Oscar Winner Mirren to Star in Phaedra for London's National; 2009 Season Details Announced

News   Oscar Winner Mirren to Star in Phaedra for London's National; 2009 Season Details Announced
Dame Helen Mirren, last seen on the London stage when she starred in Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra at the National's Lyttelton Theatre in 2003, will return to the same theatre in June 2009 to star in a new production of Racine's 1677 play Phaedra.
Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren

Phaedra will be directed National artistic director Nicholas Hytner, who revealed further plans for 2009 at a press conference to announce the publication of the theatre's 2007-2008 Annual Report, which reflects on the National's successes over the last financial year.

The 2007-08 Travelex £10 season achieved 90 percent capacity (while the three-theatre complex achieved 87 percent capacity overall, with 730,000 paid attendances for 26 productions staged across the year, 19 of them new). According to the Annual Report, the Travelex season (in which the majority of tickets are sold for £10) "has proved to be one of the National's long-term hits, a sustainable programming model that has proved not only popular with audiences – we expect to sell our millionth £10 ticket during 2009 – but hospitable to a large range of work."

Hytner revealed that the 2009 Travelex season will be launched with a new play, England People Very Nice, by Richard Bean that he will direct in the Olivier. The season will continue with Marianne Elliott's production of All's Well That Ends Well; the National directorial debut of Donmar Warehouse artistic director Michael Grandage with Danton's Death; and Brecht's Mother Courage, directed by Deborah Warner and starring Fiona Shaw in the title role.

Bean, who previously wrote The Mentalists that was seen as part of the Transformation season in the reconfigured Lyttelton Theatre in 2002, has also had plays produced at the Royal Court (including Harvest, Honeymoon Suite, Toast and Under the Whaleback), Bush (The God Botherers) and most recently the touring company Headlong (The English Game). According to Hytner, England People Very Nice is "set in Bethnal Green and is about four waves of immigration [to the area] — French Huguenots, Irish, Jewish and Bengali – and finds a pattern in them. It is written with a kind of boisterous bravura that is very much in the tradition of South Bank comedy – and is very funny."

Also on the schedule for the next year are productions of Wole Soyinka's Devil and the King's Horseman, directed by Rufus Norris; Dido Queen of Carthage, directed by James Macdonald; and JB Priestley's Time and the Conways, directed by Rupert Goold (the Patrick Stewart Macbeth that was a hit in the West End and on Broadway, Six Characters in Search of an Author that has just opened at the Gielgud, and the upcoming West End revival of Pinter's No Man’s Land). About Goold Hytner said, "He seems to me to be in a period of extraordinary imaginative fertility." Former National Theatre artistic director Richard Eyre will also return to the theatre to direct The Observer, a new play by Matt Charman (whose The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder was seen at the National in 2007).

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