Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and Nicholas Hytner talk about running the new National Theatre from its opening in 1976 to the fulfilment of Olivier's original dream.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Oh, my knee. You bashed it.
Reference plan for studio workshops at the NT.
'I find it very irksome
'if I have to attend to the ordinary things in life
'from about seven or eight on, I have been
'allowed to follow my own bent my own obsessions.
'Although my mother would say, "Do help with the washing up."
'If it was at the expense of something I was reading,
'I was allowed not to help with the washing up.
'And that is a pattern that, I must confess,
'has gone right through my life '
LAURENCE OLIVIER: Fare thee well at once:
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire.
'Forming a company, helping it along. Serving it,'
leading it, if you like. Not necessarily so.
That's the most exciting thing I think a man can do.
Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor of his time
stepped down as the director of the National Theatre in 1973
In just ten years he had created a hugely successful
company from its temporary home at the Old Vic.
TOM STOPPARD: The National Theatre, in the last decade or so,
has had a terrific run.
One felt that it was the centre of gravity for London theatre.
But that didn't come from nowhere.
These energy waves have to come in from birth.
And sometimes they subside and then they amplify again.
But I think that there's a continuity to the theatre which
in that famous hut.
TREVOR NUNN: In my early days running the RSC,
I was asked to have meetings,
scheduling meetings with Laurence Olivier.
On one occasion it was during a three-day week -
power cuts - and therefore I arrived at the Nissen hut
and it was lit just with oil lamps.
And I went in, and there he was sitting in a corner of the room
and I said, "This feels like wartime."
And he looked up and he said, "Theatre is a fucking war, baby "
Laurence Olivier was succeeded as director by the dynamic
and publicity-conscious impresario Peter Hall,
who led the National from 1973 to 1988.
Since then, there have been just three other directors.
Richard Eyre, who championed work by new writers in the 1990s.
Trevor Nunn, who widened the audience by staging lavish musicals
and popular plays.
And Nicholas Hytner,
who has taken the National to new heights of success
with shows like War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors.
RICHARD EYRE: It's wonderful to sit in the director's office
and be able to look down river to the Houses of Parliament,
to look across to Somerset House
and also poke your head around the corner and see St Paul's.
It's impossible, I think, to be in that office and not feel that
you have a responsibility to reflect the feeling of the nation.
And that's the job. That's what the theatre exists to do.
Stepping into the shoes of
Laurence Olivier was a difficult prospect.
And Peter Hall had to prove that he was capable of leading
the National into a new era.
I've got to do it now.
NICHOLAS HYTNER: Peter is the single most
influential figure in the British subsidised theatre.
He founded the RSC.
And he brought
a new way of looking at those texts that is still
But more than that, he bullied the establishment into a settlement
with the subsidised theatre which has been the bedrock ever since
He's a very, very strong man.
And if I...could claim any responsibility for putting
the theatre up...
..he can claim for getting people into it.
The theatre consists of three intimate theatres.
That one is the Olivier, the highest, which is the open stage.
That one, which is the Lyttelton, which is the proscenium theatre
And then round the corner is the Cottesloe Theatre, which is
the small, intimate theatre.
But architect Denys Lasdun's new building
stubbornly refused to be finished,
and Peter Hall was forced to cancel several of his first productions.
Who's within there?
Bajaseth been fed today? Aye, my lord.
Bring him forth. And let us know if the town be ransacked.
The builders really gave us
a run around because the building was constantly not finished.
So we went on rehearsing plays that couldn't come and open.
'As we speak, it's still impossible to hang a light or even
'a piece of black masking'
so we're not sure we're going to open on September 1st.
MUSIC: "Age of Aquarius" 5th Dimension
# Aquarius. #
Good evening and welcome to a new series of Aquarius.
Soon after he was made director Peter Hall also became the face of
the fashionable art series Aquarius at London Weekend Television.
He ignored any objections that this would distract him
from the task of running the National Theatre.
Hall used one of his budgets to make a film about the classical
Greek amphitheatre at Epidaurus
And he took along the architect of the National Theatre, Denys Lasdun.
It looks very simple.
Well, it is outwardly very simple
but underlying that simplicity is a very, very subtle, skilful geometry,
which is worked out in great detail by a superb architect called
Epidaurus had been the model for the new Olivier Theatre.
And their aim
was nothing less than to create a kind of
new Athens on the South Bank of the Thames.
JONATHAN MILLER: That sort of pretentious ambition
is vulgar in the sense that it's got
nothing whatever to do with the nature of theatrical art.
Once you're in
a large, impressive place, for one thing it's too big,
you're not close to
what goes on
and you're endlessly looking at the building.
I think Peter Hall talked about "centres of excellence".
I think once you start thinking of somewhere as a centre of excellence
you're really revelling in your own importance.
MUSIC: "Le Nozze Di Figaro" Mozart
Peter Hall's lifestyle
and gift for self promotion didn't go down well with his critics.
He divided his time between a stylish modern house in Oxfordshire
and a penthouse apartment in the fashionable new Barbican
development in the City,
from which he could survey his new domain at the National
FILM VOICE`OVER: 'The riverside of London has been embellished by
'the National Theatre or else it's been blighted.
'The new, ?16 million concrete palace of the arts is nothing
'if not controversial.
'It's taken seven years in the building and only now,
'after eight postponed opening nights, has it been possible to open
'the principal auditorium in the complex.'
I have much pleasure in declaring
the National Theatre open.
Laurence Olivier had hoped to lead
the National into Denys Lasdun's new building.
But he had retired by the time it finally opened.
This was the first and last time he set foot
on the stage of the theatre that is named after him.
It is an outsized pearl of British understatement to say that
I am happy to welcome you...at this moment...in this place.
MICHAEL BLAKEMORE: It was almost hilariously uncomfortable -
Larry was asked to make a speech.
And very typically he came along to the theatre before the cleaners
were in, about two mornings in succession,
and rehearsed his speech.
He did not have a gift for writing speeches.
Particularly in the presence of royalty.
They were incredibly over-written and flowery.
And frequently very obsequious
all those colleagues...
from every branch of the theatrical profession...
..who have leant their rich talents
and their selfless devotion to the creation of a standard of work
justify the provision of these. .
temples to their art.
After much discussion about what the royal party might see,
the National chose an obscure Venetian farce.
There was a performance of Il Campiello.
Not a very good Italian play.
It really was a dud.
Nobody's fault, it was just a dud.
What a beautiful day.
