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National Theatre announces year of successful expansion

First Published 22 September 2009, Last Updated 23 September 2009

The National Theatre today published its annual report, which showed 2008/9, the year in which the theatre introduced Sunday performances and NT Live, was a year of positive growth for the South Bank institution.

Over the course of the 2008/9 season, National Theatre productions entertained 817,000 theatregoers, representing a seven year high, and achieved 93% capacity in its theatres.

Sunday performances, introduced as a pilot scheme to learn how popular they might be with theatregoers, proved even more successful, reaching 99% capacity and playing to 25,000 audience members. As a result, Sunday performances have now been made a permanent fixture of the National Theatre’s schedule.

NT Live, the scheme which saw Phèdre screened live into 280 cinemas worldwide, also proved a success, allowing 50,000 cinemagoers across the globe to enjoy the production, 30,000 of which watched in the UK.

At a press conference held earlier today, Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre, said the venue was “constantly looking for more and more people to join in with what we do” and that both the Sunday performances and NT Live “feel to us to be major steps forward” in achieving that aim. DVD releases of the theatre’s shows, however, remain unlikely at this stage as Hytner chooses to focus on big screen showings that are “special, different and exciting”.

In addition to Sunday openings and NT Live, the theatre has expanded its worldwide touring and ran international exchanges with China, Georgia and Poland.

In addition to widening its audience, the theatre has also hit its ecological targets, reducing its energy consumption by 20% since 2006. This has been achieved, said the theatre’s Executive Director Nick Starr, by simple methods including turning off unnecessary lights. The next stage in reducing its carbon footprint will be to improve the theatre’s glazing and insulation, with the possibility of combined heat and power from its own generator in the future.

Asked why, in the face of the current economic climate, he thought the National Theatre, with its £55 million turnover, had performed so well, Hytner commented: “We’ve put on stuff that people want to see,” citing the venue’s wide breadth of repertoire and refusal to dumb down its programme as a reason for the season’s success.

While refusing to be drawn too much on the subject, the success of this season’s new projects bode well for the National’s upcoming ambitious plan for a series of projects designed to make the venue even more accessible and exciting. The plans, which include a new education centre to be built next to the Cottesloe theatre’s foyer and a new bar and dining area, are expected to receive planning permission by the middle of 2010.



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