Brand new plays from Damon Albarn, Patrick Marber and Caryl Churchill will headline the National Theatre’s 2015 season under its new management team, it was revealed today.
Incoming director Rufus Norris and new chief executive Tessa Ross set out their plans for both what we will see on the South Bank and how we will see it this year. And there are undoubtedly juicy shows to look forward to, chief among them being the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s interpretation of the classic play Everyman starring Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.
But there was an emphasis on solid work and dependable names rather than plays that will rock the boat. Compared with the previous director Nicholas Hytner’s opening roster, which included controversial fare such as Jerry Springer The Opera and an Iraq war flavoured Henry V, this felt very much like a new team striving to cement their situation with big, crowd-pleasing theatre.
Then again that’s the National’s brief, so why complain when we get Damon Albarn working with Moira Buffini on new musical wonder.land about Alice in the internet; The Red Lion from Patrick Marber charting the highs and lows of Sunday football; and new work from Caryl Churchill — Here We Go — alongside that of American favourite Wallace Shawn — Evening At The Talk House.
Folded into the mix will also be high quality work sourced from smaller theatres around the country such as an acclaimed version of Jane Eyre which played at the Bristol Young Vic; and also Beyond Caring about cleaners on the night shift, which comes via The Yard Theatre in Hackney. Meanwhile, from Broadway there’s The Motherf**ker With The Hat, about love and addiction, which may ruffle a few feathers.
There is also a series of re-imagined classics, among them: Ann Marie Duff in Husbands and Sons, which is based on DH Lawrence's work; Patrick Marber's reworking of Turgenev's Three Days In The Country; and Waste by Harley Granville Barker, a political piece directed by the veteran Roger Michell.
Norris himself will direct several of the plays, including Everyman. He said his focus as new boss was on ‘resonance’. “We need to be talking about the things people are talking about, try to see where the tide is going and go on from that.” He mentioned Charlie Hebdo, faith, immigration and the imbalance between London and the rest of the country as areas he was talking about and might want to explore in the future.
There was also an emphasis on co-productions with regional theatres that would come to London after local runs; connecting with schools via a new on-demand service (starting with making NT Live screenings available to study); and talk of spin-off films (Tessa Ross having previously been in charge of Film4), for example, the soon-to-be-released big screen version of London Road, featuring Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy.
The biggest question however still seems to be: what the heckins to call the big red shed that until now has simply been known as the Temporary Theatre. Norris described it as a "lung on the side of the building" and said the conversation to baptise it is ongoing. So readers' ideas for a new moniker please — add yours to the comments below.