I'd like to get out but my horrible old uncle won't come with me.
BILL BRYDEN: It was not my proudest moment.
We had a wonderful time rehearsing it and it was a lovely little gem
but to give it all that weight
There was like a hostility in the audience.
People didn't look at the stage they looked at the Queen to see
if she was enjoying it.
The fact that this building is now here
and has been dreamt of and longed of for 150 years is a guarantee
that in the future...the British people will always take
the theatre seriously because this building is here.
We're going to have a look at the production box for Jumpers
by Tom Stoppard.
Which played on the occasion of the Royal Opening
in the Lyttelton Theatre.
TOM STOPPARD: Jumpers was performed the night that
the Queen opened the new National Theatre.
Jumpers was in the Lyttelton House attended by Princess Margaret
and the Queen was in the Olivier watching the Goldoni.
Jumpers begins with eight acrobats and a lady who sings
and a lady on the trapeze. It was a meat and two veg play
It wasn't, as it were, sardines on toast. There was a lot going on.
She actually was slightly displeased by the architecture
of the building because the balustrade was slightly too high
in the front row of the dress circle.
Too high for comfort.
Ordinary people, or the audience, were expecting a theatre.
The red plush front curtain and, of course,
what they got was a place that looked like a car park.
I mean, that's what it looked like. So it had a pretty rocky ride.
With its three separate stages the Olivier, the Lyttelton
and the Cottesloe, and a staff of over 700 from the workshops
the stage crews and the administration,
the new National Theatre was a massive undertaking
unrivalled by anything in Europe or America.
PETER HALL: When you think that this theatre, as a building,
probably the most extraordinary thing that's happened since the war.
And are we pleased? Not particularly. Are we proud? Not particularly
Do we think we should have it?
Not really. We'd be better to use the money for other purposes.
I ought to warn you that I was particularly fond of Arabella.
Her father was my tutor. I used to stay at their house.
I knew her father well, he took a great interest in me
Arabella Hinscot was a girl of the most refined
and organised sensibilities.
Are you trying to tell me you had an affair with Arabella
A form of an affair. She had no wish for full consummation.
She was content with her particular predilection,
consuming the male member.
At this moment, you are on the stage nightly in a Pinter play
called No Man's Land. Yes.
Having watched it and been shuttered...
At the National Theatre.
At the National...
This is very important. One of the reasons that I'm here
is because they were very keen for me to do this programme
because they said I could advertise the National Theatre.
I'm a member of the crew, the team of the National Theatre
and, of course, you're not supposed to advertise these things
but since we're all shareholders in the National Theatre,
the more I advertise it the cheaper it will be for you all.
So every now and again, if you don't mind, I'm going to try to take
the opportunity to mention the National Theatre.
MUSIC: "God Save The Queen" The Sex Pistols
Within months of opening, the new building ran into trouble.
The stage crews refused to consider new manning levels.
And when a plumber installing two washbasins
was sacked for incompetence, they called a strike which threatened to
shut down the entire theatre.
# God save the Queen
# The fascist regime. #
All the time the management have been very,
very stubborn in their approach to negotiations.
They would never give any ground.
And threatened that if we did strike like this, it would
mean the closure of the building.
The strikes at the National coincided with a nationwide
wave of industrial action,
which eventually brought down the Labour Government.
We had a really terrible time with the unions, I mean awful.
Their refusal to help Michael Redgrave, who was half-dead,
down the side of the building from the taxi to the stage door
I mean, that nearly killed Michael Redgrave, quite seriously.
And it was regarded as OK in some quarters
and I don't like those quarters
Among Peter Hall's most important
and committed allies was Britain's leading playwright, Harold Pinter.
HAROLD PINTER: It's one of the things I admire about him very much,
he sticks to his guns.
And he was certainly sticking to them in that period.
He wouldn't allow anything to get him
down and there was a hell of a lot to get him down.
We had a number of strikes during that time.
And he overcame these strikes.
But you had to be very, very tough and have a hell of a lot of fibre.
Going to have a look at Betrayal by Harold Pinter.
Directed by Peter Hall.
He's had other women.
We betrayed him for years.
'And he betrayed me for years.
'Well, I never knew that.
'Nor did I.'
PHOTOGRAPHERS: This way, please
MICHAEL GAMBON: On the first night it was cancelled.
And we went there. Antonia and Harold and the actors,
we went around to a cafe
and we were all talking
and I started sympathising with the crew.
How I felt maybe they had a point. He said, "You bastard."
This is the set on the Olivier stage for the play Strife.
I'm very sad, very worried.
Because this theatre is not breathing, it's not playing.
It's not alive tonight. We're going to close.
It's a very dangerous thing to happen.
Because in this new, young theatre...
..poor thing could die if it went on like this.
CHRISTOPHER MORAHAN: I was doing a production of a play
called Strife at that particular time.
By Galsworthy which was about an industrial dispute in South Wales.
GAVIN CLARKE: The play is set in 1909 in a Welsh village in a tin mine.
And it preaches a humane approach to industrial relations
based on compromise.
Most of us had a belief in trades unionism
and I belonged to trades unions for many years.
And we became a besieged building.
And we had to go through picket lines everyday which was
PETER HALL: One group was bent on making the revolution,
in the purest Trotskyite terms
And another group bent on earning as much money as possible
while no-one was looking.
And of course, it was a new building, new rates of pay, guvnor!
And I had to therefore learn about industrial
relations on a sort of crash course.
And I suppose on my tombstone will be,
"He sacked 65 men from the National Theatre and survived.
I'm not proud of that and I hate the fact that it was so.
EXPLOSION AND CHEERS
Despite the strikes,
the National had continued to put on highly successful productions
of everything from modern plays to Shakespeare and the classics
But even after the dispute was finally resolved in 1979,
Peter Hall found himself constantly under attack by a hostile press
which hated the building,
and much of the British theatre who thought that the National
was gobbling up too many scarce resources.
DAVID HARE: The problem Peter was having
was that he was genuinely embattled, he was dealing with
a hostile press, he was dealing with a hostile government,
he was dealing with massive building problems, he was dealing with
certain flaws in the design of the building itself,
which were integral and really major.
Every day was a fight and a struggle.
'..which you see on our right.
This is the new National Theatre.
'The building will shortly be voted one of the ugliest looking
'buildings in London, known on the river as the "concrete monstrosity".'
There's a moment that Peter himself describes in his diaries
was that he went out from an embattled day on to the open
deck of the theatre and a tourist boat went by and he could hear
the man on the microphone say, "That is the new National Theatre.
