Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren will star in the title role of Racine’s Phaedra at the National Theatre next year, in a season that will also see acclaimed directors Michael Grandage and Rupert Goold (pictured) make their directorial debuts at the Southbank venue.
The news was revealed by the National’s Director Nicholas Hytner today in a press conference to release the venue’s 2007/08 annual report.
Mirren, best known for her screen roles in TV’s Prime Suspect and 2006 film The Queen, for which she won an Academy Award and a BAFTA, will lead the cast of Racine’s classical tragedy Phaedra, in a translation by Ted Hughes, which is scheduled for the Lyttelton in June next year. Mirren’s previous appearances at the National include Antony And Cleopatra in 1998 and Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003. Mirren is joined in Phaedra by Margaret Tyzak, recently seen at the Donmar Warehouse in The Chalk Garden.
Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Grandage and this year’s Laurence Olivier Award-winning director Rupert Goold both make their National Theatre directorial debuts next year with productions of Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death and JB Priestley’s Time And The Conways respectively. Grandage is currently directing Kenneth Branagh in Ivanov at the Wyndham’s as part of the Donmar’s season in the West End, while Goold’s inventive production of Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search Of An Author opened at the Gielgud this week.
Hytner confirmed that the popular Travelex £10 season, which last year drew 90% attendance, will continue into 2009 in the Olivier theatre, with the first production being a new play by Richard Bean entitled England People Very Nice. Hytner is to direct this comedy which is set in Bethnal Green within four immigrant communities – Irish, Jewish, French and Bengali.
The season continues with Marianne Elliott directing a new production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Elliott has frequently directed at the National, with productions including Pillars Of The Community, Térèse Raquin and last year’s award-winning Saint Joan. Her other work includes Much Ado About Nothing for the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse.
Other productions next year include Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman, directed by Rufus Norris (Festen, Cabaret, Hergé’s Adventures Of Tintin), Brecht’s Mother Courage and Christopher Marlowe’s Dido Queen Of Carthage. Former National Theatre Artistic Director Richard Eyre will return to direct The Observer, a new play by Matt Charman, whose play Five Wives Of Maurice Pinder played in the Cottesloe last year.
More details, dates and further casting for all these productions are yet to be announced.
In accordance with the National’s new policy of opening on Sundays, which kicked off this month, it is likely that some or all of these productions may hold Sunday performances. However, the policy is initially in effect only for the autumn/winter season, after which time the National will stop and assess the impact of the new scheduling. The intention is to resume Sunday performances full time from next summer.
“We are going to be a seven day a week operation. In order for us to take a step back to realise the impact on the people we are working with we are going to do it, stop and take stock,” said Hytner today.
The realisation of Sunday performances comes after negotiations with unions including Equity, the actors’ union, which eventually voted four to one in favour of a Sunday opening, revealed Hytner, despite many actors’ unwillingness to work on Sundays, especially those with young families. “We’ll do our best to make it as painless as possible,” said Hytner, “but we’ve got to do it because we are a public service.”
As expected, the National has already had strong sales for Sunday performances. Productions currently participating include Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan’s dance/theatre piece In-I and Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse.