Nicholas Hytner in rehearsals for Othello (photo: Johan Persson)
Nicholas Hytner in rehearsals for Othello

Hytner: “Appetite for theatre growing”

Published March 20, 2014

The future of the UK theatre industry is in safe hands according to National Theatre Director Nicholas Hytner, who spoke in glowing terms about the coming years as he announced his final season at the South Bank venue.

Buoyed by the announcements of tax breaks in George Osborne’s budget and by new forces taking theatre in different directions, the One Man, Two Guvnors director, who will leave the National in 2015, was filled with positivity about the health of the theatre industry.

“[New producers and theatremakers] have grabbed the thing by the scruff of the neck and are taking care of it,” he told the press conference. “Look at what is happening in Bristol. Look at what is happening in Sheffield. Look at what is happening in Manchester. There are some great theatre cities outside of London that are thriving because of the drive and imagination of the people who are running those theatres. And the London situation is phenomenal.”

Through his time at the head of the National Theatre, Hytner has led the drive to increase UK theatre’s popularity, not just in London, but across the UK and worldwide. In 2013-14, 2.67 million people have seen an NT production, many not at the institution’s South Bank home. Nearly 700,000 audience members saw a National show at the cinema as part of NT Live, including 155,000 who watched the recent live broadcast of War Horse, and 374,000 saw the National’s touring productions.

The introduction of the ticket price-reducing Travelex seasons at the venue, which this season will offer 100,000 tickets to major productions including Medea and David Hare’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers for just £15, have also helped make the National one of our most accessible arts institutions.

As Hytner prepares to pass the reins to successor Rufus Norris, he does so with the venue in rude health. Only £4.6 million remains of the £80 million fundraising target set to complete the NT Future redevelopment project. Such is the respect and affection for the National Theatre that more than 82,000 public donors contributed £1.8 million between them to the project.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch was today unveiled as the founding Corporate Partner for NT Future. The multi-year partnership sees the US financial giant supporting the creation of a “green space” overlooking the Thames, aiding the National’s attempt to reduce carbon dioxide output by a quarter and helping the NT Apprentices scheme through mentoring and finance.

The future, both on the South Bank and beyond, certainly seems rosy.

“The tax breaks announced yesterday are unequivocally a good thing. They are an imaginative and considered response to the challenges of theatre production,” Hytner concluded. “We’re going to get better and better. These people [the new entrepreneurial theatremakers] will go on to build and produce other theatres. In 20 years time some of them will have gravitated towards the National Theatre, some of them will have gravitated towards the commercial theatre or the regions. The appetite for theatre, it seems to me, is growing. The whole business is booming and will continue to boom unless measures are taken to undermine it. I’m optimistic.”

"The appetite for theatre, it seems to me, is growing. The whole business is booming."