"It's run by a pig called Peter Hall."
And he said, at that moment, he did think,
"Maybe the price I'm paying for this is a little too high.
Dimly the music sounded from the salon above.
Dimly the stars shone on the empty street.
I was suddenly frightened.
It seemed to me that... I had heard a voice of God
and that it issued from a creature whose voice I had also heard.
And it was the voice of an obscene child.
'Mrs Thatcher comes out, dressed in the most brilliant blue.'
We're just reserving judgment. Are you still cautiously optimistic?
Yes, yes. You are cautiously optimistic? Yes.
When you look at the material for Amadeus, Peter Shaffer's play,
it's directed by Peter Hall,
and starred Paul Scofield, as Salieri,
and Simon Callow as the young Mozart.
'I'm going to pounce-wounce. I'm going to scrunch-munch, I'm going
'to chew-poo, my little mouse-wouse.
'I'm got to tear her to pieces
'with my paws-claws. No!
'Paws-claws, paws-claws. Paws-claws! Argh!'
Peter Shaffer's Mozart is a genius whose prodigous creativity
is combined with a childish and often obscene personality.
His arch rival, the court composer Salieri, played by Paul Scofield,
is so offended by his vulgarity
and so consumed by jealousy that he sets out to destroy him
PETER SHAFFER: Mozart wrote with such ease,
as if he were transcribing something.
Hearing it all in his head.
drinking wine and talking to his wife at the same time.
That is an amazing instance of divine inspiration
I begin as I shall end, with Mozart.
Mozart, as a passion, goes pack to my childhood
and it was there that I first met Figaro.
Figaro is an abiding passion.
I did it very happily recently at Glyndebourne.
Of course, Mozart had an extraordinary sense of drama
I think he's the greatest dramatist, apart from Shakespeare.
Mozart, his sense of timing and his sense of contrast is amazing.
Peter Hall directed numerous productions
at Glyndebourne Opera, where he later became the artistic director.
He spent large amounts of time in its comfortable rural
upper-class world, far from the trouble and strife
of running the National Theatre
Margaret Thatcher never went to the theatre, but she did for this.
And she sat there looking as grim as stone and, at the end, she said,
"This is disgraceful.
"It's not worthy of the National. It's dreadful,
"vulgar and I'm sure that the writer of that wonderful music was not
"a bit like this."
Peter said, "There are many letters
"which prove, in fact, that he was as vulgar as this.
And she turned and said,
"I thought I said that he was not a bit like that!"
RECORDING OF PLAY: 'Kill the leader first.
'Can you tell which one's the leader? Stop!
'What weapons have we got? My knife. Where?
'You had it to cut the Irishman's throat. Yes.
'One knife, under my clothes. Don't look at it.
It's a play about invasion and about
culture shock, when one superiorly equipped and more powerful nation
invades a small one and doesn't see what it's doing
doesn't see that it's walking through people and over people's lives
Howard Brenton's The Romans In Britain drew a parallel between
the Roman occupation of Celtic Britain
and the British presence in Northern Ireland.
'Your blood will run down my throat and I will drink you,
'get pissed on you, vomit on you, drink more of you!
'You'll be blood in my bowel! You will feed me
In the second act, there are scenes in Northern Ireland
because I was trying to write about imperialism.
There was also a brutal scene in the first act,
which caused all that trouble really.
Roman soldiers are out of hand
and they attempt to rape a young Celt warrior
and then kill him and his companions.
'The National Theatre, say the critics of this play,
'is not just another theatre, but the National Theatre.
'As such, say the critics, it should have known better.
'It's called The Romans In Britain.
'On stage, it shows homosexuality, naked men and male rape.'
If the Sexual Offences Act is there,
why in heaven's name should people involved in the theatre
be in some way immune from it?
Shortly after the play opened, Mrs Mary Whitehouse,
the self-appointed guardian of the nation's moral wellbeing, brought
a private prosecution against the National for gross indecency.
The case at the Old Bailey against the National Theatre production
of The Romans In Britain has ended with each side claiming victory
Mrs Mary Whitehouse, who brought the prosecution privately,
agreed that her counsel shouldn't proceed with it
and the defence case wasn't heard.
It was clearly established in court today,
what happens on the stage can now come under the law.
I can only say that Mrs Whitehouse and I have different legal advisors.
It isn't a case of you differing me in opinion.
I am telling you what the fact of the matter there is
And before we go off, I want to say something else.
This is the National Theatre.
It is your theatre, it is my theatre, it is all our theatre.
And what he's said
and done at the National Theatre is done in our name.
What happens in the National Theatre is seen all over the world,
as these are Britain's standards, this is what Britain does,
this is what Britain's about.
It was in that context that I initiated it in the first place
because I happen to care about our National Theatre
and I care about our nation.
GROANING AND WAILING CONTINUES
Ooh. Ah. Huh. Hm.
Well, I'll be buggered if I go out there tonight, I can tell you!
'It was his mother, this man dared to kill. There are two parties present.
'I must hear them both.'
He won't let us swear ours nor swear his own oath.
It's not justice you want, but the mere outward show.
There is a disturbance factor in the theatre, which is
why it always merits the attention of censors and do-gooders.
What is important to the theatre at this moment, is it will help
the debate of our society with itself.
I mean, that's why the Oresteia is very important to me.
An old Greek play,
but it's about the responsibilities and the nature of democracy.
And is democracy something liberal and boring and flat
and flabby, as the trendy view tends to be on the left at the moment
or is it something in the centre of what human values are about
and why men have fought and died for centuries and centuries?
I believe it is.
# Luck, be a lady tonight
# Luck, if you've ever been a lady to begin with
# Luck, be a lady tonight
# Luck, let a gentleman see
# How nice a dame you can be
# I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with
# Luck, be a lady with me. #
At that time,
the National Theatre didn't do musicals.
It was considered wholly improper.
I think that maybe you should be looking away from, er...
Yes, yes, I should, yes. Yeah.
'When I did Guys and Dolls, I was in my late 30s.
'I had always been in love with American culture.
'I didn't grow up seeing Shakespeare,
'I didn't grow up steeped in English literature.
'I was absolutely saturated in American culture.
# ..Good old reliable me... #
Guys and Dolls was the first Broadway musical
to be done at the National
and wouldn't have looked out of place in the commercial West End.
It was a huge critical and financial success
and opened up previously-uncharted territory.
