News: National Theatre to re-open the Olivier for socially distanced audiences from October

The Olivier theatre is to be significantly remodelled in order to stage a season of performances in-the-round, which will achieve an audience capacity of almost 500 while maintaining social distancing for audiences. 

The National Theatre will reopen to audiences on the 21 October, for the first time since closing in March, with Death of England: Delroy, a new play written by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, directed by Dyer and performed by Giles Terera. The production is the first in a season of productions to be staged in the transformed Olivier theatre. Tickets will go on sale to the public from 2 October with over 200 tickets available at £20 for every performance. 

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 Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and ULTZ, with lighting design by Jackie Shemesh, sound design by Pete Malkin and Benjamin Grant. 

In a season when theatres across the country have been forced to postpone their pantomimes by Coronavirus, for one year only, pantomime is coming to the National Theatre. The second production the NT will stage as part of the Olivier in-the-round season will be Dick Whittington, originally commissioned by the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, which will celebrate and honour panto’s place at the heart of British theatre. 

Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd’s hilarious and heartfelt version of the famous story was first staged at Lyric Hammersmith in 2018. Freshly updated for 2020, Ned Bennett directs this exciting new production which promises fun for everyone and will open on the South Bank in December. 

This wild and inventive production 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. Making the most of the newly transformed Olivier theatre with set and costume designs by Georgia Lowe, and lighting designed by Jessica Hung Han Yun. Denzel Westley-Sanderson is Associate Director. 

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.’ 

Speaking about Dick Whittington, 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 continued: “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.” 

Following UK Government guidelines, social distancing measures have been put in place for those attending performances at the NT. These include staggered arrival times, paperless tickets, pre-ordered drinks, enhanced cleaning, and sanitisation stations throughout the theatre. Tickets are available to be purchased as single tickets, as pairs or in threes or fours for audiences to attend with others from their social bubbles. Face coverings will be required at all times, aside from when audience members are eating or drinking. Full information on the safety measures for audiences can be found here

Further information, including performance dates for Dick Whittington will be released at a later date. Tickets will go on sale in October.

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