News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years. 

Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack reprise their roles as Lenu and Lila alongside returning cast members Justin AvothAdam BurtonMartin Hyder, Ira Mandela SiobhanVictoria MoseleyEmily MyttonJonah RussellBadria Timimi, Emily Wachter and Toby Wharton. Based on the celebrated novels by Elena Ferrante – published in over 50 countries – My Brilliant Friend is an epic story of love, violence, ambition and self-destruction. With set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, composition by Jim Fortune, lighting design by Malcolm Rippeth, sound design by Jon Nicholls, movement direction by Sarah Dowling, puppetry direction by Toby Olié, and fight direction by Rachel Bown-Wiliams and Ruth Cooper-Brown for Rc-Annie LtdMy Brilliant Friend, a co-production with the Rose Theatre Kingston, in which Ferrante’s four novels become one play, presented in two parts, previews from 12 November, in rep until Saturday 18 January with further performances to be announced.  

In February, the Olivier and Tony Award-winning writer of Angels in America and Caroline, Or ChangeTony Kushner, offers a post-war American context for his new version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s blackly comic masterpiece, THE VISIT, or The Old Lady Comes To Call.  Lesley Manville, last seen at the NT in Mike Leigh’s Grief, will play Claire Zachanassian, cast also includes Richard DurdenSara KestelmanJoseph Mydell and Nicholas Woodeson. Directed by Jeremy Herrin with set design by Vicki Mortimer and costume design by Moritz Junge. The lighting designer is NT Associate Paule Constable, composition by Paul Englishby and the movement director is Polly BennettThe Visit is presented in association with David Binder. Original English language translation by Maurice Valency. Stage rights by Diogenes Verlag AG Zürich. The New American Work Programme is supported by The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Lawton W Fitt & James I McLaren Foundation and Kathleen J Yoh.

JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN, written by Richard Bean and Oliver Chris, based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals, and directed by Thea Sharrock, opens in the Olivier Theatre in April. In the year of the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, this classic restoration comedy is relocated to World War II as Spitfires roar over the grounds of Malaprop Hall, now requisitioned by the RAF. By night pilot Jack Absolute flies out against the Luftwaffe, by day he tries to win the love of Air Transport Auxiliary Pilot Lydia Languish. That’s not an easy task, as principled Lydia demands to be loved on her own terms. Richard Bean’s previous plays for the NT include One Man, Two Guvnors and Great BritainOliver Chris makes his NT playwriting debut. Set and costume design is by Mark Thompson.

Lyricist, novelist, poet and playwright, Kate Tempest makes her NT debut in June as the writer of PARADISE a potent and dynamic reimagining of Philoctetes by Sophocles. Lesley Sharp will play Philoctetes with further cast to be announced. Paradise is directed by Ian Rickson who collaborates with Kate to bring the epic story of the rivalry between Odysseus and Philoctetes to the Olivier Theatre. Once comrades, now enemies after Odysseus abandoned Philoctetes to suffer a terrible wound alone, Odysseus is prepared to use any means necessary to get the shell-shocked Philoctetes back to the front and win the Trojan war. Set and costume design is by Rae Smith.

Lyttelton Theatre 


In THREE SISTERS, which opens in December in the Lyttelton, Chekhov’s iconic characters are transported to 1960s Nigeria in this new version by Inua Ellams, after Chekhov. Owerri, 1968, the eve of the Biafran Civil War. Lolo, Nne Chukwu and Udo are grieving the loss of their father. Months before, two ruthless military coups plunged the country into chaos. As the conflict encroaches on their provincial village, the sisters long to return to their former home, Lagos. As the war rages, fuelled by foreign intervention, the bonds of sisterhood are tested. Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director Nadia Fall returns to the NT to direct this impassioned retelling. Cast includes Ronke AdekoluejoJude AkuwudikeKen NwosuRacheal OforiSule Rimi and Natalie Simpson. With set and costume design by Katrina Lindsay, lighting design by Peter Mumford, movement direction by Polly Bennett and music direction and vocal arrangements by Michael HenryThree Sisters is a co-production with Fuel, originally commissioned by Metta Theatre. Previews from Tuesday 3 December, with a press night on Tuesday 10 December, continuing in rep until 4 January with further performances to be announced. Supported by Leila Maw Straus and Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and The London Community Foundation. Hundreds of £15 tickets will be available for every performance. 

