Manville, Russell Beale among actors tapped for season
New plays by dramatist and filmmaker Mike Leigh (“Vera Drake,” “Secrets and Lies”), Conor McPherson (“The Seafarer,” “The Weir”) and John Hodge; new tuners from Tori Amos and Adam Cork; and a slew of revivals are on the 2011-12 slate at London’s National Theater.
A.d. Nicholas Hytner described the season as “bullish” in the light of forthcoming Arts Council England funding cuts, to be announced March 30, which will reduce funding across the sector by 14.9%. “It would be wrong for us to set the timid example,” said Hytner on the back of recent figures that show the National’s attendance rising to 100% of capacity across a raft of productions from “Hamlet” and “Seasons Greetings” to “Fela” and “Men Should Weep.”
Leigh’s play, currently untitled and with no disclosed subject, will have a cast including Ruby Bentall and Leigh regular Lesley Manville (“Another Year”). It opens in the smallest of the National’s three venues in September and will be devised and written over an extended rehearsal period. “Two Thousand Years,” Leigh’s last play, which also premiered at the National, rehearsed for 16 weeks.
McPherson’s play, set in 19th century Ireland and also yet to be titled, opens in the 898-seat Lyttelton in October, while Simon Russell Beale and Alex Jennings will star as Josef Stalin and novelist-playwright Mikhail Bulgakov in a new play by Hodge, also still to be titled. Described by Hytner as “wickedly funny,” the play focuses on imaginary meetings between the men.
Amos will make her National Theater debut in April 2012, writing music and lyrics for a tuner with book and additional lyrics by Samuel Adamson. Suggested by George MacDonald’s 1864 story “The Light Princess,” it will be helmed by Marianne Elliott (“War Horse”).
Cork, a 2010 Tony winner for “Red,” has written music and lyricsfor “London Road,” a so-called documentary musical with book and lyrics by Alecky Blythe. Rufus Norris directs the show, which musicalizes the precise patterns of voices taped in interviews with members of the public.
At the other end of the musical spectrum, Jonathan Miller’s staging of “St. Matthew Passion,” a project that began in 1994 and was seen at BAM in 1997, is further developed with nine performances in the 1,129-seat Olivier with the Southbank Sinfonia in September.
Royal Court a.d. Dominic Cooke also makes his NT debut helming Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” in the Olivier at Christmas 2011. This staging is part of the ninth consecutive Travelex season, which sells half the tickets to all performances at £12 ($19), with the remainder at $32 and $48.
Other revivals include Jonathan Kent’s first professional British staging of Ibsen’s “Emperor and Galilean,” starring Andrew Scott (BBC’s “Sherlock”); Katie Mitchell’s production of the Elizabethan tragedy “A Woman Killed With Kindness”; Bijan Shebani directing a cast of 30 in Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen”; and Hytner helming Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors,” an anarchic 1960s revamp of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century farce “A Servant of Two Masters.”