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Southbank London – What’s on at the National Theatre
Here at London Unattached, we love the National Theatre and the contribution it makes to London being acknowledged as the global centre for performing arts. This year for its autumn/winter season the NT has announced a hugely diverse and exciting programme of 15 productions of new plays and fresh adaptations by leading writers. Here is our pick of them:
Performer, poet, novelist and playwright Kate Tempest is making her National Theatre debut with PARADISE at the Olivier Theatre. It’s a reworking of Sophocles’ rarely performed Philoctetes. With Lesley Sharp in the lead role and a large ensemble cast directed by Ian Rickson, the epic story of the rivalry between Odysseus and Philoctetes is a perfect production to take your teenagers to as Tempest’s visceral hip-hop inflected language will speak to them.
As the debate around the rights of indigenous people is coming to the forefront of public debate, the Sydney Theatre Company Production of Kate Grenville’s THE SECRET RIVER couldn’t be more timely. With the opening night on 27 August at the Olivier Theatre and in repertoire until 7 September it’s a moving and unflinching journey into Australia’s dark history telling the story of two families divided by culture and land. Conceived in collaboration with indigenous artists and is performed in Dharug language as well as English.
Coming to the Lyttelton Theatre is Tony Award-winning South African playwright Athol Fugard’s ‘MASTER HAROLD’…AND THE BOYS – in repertoire until 26 October with further performances to be announced. Set in St George’s Park Tea Room, Port Elizabeth in1950, employees Sam and Willie practise their steps for the finals of the ballroom dancing championship. Hally arrives from school to hide out in his parents’ tea room. These two men have been unlikely best friends to Hally his whole life. But it is apartheid-era South Africa: he’s Master Harold, and they are the boys. With Lucian Msamati (Amadeus) and Hammed Animashaun (Barber Shop Chronicles) as Sam and Willie, Fugard’s searing semi-autobiographical tale is sure to be a hit.
We loved Olivier and Tony Award-winning writer Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Caroline, Or Change so his new adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s masterpiece THE VISIT, or The Old Lady Comes To Call caught our attention. Directed by Jeremy Herrin and with Lesley Manville playing the role of Claire Zachanassian it offers a post-war American context for the blackly comic masterpiece.
Returning to Africa Inua Ellams’ adaptation of Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS, to open in December at the Lyttelton Theatre, relocates the action to 1960s Nigeria. Directed by Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director Nadia Fall, Lolo, Nne Chukwu and Udo are grieving the loss of their father whilst two ruthless military coups have plunged the country into chaos. As the conflict encroaches on their provincial village, the sisters long to return to their former home, Lagos. As the war rages, fuelled by foreign intervention, the bonds of sisterhood are tested. It’s great to see the National Theatre encouraging wider access with hundreds of £15 tickets being made available for every performance of this show.
Back at the Lyttelton Theatre Simon Woods’ new play, HANSARD is a witty and devastating portrait of the governing class. In repertoire until 24 October the play is set on a summer’s morning in 1988 when Tory politician Robin Hesketh has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana. But all is not as blissful as it seems. Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden, and secrets are being dug up all over the place. As the day draws on, what starts as gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital scrapping quickly turns to blood-sport.
Why not check out the NT’s website to see what else is on. We’ll be adding links as we review through the season, so do pop back for an update.
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
For more Autumn 2019 previews do check our take on the RSC 2019 Autumn/Winter season at the Barbican