The National Theatre had a bumper 2006/7, making a surplus of £187,000 in a year when turnover increased to a record £46 million. Plans for 2008, which were also revealed today, suggest that it could be another impressive year for the South Bank institution.
At today's press conference Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National, confirmed that the popular Travelex season, which sees two thirds of the seats for each production available for just £10, will continue next year, the promotion's sixth season. He also revealed that, inspired by the success of St Joan, the season will open with a revival of Shaw's Major Barbara which he will direct. "Major Barbara is even more pertinent than St Joan," he said of his decision to revive another Shaw play.
Hytner couldn't be tempted to reveal too much about the new season but did describe David Hare's new project, which he hoped to be able to present in 2008, as a "very big play". Howard Davies, whose production of Present Laughter opens tonight, will direct.
Hare will also take directorial duties, bringing The Year Of Magical Thinking, starring Vanessa Redgrave, to the Lyttelton. Written by Joan Didion, the piece tells of the year following the death of Didion's husband, and was staged on Broadway earlier in 2007.
Other projects to look out for in 2008 are the collaboration between actress Juliette Binoche and choreographer Akram Khan, Samuel Adamson's reworking of Ibsen’s Little Eyolf directed by Marianne Elliott, Coram Boy director Melly Still returning to direct The Revenger's Tragedy, a new Tony Harrison piece and a new play from Michael Frayn to be directed by Michael Blakemore.
Hytner confirmed that the National had no plans to stage a musical in 2008, partly due to the number of musicals currently running in the West End, but was looking into staging new musical work in the future. Possible plans for musician Rufus Wainwright to create a new musical for the National have been scrapped following Wainwright's decision to accept a commission from the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Among the other impressive figures released by the National today were the statistics that 1.1 million people saw performances given by the National during the year, with the box office recording 85% capacity, 93% for the Travelex £10 season. The revival of Coram Boy was the largest single box office success, taking £1.5 million, while Caroline, Or Change and Market Boy proved a hit with National newcomers, attracting 32% first-time bookers.
Hytner, who was in buoyant mood with nothing but good news to share, spoke of his passion for bringing through young theatre practitioners while continuing to work with the likes of Frayn and Hare, who he referred to as "an extraordinary generation of playwrights". He concluded that at the National, in the West End, and with particular reference to companies such as Punchdrunk, whose new production The Masque Of The Red Death opens at the BAC tonight, it is a "great time for theatre".
Currently playing at the National are The Emperor Jones, Rafta Rafta, The Hothouse, Present Laughter and The Enchantment.