Guys and Dolls was an expression of love,
of what I felt for...
..my teenage years, came out in that production.
# And I said to myself, "Sit down
# "Sit down, you're rocking the boat"
# I said to myself, "Sit down
# "Sit down, you're rocking the boat..." #
Britain's victory in the Falklands
consolidated Margaret Thatcher's authority.
And she preceded to pursue her vision of a society
based on free-market policies
and the importance of the individual.
Mustn't think the world owes you a living or owes you happiness
because it doesn't.
That's all in her. Yes.
'I like running things.
'I like creating environments.
'It is a kind of fix for me, to run this place.'
Peter had a very, very heavy schedule.
He would actually take
an early-morning meeting on a Monday morning
and then fly for a week's rehearsal in New York.
He thrived, actually, on the challenge.
MUSIC: "Smooth Operator" Sade
Why does Peter have three secretaries?
He has his own secretary, his National Theatre secretary
he has a private secretary who he employs himself,
who is really a private personal assistant
who looks after his opera work and his non-NT interests.
I think people say he does too much,
but I would say that there's too much to do.
50% of the cost of running the National
was paid for by an Arts Council subsidy.
In the 1980s, Peter Hall was forced to defend
what some saw as lavish public funding
in the face of a Conservative Government
which was ideologically opposed to subsidised theatre
and determined to cut its arts budget.
It cost ?17 million, I think, to build these theatres
and this whole marvellous complex here. Now,
how do you justify that kind of expenditure of taxpayers' money?
Theatre, opera, music, is usually subsidised
and historically has been subsidised by somebody -
by the church, by the state, by the king.
It's been very rarely COMMERCIAL, in the ordinary sense of the word.
And if we actually believe that theatre,
as part of our heritage, needs to be kept,
you're going to have to pay for it, as you have to pay for education
or for library books or for any social amenity.
It's very good for people to be worried
and at the end of their tether
It sharpens them up.
The minute the ground feels firm underneath,
your body dulls, grows flabby.
Flabby?! Goes out of shape.
This is the first play
with people who have lived under Margaret Thatcher
to be presented in the Olivier Theatre.
And so to us, to Howard and me
it's an extraordinarily important occasion.
Margaret Thatcher knew that people who worked in the British theatre
were not natural admirers of her revolution.
And there was a degree of hostility
which was stoked up, of course by the Murdoch press,
which was also ideologically VERY OPPOSED to the idea
of there being what they called "a state theatre".
We felt that there was something horrible
happening to the press in the mid '80s.
It was a loss of independence and, er...
the moving in of powerful press barons.
They were hard-edged businessmen
who had a hard-edged view on the world,
which chimed with the Thatcher Government.
What on earth is all this stuff about THE TRUTH?!
Truth?! Why? When everywhere you go, people tell lies!
In pubs, to each other,
to their husbands, to their wives,
to the children, to the dying!
And thank God they do!
No-one tells the truth.
Anthony Hopkins' bravura performance
as the white South African, Lambert La Roux,
was quite obviously based on another controversial newspaper proprietor
from a different part of the colonies.
# It seems like
# It's illegal
# To fight for the union any more
# Which side are you on, boys?
# Which side are you on? #
That bloody place is always putting on plays attacking me!
They set the Comedy of Errors in Number Ten Downing Street.
Prime Minister... No, don't deny it, Humphrey!
I know who they were getting at
And there was a whole play attacking my nuclear policy - a farce.
No, Humphrey, the play.
Why do they do it? Well, it's very healthy, Prime Minister.
Practically nobody goes to political plays.
And half those that do don't understand them.
And half those that understand them don't agree with them.
The seven who are left
would have voted against the Government anyway.
Now, Lords, Sir Peter Hall has led the attack on the Arts Council
on this Government and myself.
It is, of course, his right to do so.
Nevertheless, I don't feel that
he is the best qualified person
With ?6.7 million annually,
the National Theatre remains the best-funded theatre.
I know many directors up and down the land
who would like to have their budget
and Sir Peter's terms and conditions of employment.
# Lully, lullay
# Thou little tiny child
# Bye-bye, lully,
# Lullay. #
I bring thee but a ball.
Have him play wi' you all and go to the tennis.
The smallest of the National's three theatres was the Cottesloe.
It specialised in experimental productions,
like the all-day staging of The Mysteries,
which were adapted from medieval mystery plays
and staged in a promenade style
which involved the entire audience in the performance.
The people who had created these plays,
they weren't religious,
so much as celebrating in the community
and celebrating a common faith
And I think that came through
from the work to the audience.
And I think it was a celebration of the faith of the common man
If doomsday'd come much later,
we'd have had to build our hell grimmer...
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.
We warned the Arts Council in 19 2
that if our reward for good housekeeping
was going to be year after year of grant increase
which was less than half of inflation,
there would be a day of reckoning.
Today, the crunch has come.
The quickest way to cut costs
is, tragically, to go dark in the Cottesloe.
There will inevitably be job losses among actors
and staff right the way through the building.
I think it is a manoeuvre
on the part of the Government
to prove that the arts are not important.
You come to this theatre and it's still not expensive.
That is what the argument is about,
is to keep it affordable
so we don't create an elitist theatre
that the people cannot afford.
Don't they still love her at all?
'Before you leave, have a look out there in the front drive.
'You'll see a black Porsche. 944S Coupe.
'Brand-new registration, personalised number plate, that I love.
'Just outside Chichester, I have a small sailing boat which I'd
'willingly lay down my life for Anita.'
'Who needs all that, Jack? I don t.'
It's a play about an honest man in a world of complete corruption,
and he slowly becomes corrupted
What Peter called a modern morality play.
I'm an enormous fan of Marks Spencer.
This is a Marks Spencer coat it's superb...
There was no agreed moral code under Thatcher
because it's each man for his own, really.
That was the feeling - anyone can make it
and if you're treading over somebody else to get there, to hell with it.
I think it probably reflected that time.
Peter said in a few hundred years' time,
if they want to know what society was like, they needn't look no further
than my plays to reflect perhaps
the general feeling of the Middle England people.
I'm not political in the way that David Hare is political, I'm social.
Thou must not take my former sharpness ill.
I will employ thee back again.
I find thee...most fit for business.
In spite of the ever more complex battles
being fought out on its stages
the National always honoured its obligation to
put on Shakespeare and the classics,
and productions such as Peter Hall's Antony And Cleopatra could still
attract stellar casting in the form of Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench.
