National Theatre Season to Include Fiona Shaw as Mother Courage, Pratchett's Nation

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18 Jun 2009

The National's autumn season will see the premiere of Deborah Warner's long-planned reunion with actress Fiona Shaw on a new production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, presented in Tony Kushner's translation; the opening of a new play Our Class by Tadeusz Słobodzianek, one of Poland's leading playwrights; and the premiere of Mark Ravenhill's previously announced theatrical adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Nation, directed by Melly Still.

The National will also stage 6 PM performances of Caryl Churchill's Three More Sleepless Nights and Nabakov's Lolita, adapted by Richard Nelson. In addition, Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters will return to the National's Lyttelton briefly in September, before embarking on an eight-week U.K tour; and the National's new production of All's Well That Ends Well will be broadcast live from the theatre into cinemas in the U.K and worldwide on Oct. 1.

Mother Courage and Her Children will begin performances Sept. 9 prior to an official opening Sept. 16, as part of the Travelex £10 tickets season in the Olivier Theatre. Director Deborah Warner and actress Fiona Shaw have previously collaborated at the National Theatre on Beckett's Happy Days, Richard II, The Good Person of Sichuan (winning Shaw the Critics' Circle Award for Best Actress) and The Powerbook. Elsewhere, they have collaborated on productions of Medea (West End and Broadway), Electra (RSC), Hedda Gabler (Abbey Theatre, Dublin and West End) and T.S Eliot's The Wasteland (international tour). Shaw has also worked at the National on Machinal (winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress), The Way of the World and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Warner has also directed King Lear for the National.

Brecht's play is presented in a translation by Tony Kushner, whose Angels in America was staged at the National in 1992-93, and Caroline, or Change, seen at the National in 2006. The title character is described in press materials as "one of the astonishing stage creations of the twentieth century, [who] drags her cart across the battlefields, profiteering from a war that destroys her children, one by one." The production is designed by Tom Pye, with costumes by Ruth Myers, lighting by Jean Kalman, songs by Duke Special, musicscape by Mel Mercier, video by Lysander Ashton and Mark Grimmer, and sound by Andrew Bruce and Nick Lidster.

Our Class, a new play by Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek, begins performances in the Cottesloe Sept. 16, prior to an official opening Sept. 23. In the play, a group of schoolchildren, Jewish and Catholic, declare their ambitions: one to be a fireman, one a film star, one a pilot, another a doctor. They are learning the ABCs. This is Poland, 1925. As the children grow up, their country is torn apart by invading armies, first Soviet and then Nazi. Internal grievances deepen as fervent nationalism develops; friends betray each other; violence escalates: until these ordinary people carry out an extraordinary and monstrous act that darkly resonates to this day. According to press materials, Slobodzianek confronts his country's involvement in the atrocities of the last century and follows the one-time classmates — amidst the weddings, parades, births, deaths, emigrations and reconciliations — into the next.



The play is presented in a version by Ryan Craig, and is directed by Bijan Sheibani, artistic director of ATC who is now making his National directorial debut. The production will be designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Jon Clark, choreography by Aline David and sound by Ian Dickinson. The cast includes Tamzin Griffin, Amanda Hale, Edward Hogg, Sinead Matthews and Jason Watkins.

Nation, based on Terry Pratchett's adventure story, begins performances Nov. 11, prior to an official opening Nov. 24, in the Olivier Theatre. Prachett is one of the U.K's best-selling authors, whose books have sold over 60 million copies in 37 languages. Nation is set in parallel worlds in 1860. Two teenagers are thrown together by a tsunami that has destroyed Mau's village and left Daphne shipwrecked on his South Pacific island, thousands of miles from home. One wears next to nothing, the other a long white dress; neither speaks the other's language; somehow they must learn to survive. As starving refugees gather, Daphne delivers a baby, milks a pig, brews beer and does battle with a mutineer. Mau fights cannibal raiders, discovers the world is round and questions the reality of his tribe's fiercely patriarchal gods. Together they come of age, overseen by a foul-mouthed parrot, as they discard old doctrine to forge a new Nation.

It is adapted by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Melly Still, who also designs the set with Mark Friend. Costumes are by Dinah Collin, with lighting by Paul Anderson, projections by Jon Driscoll, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Paul Arditti. The cast includes Gary Carr and Emily Taaffe. Ravenhill has previously written three plays for the National's Connections program for teenagers: Citizenship, which went on to be performed twice at the Cottesloe and on tour, Scenes from Family Life and Totally Over You; as well as Mother Clap's Molly House that transferred from the National to the West End's Alwych Theatre. Still made her NT directorial debut with Coram Boy, which ran for two seasons in the Olivier and transferred to Broadway; last year she directed The Revenger's Tragedy.

The Lyttelton will also host 6 PM performances of Caryl Churchill's Three More Sleepless Nights, running for ten performances only from July 30 (with a press performance on July 31) to Aug. 27, and Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita, running for three performances only on Sept. 7, 14 and 21. Churchill's play is described in press materials as a powerful look at human interaction and relationships. "One double bed. Two couples. Three short acts of love-tangled conversation that expertly twist and turn, from existential angst to sci-fi films; from explosive arguments to long silences." Gareth Machin directs a cast that comprises Lindsey Coulson, Ian Hart, Hattie Morahan and Paul Ready. Design is by Naomi Dawson, lighting by Laurie Clayton and sound by Mike Winship. Lolita has been adapted by playwright Richard Nelson as a 90-minute monologue. The production will have lighting by Simon Fraulo and sound by Mike Winship. The cast is to be confirmed.

Lee Hall's award-winning play The Pitmen Painters will return to the National's Lyttelton Theatre, beginning performances Sept. 2 for a run to Sept. 22 only, prior to embarking on a U.K national tour, when it will visit Newcastle Theatre Royal (Sept. 29-Oct. 3), Cardiff's New Theatre (Oct. 13-17), Milton Keynes Theatre (Oct. 20-24), Salford's Lyric Theatre (Oct. 27-31), Sheffield's Lyceum (Nov. 3-7), Norwich's Theatre Royal (Nov. 10-14), Bath's Theatre Royal (Nov. 17-21) and Plymouth's Theatre Royal (Nov. 24-28). Co-produced by Newcastle's Live Theatre and the National, the production features the original cast: Christopher Connel, Michael Hodgson, Ian Kelly, Brian Lonsdale, Lisa McGrillis, Deka Walmsley, David Whitaker and Phillippa Wilson. It is directed by Max Roberts and designed by Gary McCann, with lighting by Douglas Kuhrt and sound by Martin Hodgson.

The current production of All's Well That Ends Well will be filmed live in high definition and broadcast via satellite to 70 cinemas across the U.K and elsewhere around the world on Oct. 1. This follows the live screening of Phedre on June 25. For a list of participating cinemas, visit www.ntlive.com.

Public booking by phone and online for the new productions in the July-October season opens on June 29. To book tickets, contact the box office at 020 7452 3000 or visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.