U.K.'s National Theatre Announces Another Bumper Year and Increasing Global Reach

By Mark Shenton
October 2, 2012

The U.K.'s National Theatre has reported another bumper year both at its home base on London's South Bank and in the West End, with productions playing to an increasingly global reach, as well.



According to the Theatre's annual report, the theatre played to a worldwide audience of 2.3 million last year. Since 2009, the global audience for NT productions has trebled and is forecast to reach 3 million in 2012 and  3.4 million in 2013. It has played to 92 percent capacity houses on the South Bank, while War Horse has played to 99 percent capacity at the West End's New London Theatre.

"By any measure the National Theatre is surely the busiest theatre in the world," according to a press statement. "Its global profile has been boosted with the growth of National Theatre Live and War Horse, with audiences reaching 2.3 million worldwide. On the South Bank, audiences have averaged 90 percent capacity over the last eight years; with One Man, Two Guvnors joining War Horse in the West End, the National Theatre’s audiences are likely to represent almost 40 percent of London's total play-goers."

Income has grown to a new record of £80 million, more than double that of ten years ago, representing an increase in activity, innovation, corporate and individual support, and an endorsement of the NT’s entrepreneurial approach in a year which saw the theatre's state grant cut by 7 percent (with a further cut of 4.5 percent to follow in 2012-13).

In Hytner's own words in the annual report, he stated, "I am writing this the day after the world was beguiled, intrigued and dazzled by Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony: an event that used every weapon in the creative armoury to create an exciting and truthful vision of London and the whole country. There seems to be no limit to the confidence and creativity of London’s great cultural institutions. Investment in the arts since the mid-90s has come from more than one source – principally from the government but also from the Lottery and from charitable trusts, corporate sponsors and individual philanthropists. Although we all of us face a less certain future, the cultural triumphs of the first half of 2012 have demonstrated across the board that London is indeed, in one respect at least, the world's capital."

Writing about his own production of Shakespeare and Middleton's Timon of Athens, he added, "A 400-year-old voice seemed uncannily prophetic in its disgust for a world corrupted by greed, and debauched by its reduction of everything of value to a financial transaction. The playwrights even put the boot into arts patronage, which might conceivably be a bridge too far; though it has to be said that they reserve their special disdain for the sponging artists. Their premonitions of financial apocalypse were nevertheless widely shared in 2012. But if London’s status as a world financial centre is in doubt, its pre-eminence as a city of culture cannot ever have been clearer. The work of its great institutions over the last few years has been notable for its panache as much as for its determination both to reflect and to make the cultural weather, and in the theatre at least, there has been a continuing challenge to large institutions like the National Theatre from young and experimental companies."

He continued, "It would be something close to madness to undermine the foundations of the current confidence, and to slip back after the Olympics into the kind of insecurity that discourages the taking of creative risk. There will be no let-up in the National Theatre's efforts to secure funding from the public purse, from private individuals and from the commercial exploitation of its successes. Our international reach has never been greater, and we are only a part of the grip that London’s cultural scene has on the world’s imagination. Through National Theatre Live, we now reach 500 venues in 22 countries from Mexico to India and China."