Peter is sublime at directing,
and there is he and John Barton
and Trevor Nunn who can teach you how to speak the verse.
When we did Antony And Cleopatra,
he was actually beating out the line - "Our royal lady's dead.
"Dead, dead." - so that we would...
And it took us ages to do.
And so, at the end of the morning, we got to, "Our royal lady's dead,"
and there was a pause and Peter said, "Thank, Christ!"
And I had a plan to do here Cymbeline, Pericles and A Winter's Tale...
'In a way, one wants to catch the tempo
'so that we can ride on that,'
you know? And so when I want you to go, "Uhh! Now what?"
it should be... Yeah, yeah.
In 1988, at the age of 57 and after 15 years as director
Peter Hall decided that it was time to leave the National.
He had transformed it from the tight, actor-led company
under Laurence Olivier into a theatre of international importance.
In 2011, at the age of 80, he returned to the National to
direct Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring his daughter, Rebecca
I think Peter Hall is the only person who could have taken
the National Theatre from the kind of operation that it
was at the Old Vic into the new National Theatre building.
It needed somebody who was an extraordinary impresario
who had a producerial instinct
Peter was a fantastically hard act to follow.
Peter Hall had already chosen a successor who had been
waiting in the wings for some time.
The politics were quite comic.
It was the days
when things were fixed in quiet corners at the Savoy Hotel.
Richard Eyre had been the prince-in-waiting
for a very long time. I think he found it quite trying.
In other words, it was perfectly clear from the moment
he did Guys And Dolls in the early '80s,
Richard was the right person to take over from Peter,
and Peter was always on the point of going and then he was saying,
"I think I'll do another Shakespeare play and then I'll do
"a cycle of this and that,"
and I think Richard had become very impatient.
Richard Eyre was now better known for his film and television work,
on programmes such as Play For Today at the BBC.
At the time, the board of the National Theatre was
appointed by the Government. The Prime Minister had a say
in the appointment of the director of the National Theatre.
I know that there was a certain
amount of doubt about my suitability, which was
exacerbated by the fact that, in 1986,
I directed a film called Tumbledown which
was about the Falklands War,
which was attacked viciously in Parliament
and so I was sort of branded as "public pinko pacifist".
Isn't this fun?!
Now, this morning, a new era begins on the Southbank Centre in London.
Today is the day that Richard Eyre officially takes over
from Sir Peter Hall as an artistic director of the National Theatre.
It's preposterous of me to stand up in public
and pretend to have the same public profile as Peter Hall.
I share his belief that we have to campaign in every way possible
to gain more public money, but my tactics will be very different
You're not going to be as pugnacious?
I may be as pugnacious in private but I think it's most unlikely
I should be as pugnacious in public.
The Dutch pictures that you'll see here only form really a minute part
of the whole Royal Collection,
which contains something like 4,500...
Richard Eyre kicked off with a controversy in the form
of a new play by Alan Bennett about Sir Anthony Blunt,
the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures,
who had recently been unmasked as a Soviet spy.
I was persuaded by Guy Burgess that I could best serve
the cause of anti-Fascism by joining him in his work for the Russians.
'It will be painful.
'You will be the object of scrutiny, explanations sought after,
'your history examined.
'You will be named, attributed.
As a fake, I shall, of course,
excite more interest than the genuine article.
The thing nowadays I find quite difficult to take is just this
received idea that treason is the worst possible crime in the world.
I can't think that it is. The world's too small a place now for that
Bennett's play was controversial not only
because it mocked the British Establishment,
but because it put the Queen on stage for the first time,
much to the horror of some of the members
of the National Theatre's board
The board was nervous that the portrayal of the Queen
on stage would be offensive.
They felt it was too subversive they tried to stop it,
Richard made it a resignation issue,
the board backed down and since then, I think the board has never tried
to influence repertoire ever again, and that's exactly how it should be.
The play was later filmed for television
with James Fox and Prunella Scales.
I still think the word "fake" is inappropriate, ma'am.
If something is not what it claims to be, what is it?
That is, I think, the sophisticated answer.
My father always like going to the theatre very much.
I liked going with him
but I wasn't a particular theatregoer,
in the sense that I went and saw everything, no.
In 1988, the Government appointed Winston Churchill's daughter,
Mary Soames, as the new chairman of the National Theatre.
My appointment was regarded with deep suspicion by the theatre.
I think the worry was that I'd been sent there by a Tory Government
to chase out the pinkos on the Left Bank.
One of the first thing she said to me was, "Richard,
"if I take this on, you're going to have to help me
"because I know absolutely nothing about theatre,"
which was confirmed a few days later by,
there was a lunch, Mary sent me her place card, wrote on it,
pushed it across the table,
and it said, "Who is Ian McKellen?"
Put in place by Mrs Thatcher, Prime Minister, perhaps impressed
that she could give Winston Churchill's daughter a job...
but perhaps thought that Mary Soames would keep an eye
on the National Theatre and not let it run out of hand
But, of course, what happened is that Mary Soames,
being a sociable person, loves a good laugh and a drink and
the occasional cigar, fell into the lap of all these friendly people!
I decided that Richard Eyre was the most wonderful director that
ever could be, but there were plenty of things for me to attend to on
what I believe was old fashionedly known as the distaff side,
known as getting marks off the carpet and various other domestic things.
Mary Soames was also perfectly equipped
to form new relationships between the National
and some of the forces which it had been suspicious of in the past
Sponsorship, you see, then, was a slightly dirty word
and, consequently, they hadn't cultivated it at all.
I did start giving a chairman's dinner.
And I used to prevail upon Ian McKellen or whoever.
I said, "Do be angelic and come to the dinner. It would help so much."
Although the National was no longer a repertory company,
there was a community of actors that worked there,
often in plays by writers who had fallen out of fashion.
One thing I don't have is the charm of the defeated.
My hat is still in the ring and I am determined to win.
What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? I wish I knew.
Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can.
No-one at the time, would you believe this, was doing Tennessee Williams.
They just regarded him as a camp old fruit,
and there was a sort of slightly
'culturally homophobic attitude towards
'that kind of overripe writing
'and to get back to the British audience a play of that stature
'of that quality, with that cast, I was thrilled.
I've dropped my crutch.
Lean on me. No, just give me my crutch.
Lean on my shoulder. I don't want to lean on your shoulder!
I want my crutch!
This is the 1989 production of Hamlet in the Olivier Theatre.
This is the rehearsal room with Richard Eyre on the left,
Daniel Day-Lewis, who played Hamlet, and Judi Dench, who played Gertrude.
