Friday, January 9, 2015

NT at 50 (Slightly Delayed)

Tonight, a year after the event, Liz and I watched a DVD of the National Theatre's 50th anniversary celebrations: the recording of the 50 Years on Stage all-star show which took place in the Olivier in November 2013 plus the Arena documentary which coincided.
The NT seems to go from strength to strength. After starting off life in its temporary home at the Old Vic in the 60s, it finally moved into the Denys Lasdun building in the mid-70s with Peter Hall at the helm. I read his Diaries of the time and they were turbulent years: full of delays, industrial disputes, funding cuts and trying to win over a public which took a while to warm to both the institution and (especially) the building. Even the Queen seemed not to be amused when attended the opening play, Il Campiello, a rare dud. 
But Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and Nick Hytner all continued to steer it in the right direction  and now it can seem to do no wrong. A mixture of crowd-pleasers and experimentation, keeping ticket prices low (every play is a sell-out) and reaching audiences beyond the building - including Mexico - with NT Live all adds up to a success story. Rufus Norris takes over in April. It'll be interesting to see where he takes it. 

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