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Chiwetel Ejiofor to Launch Rufus Norris’ First Season at London’s National Theater

Chiwetel Ejiofor Everyman National Theatre London
David Livingston/Getty Images

Chiwetel Ejiofor will play “Everyman” in a 2015 season that will also include new work from creatives including Patrick Marber (“Closer”), Wallace Shawn, Caryl Churchill and Blur frontman Damon Albarn, kicking off new artistic director Rufus Norris’ first season at London’s National Theater.

Adapted by UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy from the 15th century morality play, “Everyman” will open Norris’s tenure with what seems a grand gesture of inclusivity. The incoming a.d., who will take the reins from current boss Nicholas Hytner in April, will direct the production himself in the 1,200 seat Olivier Theater, with the “Twelve Years a Slave” Oscar nominee returning to the building for the first time in 15 years.

“The work we make over the coming years will strive to be as open, as diverse, as collaborative and as national as possible,” Norris and incoming chief executive Tessa Ross said in a joint statement. “This first season is just a beginning, but it contains the seeds of what is to come.”

Along with new plays by Marber, Shawn and Caryl Churchill, Norris’ first season will also include the UK premiere of Stephen Adly Giurgis’s Broadway outing “The Motherf**ker With The Hat.” Playwright Moira Buffini and Albarn, who worked with Norris on the opera “Dr. Dee” in 2011, will co-write a new musical entitled “wonder.land,” based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and set in an online, alternative reality. That production will launch at the Manchester International Festival in June, before a London run in November.

Ross, who joined Norris onstage for a press conference announcing the season, described living playwrights as “the beating heart of what we want to do here.”

Marber’s piece, “The Red Lion,” is his first new play in nine years and his first at the National since 1997. Opening in the newly-refurbished Dorfman Theater in June, under Ian Rickson’s direction, the play follows a talented young soccer player at grass roots level. Marber will return later in the year with “an unfaithful version” of Ivan Turgenev’s “A Month In the Country,” entitled “Three Days in the Country.”

In the Lyttelton Theater in April, newly-appointed associate Lyndsey Turner will direct Churchill’s play about the English Civil War and the Putney Debates, “Light Shining In Buckinghamshire,” running over the course of the UK election, while Simon Godwin will take the Olivier Theater for a revival of George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy “The Beaux Strategem” in May.

The Temporary Theater, which is in the process of being renamed, will continue to host emerging and experimental work, including Tim Crouch’s debut play “An Oak Tree” receiving a revival to mark its tenth anniversary. RashDash, Alice Birch, Alexander Zeldin and Islington Community Theatre complete the line-up.

Norris also outlined some of his programming for the rest of the year, which will include revivals of “Our Country’s Good” and Harvey Granville-Barker’s “Waste,” and a compressed version of a D.H. Lawence trilogy starring Anne-Marie Duff.