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned.
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell.
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
thou comest in such a questionable shape
that I will speak to thee!
I'll call thee Hamlet!
I never quite know, when people say, "Have a breakdown,
how much that entails,
but all I remember him saying was that he just saw his father.
And it just completely overtook him, overcame him.
And he...he couldn't go on.
In September 1989, Daniel Day-Lewis walked out of
Richard Eyre's production of Hamlet
in the middle of a performance and never returned.
Dan withdrew, essentially had a breakdown,
and I decided to cast Ian Charleson, who was dying,
and he was magnificent and heartbreaking.
When Ian Charleson learnt that Daniel Day-Lewis was doing Hamlet,
I remember, on the phone with him, he said, "That's my fat chance,
because he'd already been diagnosed, then, with HIV,
and he said, "I've always wanted to play Hamlet,
"and that's it over. I can't do it any longer."
And then, when Daniel left, Richard Eyre had this chance.
'It's the biggest threat to public health this century,
'and, some say, God's gift to bigots.'
Ian had AIDS, quite advanced AIDS,
and it had damaged his beautiful face.
But not his voice, and nor his spirit, somehow.
And his energy levels, he kept in reserve
to play Hamlet on the Olivier stage.
A performance which, more than any other Hamlet...
..was about death,
because the actor playing the part knew he was dying.
And when he said "let be"...
..you didn't have to know how ill...
Ian Charleson was to be affected by that.
It's this perpetual absence.
It's not being here. It's that
I mean, let's be honest.
It's just beginning to get some of us down,
Is that unreasonable?
There are an awful lot of people round here in a very bad way
and they NEED something besides silence.
David Hare's Racing Demon is about a group of English clergymen working
in the inner city and struggling with the enormity of their task
David Hare had visited a Synod and reported back
that he was very, very interested in the Church of England
as an exemplary English institution,
and he thought it was a wonderful metaphor
for talking about English institutions.
Racing Demon became the first in a trilogy of plays about the Church,
the law and politics, that Richard Eyre commissioned and directed
The thinking behind the trilogy was that
a group of right-wing intellectuals had taken hold in Downing Street.
They had a lot of really stupid ideas, like monetarism
and this theory of welfare dependency,
these theories of the underclass,
but it had effects on society
and it led to divisions in society.
And so, my heroes and heroines in the trilogy became the people
whose job was to bandage the wounds.
They were the people on the front line.
I said, "David, this is what the National Theatre was invented for,
"was to present these plays about the Church, the law and politics "
'We have, in this country, I say,'
one party whose whole interest
is in giving still more to those who already have!
To those that have, shall more be given.
'I can never get over the intellectual disgrace of that idea!'
The third play in the trilogy was based on
the Labour Party's disastrous election campaign in 1992,
which resulted in five more years of Conservative rule.
Richard Eyre made the bold decision to stage all three plays
in the trilogy in the Olivier Theatre on the same day
I think that he was absolutely determined to make his mark
through contemporary writing.
Peter Hall, Harold Pinter, Nick Hytner, Alan Bennett,
always, in great theatres, you have a great partnership
between a writer who is doing and saying
exactly what that artistic director wishes to see
expressed at that time,
and when Richard was there, I was in that partnership with Richard.
I want to show you the world.
I do not want to see the world
From what I've seen of it so far, it has very little to recommend it.
Everybody's doing things, getting somewhere.
Oh, you mean the rat race? HE GUFFAWS
In December 1990, the youthful Nicholas Hytner came to
direct the National's Christmas show.
He had already made a name for himself directing opera
and had recently opened a smash-hit musical, Miss Saigon,
in the West End.
I suggested to Richard Eyre, that I'd like to do a big family show.
I suggested The Wind In The Willows.
He said that he'd been trying to persuade Alan Bennett to write
a play about Kenneth Grahame.
What was a surprise was that Alan said yes with such alacrity.
He'd not written a new play for quite a while.
I think he was stuck, so it was a good opportunity for him
to get back into the theatre.
The Wind In The Willows marked the beginning of a collaboration
between Hytner and Bennett which was to become one of
the most successful in the National's history.
It's not the same, is it?
What not the same?
My first play with Nick was in 1990
with the adaptation of The Wind In The Willows,
and it does seem to me, when you're doing a play,
they absolutely bend everything to accommodate you.
You're never made to feel you're just passing through,
that you're the playwright who's here for the next two months, or whatever.
The new play work with Richard got more and more successful.
One of them, I'm happy to say,
was a play called Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard.
Tell me more about sexual congress.
There's nothing more to be said about sexual congress.
Is it the same as love?
Oh, no - it's much nicer than that!
Tom, who I'd had a lot to do with before, came to me and said,
"I want you to do it at the National."
I'd left the RSC by then, but I had that decision to take, of,
do I go over the river and do a piece of work there?
And in my history, that was a very important stepping stone.
Trevor Nunn was Peter Hall's assistant and his successor
at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was known for his rigorous
and highly intellectual approach to Shakespeare.
I think we'd all agree on...
the fundamentally importance in Shakespeare of the text
and the fact that every production has got to grow from the text.
In the 1980s, he pioneered a new theatrical form -
the literary musical.
First with TS Eliot's poems about cats
and then with an adaptation of a well-known but little-read novel
by Victor Hugo, which became a worldwide hit,
bankrolled the RSC for over a decade,
and made Nunn himself a large private fortune.
Far more English people do know the story of Les Miserables
and they think they do.
A great deal of Hollywood production is based on that wonderful tale
of Les Miserables - a man who is fundamentally innocent,
who is pursued for the whole of his life by the forces of the law.
# Do you hear the people sing
# Singing a song of angry men
# It is the music of a people who will not be... #
By the middle of the 1990s,
Richard Eyre's tenure at the National was coming to an end
and he was beginning to look around for a successor.
I think it is the best job in the world.
You are running this organisation in which everybody
believes that they are working to the same end,
which is to put plays on in three auditoriums,
52 weeks of the year.
Surprisingly, none of the eligible younger directors of the time
seemed to be interested in taking on
the most important job in the British theatre.
I canvassed all possible candidates.
Nick Hytner was one who, at the time, said, "No, no, no,
"I couldn't, I couldn't."
Various members of the board were set
the task of meeting various people
in the potential director position.
I'd known Trevor for a long time
and we had lunch somewhere.
