harold Finlay, Daniel Hart, Liza Hayden, Jonny Hoskins, Jan Knightley, Adrian Ross-Magenty, Dominic McHale, Murray McArthur, Michael Mawby, Simon Penman, Byran Robson and Patrick Romer.
Designing Pan are John Napier (set), Andy Neofitou (costumes), and David Hersey (lighting). Scoring wil be by Stephen Oliver. All proceeds from the production go to Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children. (Prev: Dec. 18; opens Dec. 16 at the Olivier Theatre.)
THE DAY I STOOD STILL. Ian Rickson directs a new play by Kevin Elyot. (Prev: Jan. 15, 1998; opens Jan. 22, 1998 at the Cottesloe Theatre.) Set in North London, The Day I Stood Still tells of "love, longing, and an insatiable appetite for Mars bars" among three teens. Thirty years later, one of them receives a surprise visitor. Director Rickson will take over as artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, April 1998.
Elyot's comedy My Night With Reg reached Off-Broadway earlier this year. His other plays include Artists And Admirers and Consent.
Designing Day are Hugh Vanstone (lighting) and Mark Thompson (set), with Stephen Warbeck providing original music.
FLIGHT. Howard Davies directs Mikhail Bulgakov's drama, adapted by Ron Hutchinson. (Prev: Jan. 29, 1998; opens Feb. 5, 1998 at the Olivier Theatre.)
THE LONDON CUCKOLDS. Terry Johnson adapts and directs Edward Ravenscroft's comedy. (Prev: Feb. 13, 1998; opens Feb. 19, 1998 at the Lyttelton Theatre.)
NOT ABOUT NIGHTINGALES. Trevor Nunn directs Tennessee Williams' 1938-39 drama, in a co-production with Vanessa Redgrave's Moving Theatre and Houston TX's Alley Theatre. (Prev: Feb. 26, 1998; Opens March 5, 1998 at the Cottesloe Theatre.)
The play concerns disturbances at a men's prison, with conflicts among convicts, guards and a sadistic warden. Nunn said in a press conference that "clear indications" of homosexuality in prison may have been the reason the play never received a commercial staging. "It's never been read, it's never been seen, it's never been performed," said Nunn. "The title refers to the kind of rough poetry Williams was intending for the theatre." Other plays by Williams include A Streetcar Named Desire and Camino Real.
OUR LADY OF SLIGO. Max Stafford-Clark directs Sebastian Barry's play, starring Sinead Cusack. (Prev: April 16, 1998; opens April 23, 1998 at the Cottesloe Theatre.)
COPENHAGEN. Michael Blakemore directs Michael Frayn's play. (Prev: May 21, 1998; opens May 28, 1998).
Also on the National program will be a touring production of Oh What A Lovely War, Joan Littlewood's musical satire directed by Fiona Laird. The show, starting March 1998, will tour London and other UK provinces.
Also announced is a special, four-performance "Platform" production of Srebrenica - The Case Against Dr. Karadzic And General Mladic. Nicholas Kent directs this reconstruction of United Nation War Crimes proceedings against two men held culpable for genocide in Bosnia. Colin Bruce, Moira Govan, William Hoyland, Mark Penfold, Hugh Simon, Jay Simpson and James Woolley star in the staging.
The point of the piece is that a young Croat's testimony (Simpson) sounds very different from the press statements given by Mladic and Karadzic, who refuse to acknowledge the mass murders of 8,000 Moslem men has taken place.
A Tricycle Theatre production in conjunction with the Natipma; and Belfast Festival, Srebrenica plays Nov. 10, 12 and 14 at the Tricycle space.
Finally, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, directed by Brigid Larmour, will tour schools (Jan.-May 1998) as part of the Shakespeare Unplugged project.
--By David Lefkowitz