New Connections 2008 – the National's annual youth theatre initiative of specially commissioned plays written for and performed by young people — will also bring new plays by writers that include Bryony Lavery, Abi Morgan, Mark Ravenhill, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Nicholas Wright to the South Bank. There will also be additional 6 PM performances of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis and Pinter's A Slight Ache.
Frayn's new play, Afterlife, opening in the Lyttelton on June 10 (following previews from June 3), reunites the playwright with director Michael Blakemore and actor Roger Allam, who previously collaborated on Frayn's Democracy, also first seen at the National in 2003 before transferring to the West End. Allam plays Max Reinhardt, the legendary theatrical impresario, who each year at the Salzburg Festival directed a famous morality play, Everyman, about God sending Death to summon a representative of mankind for judgment. The victim he chooses is a man who, like Reinhardt, rejoices in his wealth and all the pleasures that money can buy. Then in 1938 Hitler declares his own day of reckoning and sends Death into Austria - whereupon Reinhardt, a Jew, is left as naked and vulnerable as Everyman himself. Afterlife is the story of how Reinhardt achieves his great ambition, though in a way he can scarcely have foreseen.
Allam was most recently seen on the London stage in the original production of Boeing-Boeing. Other credits at the National Theatre include The Cherry Orchard, Albert Speer, Summerfolk, Money (Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor) and Troilus and Cressida. Other West End theatre credits include Blackbird, Aladdin and Privates on Parade (Olivier Award for Best Actor). His TV and film credits include "The Queen," "The Thick of It," "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," "A Class Apart" and "Spooks." Also in the cast are David Burke (last seen at the NT in Frayn's Copenhagen), Abigail Cruttenden, Peter Forbes, Glyn Grain, Selina Griffiths and David Schofield.
Rebecca Lenkiewicz, whose previous plays at the National include The Night Season in the Cottesloe, becomes the first female playwright to have a play debuting on the largest Olivier stage when Her Naked Skin premieres July 31 (following previews from July 24). Set in London in 1913, with militancy in the Suffragette Movement at its height, the play revolves around a crucial moment when women refused to let the establishment stand in their way. Howard Davies, whose recent productions at the Natioanl include Never So Good, Philistines, The Life of Galileo, Paul, The House of Bernarda Alba and Mourning Becomes Electra, directs.
Lee Hall's new play, The Pitman Painters, first seen at Newcastle's Live Theatre, transfers to the Cottesloe to open on May 21 (following previews from May 19), for a limited run to June 25. Inspired by a book by William Fever, it is set in 1934 and revolves around a group of Ashington miners who hired a professor to teach an art appreciation evening class. Rapidly abandoning theory in favor of practice, the pitmen began to paint. Within a few years the most avant-garde artists became their friends and their work was acquired by prestigious collections; but every day they worked, as before, down the mine. Max Roberts directs a cast that comprises Christopher Connel, Michael Hodgson, Ian Kelly, Brian Lonsdale, Lisa McGrillis, Deka Walmsley, David Whitaker and Phillippa Wilson. Hall's credits include the screenplay for Billy Elliot that he subsequently adapted for the current West End musical stage version that is now Broadway-bound; other plays include Spoonface Steinberg, Cooking with Elvis and an adaptation of Herman Heijerman's The Good Hope for the NT.
Director Katie Mitchell and a company that includes Hattie Morahan and Ben Whishaw, who both previously worked with her on her National Theatre production of The Seagull, will join forces for ….some trace of her, opening in the Cottesloe on July 30 (following previews from July 23). Inspired by Dostoevsky's The Idiot, this multi-media performance will develop the use of live video seen in Mitchell's previous production of Waves at the National (returning to the Cottesloe in August ahead of a U.K. and international tour). Mitchell most recently staged Women of Troy at the National, where her other productions have included Attempts on Her Life, Three Sisters, A Dream Play, Iphigenia at Aulis, Ivanov and The Oresteia.
From the classical repertoire, Melly Still (who last directed Coram Boy at the National that subsequently transferred briefly to Broadway) will direct Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, opening in the Olivier on June 4 (following previews from May 27). Rory Kinnear, who won an Olivier Award for his performance in The Man of Mode at the National and has also appeared there in Philistines and Southwark Fair, returns to play Vindice, who plots a grotesque murder in this dark play set in an avaricious world seething with vice and retribution.
Also in the cast will be Adjoa Andoh, Tom Andrews, Ken Bones, Donatella Cabras, Billy Carter, Elliot Cowan, Conor Doyle, Barbara Flynn, John Heffernan, Peter Hinton, Derek Howard, Pieter Lawman, Jane Leaney, Tommy Luther, Katherine Manners, Rob McNeill, Pamela Merrick, Simon Nagra, Rick Nodine, Jamie Parker, Richard Shanks, Ross Waiton and Lizzie Winkler.
Receiving short early-evening runs will be Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, read by Corin Redgrave (on June 16 and July 1-2), and Pinter's A Slight Ache, performed by Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins, currently co-starring in Major Barbara at the National, on July 21, 25, 28-29, and Aug. 7-8, 11-13.
Finally, New Connections 2008 will run from July 3-8 in the Olivier and Cottesloe Theatre, featuring plays specially commissioned for performance by schools and youth theatres. This year's playwrights include Moira Buffini, Abi Morgan, Mark Ravenhill, Peter Tabern, Jack Thorne, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Nigel Williams and Nicholas Wright. According to pres materials, the search for identity is a recurrent theme: for acceptance and survival in modern Britain, for racial equality in 1960s South Africa, by deception in magical allotments, during white-out in a snow blizzard, through parenting, through faith, or by comic mistakes of social networking.
Public booking for performances in the May-August season begins April 22 by calling the box office at 020 7452 3000 or by visiting visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.