I was approached quite clandestinely by a colleague
and, gradually, the approaches got more serious, involving the idea of,
you know, "You really owe it,"
and, um, "You need to pay something back."
# Oh, what a beautiful morning
# Oh, what a beautiful day... #
When I met representatives of the board,
it became clear that what they really needed
was the absolute opposite of a new broom or a young Turk,
that they wanted a period of consolidation and therefore,
I knew that what was expected of me was to maintain and to continue.
The new man in the top job in British theatre is 56.
The National overlooked highly regarded younger directors
to opt for a safe pair of hands
He likes classical and experimental plays
and popular theatre. His aim..
To bring all of those ingredients under one roof
and, by the end of my tenure, to be able to claim that more people
who had never been to the National Theatre before
have now entered its doors and enjoyed it.
# The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree
# And an old weeping willow... #
When I worked with Trevor at the Royal Shakespeare Company,
what was extraordinary about him
was that he had developed an approach to theatre which was populist.
He really wanted to get a new audience in and his key to that
was his falling in love with American musicals.
He suddenly saw the huge energy and quality to American musicals
that made him go, "This will reach a new audience "
Some people hated that idea
because they thought this was populist and lowbrow
and he plugged on, thinking "I don't care.
"I'm going to try and get a new audience in."
The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
Were going to look at My Fair Lady - Trevor Nunn's production.
It played in the Lyttelton in 20 1 and transferred to the West End
# The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. #
By George, she's got it. By George, she's got it!
Now once again, where does it rain?
# On the plain, on the plain
And where's that soggy plain?
# In Spain, in Spain. #
I don't want to overemphasise it in the sense that, yes, we did do several musical works
but, at the same time, during my period,
we did 35 new plays,
we did countless revivals of classic cameras, both English and European.
So it was just one of the things that was going on.
I was absolutely clear that what was necessary was new blood,
new ways of thinking, so I got Mick back directing a couple of things
and then, Nick became the key candidate.
People ask me...
do the English people want a national theatre?
Well, of course they don't.
They never want anything.
Nowadays, I think more people than not like the sight
of the National Theatre as they walk over Waterloo Bridge. I love it.
I absolutely love it. It makes my heart lift.
It's a kind of sculptural masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned.
But I'm prepared to accept that s not a universally held view.
Of all times in our history, we need a heartening thing.
The most beautiful building you can imagine...
in the ideal spot on the River Thames in the heart
of our capital city, I think
will give a great feeling of pride
to all the inhabitants of these islands.
I find it very moving, really.
The thought that 50 years ago,
people were trying to imagine what the best possible circumstances
for making theatre might be, and then building it.
That the National should have arrived with such a simple ambition
to be the best. People said, "Oh, yes, let's have the best one.
"While we're at it, let's have three theatres and let's make it
"possible that we can make everything under the same roof except shoes.
"We'll allow that shoes should be made elsewhere.
# Cocksuckers! #
# I hope there's some fighting
# Possibly some fighting
# You stupid asshole. #
In 2003, Nick Hytner took over as director of the National
with a season of plays that was both provocative and populist.
# Asshole! #
I worked at the National Theatre
as a general assistant in the director's office
at the beginning of Nick Hytner's tenure here.
The big thing that felt defining was the putting on
of Jerry Springer, The Opera.
He brought a show that was done at the Edinburgh Festival
that had a ridiculous amount of swearing in it.
# And give or take a few million
# Bigger than the fucking Pope. #
Jokes about Jesus, jokes about people shitting themselves.
It was coarse and hilarious and brilliant and moving.
I thought everything that is outrageous and sharp and funny
and subversive about this show
will kind of implode at the National Theatre,
and it took me seeing it at Edinburgh to realise, no, wait a minute.
That audience would come to the National.
It was a kind of key moment for me.
I can get anybody I like here. Just make sure they know about it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm about to resort to violence
This is Hackney, and this street
is what the media have dubbed Murder Mile
due to the high incidences of gun crimes and shootings.
It's the world that I've chosen to set my play in, Elmina's Kitchen.
Want to keep on selling your little plantain burgers? Good luck to you.
May you always be happy.
Me, I'm the man. Go on.
You'd like that, wouldn't you?
You'd like me to punch your lights out
so you could walk street and say,
"See, told you my dad weren't no punk." Why would I say that?
You are a punk. Don't you push me.
It was a lilywhite institution
And it was an upper middle-class institution
and probably being
upper-middle-class was more daunting than it being lilywhite.
I came in and I think
I was the third show in of his reign, as it were.
I think my impression of the National was it was
the equivalent of walking into Buckingham Palace.
It's just this huge thing, this bastion of culture, that you
almost have to kind of have a degree in before we can step over the threshold.
It's almost an alien land.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace, there's nothing so becomes a man
as modest stillness and humility.
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
then imitate the action of the tiger.
The thing I really remember is opening Nick Hytner's mail
and getting lots of hate letters regarding his casting
of a black Henry V.
There were letters that I was reading to him,
saying, you do realise, don't you, that Henry V was not black
and that, in fact, by staging this,
you are offering an insult to England
and to the monarchy for your pathetic artistic reasons,
trying to grab headlines.
You fought the battle, you won the battle...
Playing Henry V at that time,
the poignancy of the play suddenly really came through.
Especially when at some point during the run,
a general used the St Crispin's Day speech
to galvanise the troops before
they went on some certain exercise and that was all over the press
"Real Henry V takes place."
For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother,
be he ne'er so base
and gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed
they were not here and hold their manhoods cheap
whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!
We'll get through this all right. Don't you worry. Charge!
The National's family show in 2 07
created a theatrical experience
that was quite unlike anything that had been seen before.
War Horse seemed pretty experimental at the time.
A book narrated in the first person by a horse
about his experience
behind the trenches in the First World War on both sides.
A puppet horse, doesn't speak - that feels like something that you only do
if you've got people on the team who are really
passionate about it and really driving it and that's why we did it.
And it completely took us by surprise.
Steptoe! Steptoe! What is it, Toby?
I saw something moving in no man s land. It's not a man, sir. It looks
more like a horse or a cow to me. A cow? Or a horse?
The first early previews in the Olivier,
we thought it was going to be an absolute disaster.
I was distraught about it. I thought it was just terrible
But they pulled it together. They really did.
The inspired combination of a South African puppet company
and a best-selling children's novel proved to be a winning formula
that gave the National its biggest hit since Amadeus
and became a cash cow at precisely the moment
that the global economy was going into meltdown.
