Today, Director Rufus Norris announces upcoming programming with 12 new productions that will play on our South Bank stages, as he also confirms that he is to step down after ten years as Director in mid-2025 when his current term comes to an end.
Speaking about today’s announcements, Rufus Norris said:
‘It has been and remains the greatest privilege of my career to lead the National Theatre. For the past eight years I have had the honour of shaping the programme of extraordinary work that sparks imagination, brings people together and illustrates the vital role theatre can play in all our lives. The daily highlight has been to work with the peerless theatre-makers who work here, together with the incredible range of freelance artists upon whom the present and the future of the art form relies. I am enormously proud to be part of the diverse, thriving, creative hub the National Theatre is today and am fully committed to steering the course over the next two years. From the work on our stages, to the audiences all around the UK and beyond that engage with us on tour, in cinemas, in schools and at home, the NT entertains and inspires people through our creativity, expertise and unique reach. The magic of the National Theatre is that there is nowhere else like it; to have been a small part in its illustrious history, particularly through the challenges of the last few years, is a true honour.’
Under Rufus’s leadership we have broadened both our programme and audience, while at the same time expanding our reach far beyond the South Bank, making our work more accessible to audiences than ever before.
Since joining in 2015 Rufus has shaped a programme of distinctive, thought-provoking work, with a key focus on widening the representation on our stages. Through establishing the New Work department in 2016 he ensured that a broad range of artists are supported and nurtured, catalysing a significant increase to the proportion of productions staged by living writers.
Since 2015, our South Bank theatres have been on average 88% full – as high as any point in our history, despite the disruption of Covid. Frequent transfers to the West End and Broadway – from People, Places & Things and Nine Night to Angels in America, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and The Lehman Trilogy – have attracted huge audiences and garnered numerous accolades, including 14 Tony Awards.
Digital innovation under his leadership has helped us reach new audiences in over 180 countries, and our flagship National Theatre at Home platform has ensured that our work is shared with the widest audience reach and impact. National Theatre Live, now in its 14th year, has reached over 11.8 million people in cinemas worldwide and broken the event cinema box office record for the UK and Ireland twice.
Passionate about removing barriers to accessing theatre, Rufus has led us to create new careers and skills pathways into the industry for those currently under represented in the sector through paid placements, apprenticeships and programmes such as Young Technicians. In 2019 the National Theatre Collection was established making world-class theatre productions available to stream for free in schools. The platform is now used by 85% of UK state secondary schools and will soon be available for free to every public library in the UK.
Community engagement has been central to Rufus’s vision – from the award-winning UK-wide we’re here because we’re here which reached 30 million people through live and digital engagements, to the in-depth work delivered through the celebrated Public Acts programme which embodies his vision of theatre as a force for change.
Whilst steering us through the unprecedented challenges of the Covid pandemic, Rufus also prioritised environmental sustainability as essential to the future of theatre. We have played a leading role in the creation and implementation of the pioneering Theatre Green Book which is now being adopted by cultural organisations around the world. Today we are pioneering a new large-scale sustainability initiative, in collaboration with theatres across the industry including the Young Vic, Royal Court and the Kiln, and will be rolling out phase one in 2023/24.
Chair of the National Theatre, Sir Damon Buffini said:
‘Rufus Norris has led the National Theatre with extraordinary skill, foresight and resilience during a decade of huge change in the UK and globally. The National’s artistic programme, as shaped by Rufus, has been exceptional in quality, prescience and popular appeal, reaching bigger audiences than at any time in the theatre’s history. Alongside that, Rufus’ passionate belief in opening up hands-on opportunities to young people and communities has boosted creativity right across the country and beyond. Rufus has always been ahead of the game, leading with both heart and head. Rufus’ legacy is already immense; I am excited about what will be achieved in the final two years of his tenure as the National Theatre continues to stage unforgettable productions and make great strides in addressing key priorities – from creative education and skills to environmental sustainability. The NT Board and I offer Rufus our most sincere admiration and thanks.’
Recruitment for the new Director will begin imminently, with an appointment expected towards the end of this year or early into the next.
Coming up on our stages
Playing in the Olivier theatre from February 2024 is Nye, a new play by Tim Price charting the life of Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan and his battle to create the NHS. Directed by Rufus Norris and with Michael Sheen playing Nye Bevan, this Welsh fantasia is both epic and deeply personal.
Later in the year is a new production of William Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy Coriolanus, directed by NT Associate Lyndsey Turner and with David Oyelowo cast as the title role.
Booking dates for Nye and Coriolanus will be announced later this year.
Alexander Zeldin writes and directs The Confessions, which will play in the Lyttelton theatre from October 2023. A love letter to life and theatre, The Confessions charts the course of one life from birth to death, with music composed by Yannis Philippakis (Foals).
Olivier Award-winner Rebecca Frecknall makes her National Theatre directorial debut with Alice Birch’s radical adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s modern masterpiece, The House of Bernarda Alba. Harriet Walter is cast as Bernarda Alba and Isis Hainsworth as Adela in this co-production with Playful Productions, playing from November 2023.
Kin, from the critically acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko and created by Amit Lahav, opens in the Lyttelton theatre in January 2024 following a UK tour. In a poetically intoxicating performance, this provocative story of desperation, compassion and acceptance is inspired by the migration stories of Gecko’s international performers.
