The National Theatre in London is to reopen its largest space, the Olivier, in the round with reduced seating for a season of shows including a new play and a panto.
From 21 October, the first production will be Death of England: Delroy, a solo play written by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams and performed by Giles Terera – a follow-up to the writers’ acclaimed show, Death of England, at the start of this year.
It will be followed by an updated version of Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, first staged at Lyric Hammersmith in west London in 2018. Directed by Ned Bennett, it is due to open in December – only the second time a panto has been staged at the National Theatre.
Audience capacity in the Olivier will be more than halved from 1,150 to 500 to allow for social distancing. It will be the first public performance at the National Theatre since it closed along with others across the UK in March because of the coronavirus.
Death of England: Delroy follows on from Death of England that was performed by Rafe Spall and closed just before lockdown. This new work explores a Black working-class man searching for truth and confronting his relationship with Great Britain.
Set and costume designers are by Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and Ultz, with lighting design by Jackie Shemesh and sound design by Pete Malkin and Benjamin Grant.
Tickets will go on sale to the public from 2 October, with over 200 tickets available at £20 for every performance.
Tickets for Dick Whittington will go on sale some time in October alongside further information including dates and casting.
This wild and inventive pantomime explores what it is like to come from a small town and arrive in a big city today, exploring the ideas of community and togetherness which feel even more prescient in 2020.
It will feature set and costume designs by Georgia Lowe and lighting designed by Jessica Hung Han Yun, with Denzel Westley-Sanderson as associate director.
In a statement, Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd said: “In 2018 we set out to celebrate the heart of the Dick Whittington story: that London has always been, and will always be, enriched by the brilliant brains and invigorating spirit of those who come from all over the world and call it home. That’s a story we want to tell now more than ever, and in quintessentially British fashion: with irreverent jokes, talking animals, awesome songs and wholesale destructive silliness.”
Ned Bennett added: “We are inordinately excited to be talking about a show, never mind having the privilege of being able to stage one right now. We are facing such challenging times, as artists and as an industry, so we feel so lucky to have the NT able to provide this opportunity. We cannot wait to bring audiences (safely) into the Olivier and allow them to remember the joy of theatre for a night.”
Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: “We’re both delighted and relieved to be reopening the National Theatre with the Olivier in-the-round season, which will allow us to present live work to as many people as possible while social distancing remains in place.
“It is dynamically appropriate to begin the season with Death of England: Delroy, an extraordinarily important and timely piece of work by the hugely talented Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, and we are also proud and privileged to be presenting Dick Whittington this Christmas, helmed by the inspirational Jude Christian, Cariad Lloyd and Ned Bennett.
“Pantomime is an essential part of the living fabric of our nation, and it is devastating that so many theatres across the country have had no choice but to postpone their pantos this year because of the unprecedented financial impact of coronavirus.
“We’ll do all we can to keep the flame alive: brilliant theatre artists will serve up a slice of joy to families on the South Bank, and we’ll be asking everyone to support their local theatres by booking ahead for their 2021 pantomimes. Of course, we hope that it will be possible for theatres to perform safely to fuller audiences long before then.”