Royal National Theatre



  • Britain's state-supported national theater company was finallyestablished in 1962 after over a century of discussion. The NationalTheatre Board was set up in 1962, partly through the efforts of SirLaurence Olivier, who became the first artistic director.The company was formed from the Old Vic company, which hadbeen performing Shakespeare's plays since 1912. Olivier's successor,Peter Hall, took over in 1975 and a year later oversaw thecompany's move into its own theater complex (designed by Denys Lasdun)on the South Bank.

    The complex, with terraces overlooking the Thames, has beenvariously called "a great building", "a concretefortress", and by Prince Charles:

    A way of building a nuclear power station in the middle ofLondon without anyone objecting.
    It houses the UK's most versatile and technically advanceddrama facilities and stages a great variety of classic and moderndrama. The three theaters are the Olivier, holding 1160 people inits fan-shaped auditorium; the Lyttleton, a proscenium theater thataccommodates 890 people; and the Cottesloe, whose flexible seatingfor up to 400 can be removed for experimental plays.

    Hall was succeeded by Richard Eyre in 1988; at the same timethe theater was granted the right to add the prefix 'Royal', in recognitionof its 25th anniversary. Trevor Nunn took over as artisticdirector in 1997 and Nicholas Hytner in 2003. The mid 2000ssaw a marked upsurge of energy and ambition at the National,with major new productions including Michael Frayn's Democracy,Alan Bennett's The History Boys, and a spectacular adaptationof Philip Pullman's fantasy sequence His Dark Materials (all2004). In 2008 Rebecca Lenkiewicz's Her Naked Skin became the first play by a female author to be produced on the main stage of the National.