Tickets for The Confessions, The House of Bernarda Alba and Kin go on sale to the public at 12 noon on Friday 30 June.
Playing in the Lyttelton theatre from February 2024 is Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith. Directed by Emily Burns in its first revival since the 1960s, this play is a tender and touching portrayal of a family on the eve of World War Two. Lindsay Duncan leads the cast, with further casting to be announced. Emily Burns, who directed Jack Absolute Flies Again in the Olivier theatre last summer and adapted Romeo & Juliet for our award-winning 2021 film, has been invited by Rufus to join the National Theatre as an Associate.
London Tide, based on Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, will have its world premiere in the Lyttelton theatre in April 2024, adapted by Ben Power with original songs by PJ Harvey and Ben Power and directed by Ian Rickson. Charles Dickens’ final completed novel, a gothic masterpiece of murder, redemption, love and money, is reimagined for the stage in this epic new play with songs. Cast includes Bella Maclean with further casting to be announced.
Tickets for Dear Octopus and London Tide will go on sale later this year.
In the Dorfman from September 2023, Deputy Artistic Director Clint Dyer reunites with Roy Williams for Death of England: Closing Time. Exploring family dynamics, race, colonialism and cancel culture, this is the final, standalone chapter of the award-winning Death of England series. The cast is Jo Martin and Hayley Squires. The previous BAFTA-nominated filmed chapter, Death of England: Face to Face, will be screened as part of The Windrush Caribbean Film Festival on Monday 19 June.
Annie Baker returns with Infinite Life, which has its UK premiere in the Dorfman theatre from November 2023, following a run at Atlantic Theater Company in New York. Directed by James Macdonald, this new play is a surprisingly funny inquiry into the complexity of suffering, and what it means to desire in a body that’s failing you.
Tickets for Death of England: Closing Time and Infinite Life go on sale to the public at 12 noon on Friday 30 June.
Former National Theatre writer in residence Beth Steel will make her National Theatre debut with Till the Stars Come Down, directed by Bijan Sheibani which will play in the Dorfman theatre from January 2024. Set over the course of a wedding, Till the Stars Come Down is a passionate, heartbreaking and hilarious portrayal of a larger-than-life family who are struggling to come to terms with a changing world.
Underdog: The Other Other Brontë will then play from March 2024, written by Sarah Gordon and directed by Northern Stage Artistic Director Natalie Ibu, who both make their National Theatre debuts in this co-production with Northern Stage. Winner of the Nick Darke Writer’s Award in 2022, Underdog: The Other Other Brontë is an irreverent retelling of the lives of the Brontës, looking behind the legend to tell the story of the sibling power dynamics that shaped their uneven rise to fame.
Finally, Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall makes her National Theatre mainstage debut with The Hot Wing King, directed by Roy Alexander Weise as they reunite following their critically acclaimed, sell out production of The Mountaintop. Set in Memphis on the weekend of the hotly anticipated and highly competitive hot wing contest The Hot Wing King tells a story of love, family and masculinity, and will play from July 2024. The play received the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Booking dates for Till the Stars Come Down, Underdog: The Other Other Brontë and The Hot Wing King will follow later in the year.
In the West End
Jack Thorne’s critically acclaimed new play, The Motive and the Cue, inspired by the making of Burton and Gielgud’s Hamlet and directed by Sam Mendes, will transfer into the Noël Coward Theatre from 9 December 2023 until 23 March 2024.
Co-produced with Neal Street Productions, Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss and Tuppence Middleton will return to play the iconic roles of Richard Burton, John Gielgud and Elizabeth Taylor.
Performance dates for Sheffield Theatres’ production of Standing at the Sky’s Edge at the Gillian Lynne Theatre are now announced. Co-produced by the National Theatre and Various Productions, this Olivier Award-winning new British musical will run from 8 February 2024.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge is directed by Sheffield Theatres’ Artistic Director, Robert Hastie, featuring songs by Richard Hawley with book by Chris Bush.
Tickets for The Motive and the Cue and Standing at the Sky’s Edge will go on sale to the public at 12 noon on Friday 30 June.
Launched in 2019, the free streaming platform for schools, National Theatre Collection, is now being used in the classroom by 85% of state secondary schools across the UK. We are continuing to build our offer of free streaming content to schools and libraries in the UK through our growing partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing via their digital platform Drama Online. This September, the third collection of theatre titles will be added to the platform taking the number of productions available to watch to 70 by February 2024. New titles include Antony and Cleopatra, Jack Absolute Flies Again, Much Ado About Nothing, The Crucible, Phaedra and Wuthering Heights.
From September these new titles will also be available to access for free in local public libraries across the UK to library members.
In partnership with the Unicorn Theatre, new titles will also be made available free for UK state primary schools via the National Theatre Collection in September.
Following the successful tour to secondary schools last year reaching nearly 7,000 students, Evan Placey’s reimagining of Jekyll & Hyde directed by Kirsty Housley will return for a second schools tour from January 2024. The tour will visit secondary schools across 12 Theatre Nation Partnership areas across England and be seen by over 10,000 pupils in secondary schools.