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Rufus Norris, Director Designate of the National Theatre (Photo: Richard H Smith)

Rufus Norris, Director Designate of the National Theatre (Photo: Richard H Smith)

National Theatre announces star-studded 2018 season

First Published 3 October 2017, Last Updated 24 April 2020

Sam Mendes, Patrick Marber, Rhys Ifans, David Hare, Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes are on the star-studded list of artists who will feature in the National Theatre’s forthcoming season, revealed at a press conference today (Tuesday 3 October).

The season features a broad programme including three world premieres, multiple reimagined classics, a National Theatre transfer of European hit The Lehman Trilogy, a new community theatre programme, and the pilot of innovative new access service technology that affords users the the ability to attend any National Theatre performance via always-on closed-captioning service.

In the National’s largest venue, the Olivier Theatre, the season opens with Ian Rickson directing Brian Friel’s Translations (opening in May 2018), a poignant account of nationhood which explores the turbulent relationship between England and Ireland. Colin Morgan makes his National Theatre debut in the show.

This is followed by Marber’s adaptation of dark comedy Exit The King (July 2018), which sees a belligerent but charismatic monarch, played by Ifans, rage against his inevitable own decline – to the bemusement of his court. Indira Varma co-stars as the Queen.

Simon Godwin then directs Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo as the titular lovers in a new production of Shakesperean tragedy Antony And Cleopatra – one of the Bard’s most famous historical love stories – opening September 2018, with plans to broadcast the show worldwide as part of the National Theatre Live season also revealed. 

In the Lyttelton Theatre, Young Vic associate Joe Hill-Gibbins returns to the National to direct a revival of Rockney Ackland’s Absolute Hell (April 2018), a perilous plunge into post-war Soho, before Polly Stenham updates Strindberg’s tragedy to contemporary London in Julie (April 2018).

Director Sam Mendes (of Bond film and The Ferryman fame) then directs a new adaptation of Stefano Massini’s huge European hit The Lehman Trilogy at the National from July 2018. On a cold September morning in 1844, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside with his two brothers, dreaming of a new life in the new world – and so begins the story of a family whose financial exploits with The Lehman Brothers change the world forever. The vast play unfolds over three parts in a single evening.

David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running rounds off the new National Lyttelton season, opening in Autumn 2018, charting the rise and fall of close friends within the Labour Party over 20 years. Neil Armfield directs.

Finally, in the National’s most intimate venue, the Dorfman, Indhu Rubasingham will return to the National Theatre to direct The Great Wave (March 2018) as previously announced, before Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night (April 2018), an exploration of the rituals of family, is directed by Roy Alexander Weise.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ provocative and hilarious satire An Octoroon transfers to the National Theatre in June 2018 in a co-production with Orange Tree Theatre, and Posh playwright Laura Wade makes her NT and Theatr Clwyd debuts with Home, I’m Darling (July 2018), a new comedy about sex, cake and the quest to be a perfect 50s housewife lead by IT Crowd star Katherine Parkinson.

Finally, Justin Audibert directs a new production of The Winter’s Tale for primary schools, opening in the Dorfman Theatre in February 2018, promising the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for younger audiences.

In other NT news, the theatre and its partner for innovation, Accenture, have developed new technology, Open Access Smart Capture, which will mean for the first-time access service users will be able to attend any performance thanks to a transformative, always-on closed captioning and audio-description service. 

Utilising smart glasses with a screen directly in front of users’ eyes, over the next year the pilot phase will rigorously test this unique access system, with the system being further developed on large scale shows in the Lyttelton and Olivier theatres; the vision for Open Access Smart Capture is to have always-on smart captioning systems in all three of the NT’s theatres by October 2018 with always-on audio description by April 2019.

The National Theatre and Spotlight have also created a new resource, ProFile, to champion the talent pool of d/deaf and disabled actors, offering industry professionals the opportunity to watch these actors in action on an online video database.

Meanwhile, Public Acts – a new programme to create participatory theatre with local communities, with volunteer perfomers starring on the stage – launches with a new production of epic story Pericles (August 2018) in the Olivier Theatre, while a new school’s tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time will begin in autumn 2018 and be performed in schools across the UK.

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