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National Theatre celebrates 50 years with Anniversary Gala

National TheatreAccording to press reports, stars including Judi Dench, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Gambon, James Corden, Maggie Smith and Ralph Fiennes will take part in the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary gala on 2nd November 2013.

The evening, which is being overseen by National Theatre’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner, will take part in the Olivier Theatre to an audience of invited guests and broadcast live on BBC2.

The evening will include scenes from The History Boys, The Beaux’ Strategem, No Man’s Land and Pravda. It is understood that Judi Dench is to revive a scene from her performance as Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, reciting the elegy to Antony as part of a series of extracts from some of the landmark plays and performances since the theatre opened in 1963.

Other performances will include Maggie Smith who will reprise her role as Mrs Sullen in George Farquhar’s comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, Simon Russell Beale will return to Hamlet, while Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi will take parts created by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land.

The National’s director Nicholas Hytner said that he hopes to have a reunion of The History Boys. “I don’t think we will get them all because they are unbelievably busy and successful. But I know that James Corden and Dominic Cooper will move heaven and earth.”

Ralph Fiennes is to play the role of Lambert Le Roux, originally played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is unavailable.

Laurence Olivier became artistic director of the National Theatre at its formation in 1963. He was considered to be the foremost British film and stage actor of the period, and became the first director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, there forming the company that would unite with the Old Vic Company to form the National Theatre Company.

Looking back to the opening night at the National Theatre on 22nd October 1963 when the inaugural production opens – Shakespeare’s Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier, with Peter O’Toole in the lead. The repertoire for the first season also consists of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Shaw’s Saint Joan, which had opened at Chichester, Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, Ibsen’s The Master Builder, Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice, Beckett’s Play with Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Max Frisch’s Andorra, and Shakespeare’s Othello.

The actors in the 1963/64 company: Max Adrian, Rod Beacham, Colin Blakely, Martin Boddey, Janie Booth, Elizabeth Burger, Edward Caddick, Peter Cellier, Byron Chandler, Christopher Chittell, Raymond Clarke, Wynne Clark, Tom Courtenay, Cyril Cusack, Lewis Fiander, Frank Finlay, Neil Fitzpatrick, Michael Gambon, Reginald Green, Richard Hampton, Edward Hardwicke, Raymond Hardy, Rosemary Harris, James Hayes, Roger Heathcott, Janet Henfrey, Jeanne Hepple, William Hobbs, George Innes, Derek Jacobi, Caroline John, Peter John, Celia Johnson, Tom Kempinski, Terence Knapp, Jeanette Landis, Robert Lang, Harry Lomax, Enid Lorimer, Kenneth Mackintosh, Keith Marsh, Trevor Martin, Dan Meaden, Mary Miller, Tom Minnikin, James Mellor, Mary Miller, Anthony Nicholls, Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Michael Parker, Ron Pember, Edward Petherbridge, Joan Plowright, Bruce Purchase, Louise Purnell, Lynn Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Joyce Redman, Sheila Reid, Alan Ridgway, Maggie Riley, Jean Rogers, John Rogers, Michael Rothwell, Adam Rowntree, Robert Russell, Clive Rust, Ann Rye, Maggie Smith, Robert Stephens, John Stride, Christopher Timothy, Michael Turner, Derek Ware, Billie Whitelaw, Mervyn Willis, Diana Wynyard.

A ticket in the stalls for the first season costs 27s 6d (£1.28) and in the gallery 3s (15p). The Arts Council grant for the first season is £130,000. Despite “House Full” signs every night, the first season ends with a deficit of £22,500.
Source National Theatre

This 50th anniversary shouldn’t just be seen as a celebration of the institution that is the National theatre, but also a recognition of the success of public funding for one the UK’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Wednesday 4th September 2013


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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