Lucy Kirkwood brings her new play, THE WELKIN, to the Lyttelton Theatre in January. Rural Suffolk,1759. As the country waits for Halley’s comet, Sally Poppy is sentenced to hang for a heinous murder. When she claims to be pregnant, a jury of twelve matrons are taken from their housework to decide whether she’s telling the truth, or simply trying to escape the noose. With only midwife Lizzy Luke prepared to defend the girl, and a mob baying for blood outside, the matrons wrestle with their new authority, and the devil in their midst. Maxine Peake returns to the NT for the first time since 2002 to play Lizzy Luke in a production directed by James Macdonald. The cast also includes Natasha CottriallCecilia NobleDawn Sievewright and Ria Zmitrowicz with further cast to be announced. With set and costume design by Bunny Christie, lighting design by Lee Curran, sound design by Carolyn Downing and fight direction by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown of RC-Annie Ltd.   

MANOR, a new play by Moira Buffini, will open in April. Diana Stuckley and her daughter are struggling to keep the roof on their run down manor house. As a violent storm sweeps the coast, neighbours and strangers begin to appear, seeking shelter from the floods. Among them are the leaders of a far right organisation. Stranded together, this explosive mix of people must survive the weather and each other. Nancy Carroll plays Diana with further casting to be announced. This darkly comic drama is directed by Fiona Buffini, reuniting the writer and director behind Dinner,with set and costume design by Lez Brotherston and lighting design by Paule Constable

THE SEVEN STREAMS OF THE RIVER OTA returns to the National Theatre where it first played in 1996, to mark 75 years since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. The acclaimed seven-hour saga by Ex Machina, directed by Robert Lepage, is a giant theatrical journey through time and space. In this new edition of his masterpiece, Lepage continues to explore how a few kilograms of uranium falling on Japan changed the course of human history and how the tragedies of the Holocaust and Hiroshima permeate the experience of not only the survivors, but also their descendants. As the play traces seven stories from 1945 to 1995, a common theme emerges: the quest for meaning and peace when facing death and horror. We encounter characters who embrace hope and sensuality and laugh in the face of adversity. The Seven Streams of the River Ota plays at the National Theatre in March 2020 as part of a world tour.

Dorfman Theatre 


Artist in Residence Alexander Zeldin returns to the NT with his new play, FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY in September, the third piece in his trilogy of plays that tell the stories of people forced to the margins, following Beyond Caring and LOVE. In a run down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Faith, Hope and Charity takes us to the heart of our brutal and uncertain times in a radical story of redemption, perseverance and love. The cast includes Nick HolderDayo KoleoshoSusan LynchCecilia NobleBobby StallwoodHind Swareldahab and Alan Williams. The set and costume designer is Alexander’s frequent collaborator, Natasha Jenkins, the lighting designer is Marc Williams, the movement director is Marcin Rudy, the sound designer is Josh Anio Grigg, the rehearsal music director is Laurie Blundell and the associate director isDiyan Zora. Previews from 9 September, press night Tuesday 17 September, playing until 12 October. Production supported by The Polonsky Foundation.


Following acclaimed runs of The Flick and John, Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre with her latest play, THE ANTIPODES. Their phones switched off, a group of people sit around a table telling, categorising and theorising stories. This is a world that is both familiar and fantastical. Their real purpose is never quite clear, but they continue on, searching for the monstrous. Part satire, part sacred rite, The Antipodes asks what value stories have for a world in crisis. Cast includes Matt Bardock, Arthur Darvill, Imogen DoelHadley FraserConleth HillSinéad MatthewsStuart McQuarrie and Bill Milner. Directed by Annie Baker and Chloe Lamford, with set and costume design by Chloe Lamford, lighting design by Natasha Chivers, and sound design by Tom Gibbons. In previews from 21 October, with a press night on Wednesday 30 October, playing until 23 November. The New American Work Programme is supported by The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Lawton W Fitt & James | McLaren Foundation and Kathleen J Yoh.  

