London's National Theatre Season to Include Alan Bennett's People, John Lithgow in The Magistrate

By Mark Shenton
30 Aug 2012

John Lithgow
John Lithgow

The fall and winter season at London's National Theatre will include the world premiere of the previously announced Alan Bennett play People and John Lithgow returning to the National, where he previously performed his solo memoir Stories by Heart in 2009, to now star in Pinero's classic play The Magistrate.

People, which begins performances Oct. 31 prior to an official opening Nov. 7 in the Lyttelton Theatre, reunites the playwright with director Nicholas Hytner and actress Frances de la Tour, who were previously teamed together on both The History Boys (for which she won a Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Play when it transferred to Broadway) and The Habit of Art at the National.

Bennett's sixth play for the National revolves around a woman who decides to hold an attic sale. The cast also stars Selina Cadell and Linda Bassett, and includes Frances Ashman, Philip Childs, Jack Chissick, Giles Cooper, Andy de la Tour, Peter Egan, Nicholas le Prevost, Jess Murphy, Alastair Parker and Robin Pearce.

Pinero's Victorian farce The Magistrate will begin performances Nov. 14, prior to an official opening Nov. 21, in the Olivier Theatre. Timothy Sheader, who was originally scheduled to direct The Count of Monte Cristo in this slot, will direct John Lithgow in the title role, joined by Nancy Carroll and Joshua McGuire.



According to press materials, "With his louche air and developed taste for smoking, gambling, port and women, it's hard to believe Cis Farringdon is only fourteen. And that’s because he isn't. Agatha his mother lopped five years from her true age and his when she married the amiable Posket. The imminent arrival of Cis' godfather sends Agatha incognito to the Hotel des Princes to warn him of her deception. But it's also where her son has cajoled his otherwise staid stepfather into joining him for a binge. High-spirited carousing leads to a police raid and a night of outrageous mishap as the trapped guests make desperate attempts to conceal themselves from the law and from each other. Indignities escalate at court the next day where Posket, the police magistrate, must preside."

Lithgow recently appeared on Broadway in Manhattan Theatre Club's production of The Columinist. Other Broadway credits include Sweet Smell of Success (for which he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical), M. Butterfly, The Changing Room (Tony Award) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Films include "The World According to Garp," "Terms of Endearment," "Footloose" and "Shrek." TV credits include "3rd Rock from the Sun" (winning three Emmys and a Golden Globe Award) and "Dexter" (Emmy and Golden Globe Awards). Sheader recently directed Into the Woods at Central Park's Delacorte Theater, recreating a production he originally staged at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park that he is artistic director of in London.

The National will also see Marianne Elliott, co-director of War Horse, directing Simon StephensPort, beginning performances Jan. 22 prior to an official opening Jan. 28 in the Lyttelton Theatre. Elliott also directed the play's 2002 world premiere at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre; since then, she has also directed the premiere of Stephens' Harper Regan at the National and his adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (currently at the National's Cottesloe).

The play, set in Stockport in 1988, is described in press materials as a richly colorful portrait of a town with the everyday writ large. It is characterized as a celebration of the human spirit as Rachel, through sheer courage and despite an economic and political climate that pushes her into the very margins, looks to the future and opts for love and life and for something better.

Booking for new productions in the September to February season opens Sept. 21 for public/online booking. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7452 3000, or visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk for more details.