skip to main content

National Theatre Blog

Sharing our Annual Review for 2020/21

Fisayo Akinade, Shubham Saraf, and Josh O'Connor on set for Romeo and Juliet at the National Theatre

Today we release our 2020/21 Annual Review, which looks back at the 12 months following the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The review captures both the difficult decisions we have had to take to ensure the National Theatre survives, as well as the innovation and commitment of all those that worked with the theatre during this extraordinary period.  

Reflecting on the Annual Review, Lisa Burger, Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre, said: 

If we have learned anything from the past year, it is that theatre has the power to bring us together. I’m incredibly proud of all the teams at the National Theatre who worked together to deliver our mission in new and innovative ways – whether that was creating the worldwide streaming programme National Theatre at Home or developing learning resources to support teachers who faced the immense task of taking their lessons online. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us in the story so far, helping us to shape a bright, creative future.

Rufus Norris, Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre added:

It will take a long time for the National Theatre and the theatre industry, to work through the impact of the pandemic. But it is clear to us that theatre has a huge amount to offer the nation as it recovers and embraces new opportunities that will shape culture for years to come, simply by doing what we have always set out to do – bringing people together through storytelling. The NT is a place full of amazing people and elicits enormous affection, pride and passion in audiences around the world. It is this vital energy and support that keeps the lights on and the ideas flowing. 

When our theatres were forced to close in March 2020, our focus remained on delivering for our audiences - including young people and communities - and creating opportunities for our freelance workforce. 

In the first lockdown we launched National Theatre at Home, a free-to-stream programme of plays on YouTube, reaching audiences of 15 million in 173 countries around the world over a 16 week period from April 2020. National Theatre at Home then launched as new a paid streaming platform in December to enable more of our work to be shared with audiences worldwide and support the artists who made it. 

We reconfigured the Olivier theatre to enable socially distanced performances, and the National Theatre staged and filmed two extraordinary productions against the odds, creating work with freelancers and actors. We also turned the Lyttelton theatre into a film studio and were able to produce our first direct to screen production, Romeo & Juliet, for Sky Arts and in America the free to view channel, PBS.  

Our work with young people and communities continued to inspire and engage people across the country. We took our nationwide learning programmes Connections, New Views, Let’s Play and the Drama Teacher Conference, online through extraordinary feats of coordination.  

Alongside these successes, have been difficulties. There have been major job losses across the industry and within our own workforce. We feel a profound sense of loss for each of those members of staff. Throughout the year and behind the scenes we worked with colleagues from across the theatre industry to lobby Government, making the case for support. Our detailed financial modelling for the sector contributed to the formation of the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). That investment by Government, although not able to reach everyone working in the sector, is crucial to its recovery.  

Reflecting on the first year of the pandemic has strengthened our confidence in the importance of our mission and the role that theatre can play; storytelling and collaborative creativity are not only vital in supporting our nationwide recovery in the months ahead, but also in shaping our culture for many years to come.   

The National Theatre Annual Review 2020/21 can be viewed here.
(This link will open a PDF in a new tab or window).