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, bestselling author of American Gods, Coraline, Stardust and the Sandman series, will play in the Dorfman over Christmas. A modern myth about the childhood truths that swim beneath our adult selves, adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd, this adventure will excite, unsettle and thrill those brave enough to face its hidden depths. Returning to his childhood home, Alex finds himself standing beside the duck pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He’s transported to his eleventh birthday, when his dad was struggling to make ends meet and his friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond, but an ocean… Plunged into a magical world, Alex and Lettie’s survival depends on their ability to reckon with dark, ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them. Cast includes Josie Walker and Samuel Blenkin, with further cast to be announced. The set designer is Fly Davis, with costume and puppet design by Samuel Wyer, movement direction by Steven Hoggett, composition by Jherek Bischoff, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Ian Dickinson and puppetry by Finn Caldwell. Suitable for ages 12+, with half price tickets available for under-18s. In previews from Tuesday 3 December, with a press night on Wednesday 11 December, playing until Saturday 25 January. 

DEATH OF ENGLAND, a new play by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams which began life as a short film created by the Royal Court and The Guardian, will open in the Dorfman in early February. Featuring Rafe Spall, the play explores the world through the lens of a working class man searching for truth after his father dies. Death of England is directed by Clint Dyer, marking his NT writing and directing debut — and making him the first Black British artist to have acted, written and directed at the NT. Roy Williams’ previous plays for the NT include Baby Girl andSing Yer Heart Out for the Lads.  Set and costume design is by Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and ULTZ, with lighting design by Jackie Shemeshand sound design by Pete Malkin

Francesca Martinez makes her NT debut in March with ALL OF US. Exploring life and love during a time of austerity, Martinez herself plays the lead role of Jess in this powerful, timely and characterful comedy drama. Her first play, it will be directed by Ian Rickson. Jess has a job she loves, friends and a sense of humour. She needs one, because when the government come calling, the life she has built – she has had cerebral palsy since birth – comes under threat. Set and costume design will be by Georgia Lowe.

Following its run at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, WELCOME TO IRAN, a new play written and directed by Nadia Fall, will play a limited run in the Dorfman opening in May. Ava is a twenty-something Londoner.  Following the death of her estranged father, she journeys to Iran in search of his past and her extended family. Exploring the rich culture and thriving art scene of this oft misunderstood country, Ava is swept into a world of raves, raids and illicit love, all whilst negotiating family politics, Tehran traffic and the morality police. Based on real-life testimonials, Welcome to Iran offers a tender and witty snapshot of modern life in Iran.  Set and costume design is by Ben Stones. A Theatre Royal Stratford East and National Theatre co-production.  

Public booking opens for Faith, Hope and Charity, The Antipodes, My Brilliant Friend, The Ocean at the End of Lane and Three Sisters on Friday 5 July.

Public Acts 

Following Pericles in the Olivier Theatre last summer, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul will direct this year’s Public Acts production of Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT in a musical adaptation at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 24 – 27 August. This version of As You Like It is by Laurie Woolery and Shaina Taub, featuring music and lyrics by Taub, and set and costume design by Hayley Grindle. It was first seen at the Delacorte Theater, New York, in 2017 as part of The Public Theater’s Public Works programme. Collaborating with Douglas on this production will be Pericles director Emily Lim, Public Acts Director. Forced from their homes, Orlando, Duke Senior, his daughter Rosalind and niece Celia, escape to the Forest of Arden, a fantastical place where all are welcomed and embraced. Lost amidst the trees, they find community and acceptance under the stars. As You Like It is a Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch production, in partnership with the National Theatre.

In August 2020, Cast, Doncaster, one of the NT’s Theatre Nation Partner venues, will host the third Public Acts production, with a new version ofTHE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE by Bertolt Brecht, adapted for this project by Chris Bush and will be directed by Public Acts AssociateJames Blakey. The creative team will work alongside local community partners in Doncaster on this new interpretation of Brecht’s classic.  

Public Acts is inspired by Public Works, the Public Theater’s ground-breaking programme in New York. Supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Hertz, Mr & Mrs A Mosawi, Simon & Sue Ruddick and Garfield Weston Foundation. Theatre Nation Partnerships is generously supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Garfield Weston Foundation.    

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