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National autumn features old friends

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

Simon Russell Beale, Zoe Wanamaker and Alex Jennings all return to the National theatre to lead productions in the latter part of 2007. Russell Beale and Wanamaker team up in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nicholas Hytner, which runs in the Olivier from December. Jennings stars alongside Lisa Dillon and Sarah Woodward in a revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter, which runs at the Lyttelton from September. Teenage drama double bill Chatroom/Citizenship also returns to the National for a run in the Cottesloe.

Russell Beale and Wanamaker, who have five Laurence Olivier Awards between them, play quick-witted sparring partners Benedick and Beatrice in one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies. Both actors have been seen in recent times on the National's stage; Russell Beale starred in The Life Of Galileo and The Alchemist in 2006, while Wanamaker starred in His Girl Friday in 2003 and is currently leading the cast of The Rose Tattoo.

Much Ado About Nothing also stars Susannah Fielding, who is currently appearing alongside Wanamaker in The Rose Tattoo and in Philistines until 18 August. Hytner's creative team for Much Ado About Nothing includes Vicki Mortimer (set design), Mark Henderson (lighting design) and Rachel Portman (music). Much Ado About Nothing opens on 18 December, following previews from 10 December.

Three-time Laurence Olivier Award-winner Jennings has appeared with both Much Ado About Nothing leads over the years, starring in His Girl Friday (with Wanamaker) and The Alchemist (opposite Russell Beale). In Present Laughter he plays matinee idol Garry Essendine, a man with a tendency to dally away from the marriage bed. Though many of his affairs are tolerated, when the full extent of his misdemeanours becomes apparent all hell breaks loose.

Howard Davies, whose production of Philistines is currently playing in the Lyttelton, directs Present Laughter, with a set by Tim Hatley, costume by Jenny Bevan, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Dominic Muldowney and sound by Paul Groothuis. Present Laughter begins previewing in the Lyttelton on 25 September before opening on 2 October.

Chatroom/Citizenship, which runs in the Cottesloe from 1 September, was originally seen alongside a third piece, Debra Gearing's Burn. The two short dramas by Enda Walsh and Mark Ravenhill focus on issues particularly pertinent to teenagers; the danger of internet chatrooms and the search for sexual identity.

Much Ado About Nothing, Present Laughter and Chatroom / Citizenship join Saint Joan, The Hothouse, The Five Wives Of Maurice Pinder, The Emperor Jones, The Enchantment, Rafta Rafta… and War Horse at the National this autumn.

Autumn also sees the National celebrating the centenary of Laurence Olivier. The legendary actor was Director of the National Theatre at the Old Vic between 1963 and 1973. As part of the celebrations a selection of Olivier's films are to be projected onto the Lyttelton fly tower between 19 and 23 September.

Olivier: A Celebratory Performance, which is to be held, fittingly, in the Olivier theatre on 23 September, will also be beamed onto the fly tower. The show, which will comprise film, stage extracts, letters, reminiscences and readings, is set to feature actors including Derek Jacobi, Robert Lindsay, Richard Attenborough, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Plowright.

A lasting monument to Olivier, in the form of a statue by Angela Conner depicting the actor playing Hamlet, will also be unveiled outside the National on 23 September.

MA

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