War Horse has been enormously important to the recent years of the National Theatre
and came along at precisely the moment
when public funding started declining.
Its earnings have made up for the cuts in the Arts Council's grant.
And now, as War Horse will see its life play out,
there are other productions
like the Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time
and One Man, Two Guvnors that can join it
to bear the burden of propping up
the National Theatre's finances
'Do you believe, finally, that the National Theatre will ever be
'a paying proposition, that it will ever be in the black?'
Oh, no, of course not. Why should we think it will? If you've got. .
That's not wrong.
If you compare it with any other comparable
theatre organisation in the world, it's terrific value for money.
The Germans cannot believe
that we earn a pound for every pound subsidy that we get.
SHOUTING AND SQUEALING
I think the focus now has to be on how do we cope
with the less that we're going to get.
We can earn a lot of money out of War Horse
we can work hard to try and find more War Horses.
We're also going to have to go out and really make our conversation
even more productive than it is with philanthropists.
Accept my labour and long live Your Lordship. I thank you.
You shall hear from me anon. Go not away.
What have you there, my friend
'Would you argue for it to be given priority, for example,'
over hospitals and schools? I wouldn't argue that anything
should be given priority over hospitals or schools or houses
But let me point out that in Germany, it would be given priority
over all those three things.
Although just 20% of the National's running costs
are now paid for by the government,
Nick Hytner still managed to slash seat prices
with a combination of cheaper productions and sponsorship.
The Travelex programme I thought was inspired.
I didn't recognise the audience when I came early on in Nick's reign.
But I don't think anybody did.
She has no choice. We go to Argentina.
What if she refuses to accept a bargain made
before she was even created? Come on, use your brain!
'It has found not only a new audience but a new company.
I mean, the stars are now his stars.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here...?
'I can't remember the last time I went to see a play'
at the National Theatre when the audience wasn't full.
I'm not saying that's the only criterion, but it is one of them.
It's a popular place,
it's the highest standard of production in London.
Possibly the world.
Goodness knows people come to London to see what's on here.
'I don't think there's a better theatre centre
'anywhere in the world than this one. Everything that anyone wants'
in putting on a play from the first idea to the last performance,
is housed under one roof.
It should be open seven days a week and it should be open all day.
There are wonderful terraces and foyers.
There are places for exhibitions, for happenings.
It's like going to Shakespeare's Globe through the market.
It's all part of one living community.
It's not for nothing that all this is happening today,
and what Nick Hytner has developed, all the work in the foyers,
all that life around the estate which again
gives a new vitality and attracts a new audience.
This is one of the long dressing rooms.
It's where six people share one
I was told you were ill! I was told YOU were ill!
Are you? Perhaps. Are you?
And so we begin, as old friends do,
comparing our respective degrees of decrepitude.
They say I have a weak heart, whatever that means.
Oh, I have a bad heart too.
Sometimes I can't lift my arm to conduct.
Oh, well, I can do that. Can't conduct, of course.
The Habit Of Art is an imaginary encounter
between WH Auden and Benjamin Britten.
Nick Hytner's collaboration with Bennett is now in its 24th year
and Bennett himself
has become closely identified with the National.
'Alan and I have done five plays together and two movies.
'I think Alan is secretly'
a much more subversive playwright than he's often thought to be.
His project is always to invite the audience to be complicit
with the most unexpected, quite often disreputable,
in all conventional ways unattractive, kind of people.
Decay is a kind of progress. Dotty! I don't care.
"I don't care." "Decay is a kind of progress.
"Dotty!" Is it, "I don't care WHAT you say."?
'I automatically come to Nick with a script.
'I don't think of it as collaboration, really,
'though it is collaboration, but I think of it as'
slightly more like somebody showing off their homework.
I go to Nick and he suggests various things
I then take them away and some I use and some I don't
'You want to be reassured that it's not just very dull, that's all.'
I'll take you down to the drum now.
What's the drum?
It goes under the Olivier stage Turns.
It was amazing when, there was one show on,
I remember bringing my daughters here many years ago,
when they were younger, to see Wind In The Willows.
This is the drum.
The National's drum revolve is a huge hydraulic machine
five storeys high that can lift whole sets onto the stage,
and is the only one of its kind in the world.
I guess we're about 40 feet underneath the stage for the Olivier.
And this is a big kind of gasometer structure
which was part of the original design
about how you move scenery on a big thrust stage.
And it was one-off and it was built in a field in Essex,
and for the first...15 years of the life of the National, probably,
it didn't work.
Since when the National Theatre has regularly lavished
quite a bit of love on this machinery.
I'll show you one of the rehearsal rooms.
This is one of them, this is rehearsal room two.
We've got one exactly the same on the other side.
The National has had some unexpected recent hits
with more experimental and contemporary work.
'When I saw it first in the rehearsal room I knew immediately,
'as did everybody who was watching it in rehearsal,'
that it was one of the best things this theatre has ever done, ever.
# ..17 hanging baskets in this back garden
# Believe it or not... #
London Road is set on the street
where Steven Wright, the Ipswich murderer,
and many of his victims lived and worked in 2006.
'The fact that it was so current was a very tricky thing.'
I mean, a musical about the Ipswich murders
is an appallingly crass idea on the face of it.
And of course everybody was questioning all the way through
whether or not this was a really terrible thing.
And in the end it's not about the girls
and it's not about Steven Wright,
it is about a community of English people
dealing with a very, very contemporary trauma.
# Begonias and petunias and... #
Rufus Norris has directed everything
from classics in the Olivier to musicals in the West End.
'I love the combination of story and music,
'that part of a performance or a story or a narrative
'that can totally bypass the intellect
'and get you on the level of the gut.'
That's what raises the hairs on the back of my neck,
gets my tear ducts flowing.
And that's why I go to the theatre, is to be moved.
'This is the first play that I've had at the National.
'I have written plays before for the Royal Court.
'You feel part of a much greater thing.
'You feel that your show'
is one of many shows that are on at the time
and for me I quite like that because it's protecting in some way.
You don't feel like the theatre's going to
make or not make their budget on the basis of what your show does.
And you're also surrounded by artists all the time,
coming and going from other shows,
which makes you feel part of something, which as a writer
which is a fairly lonely profession, has a lot of value.
Have you seen the polls? Yes, I have seen the polls, Walter.
We're in the lead in the polls Only just, nowt in it.
In dark times the electorate sticks with the devil it knows
They're only dark because you can't keep the lights on.
Surely the most basic test for the government
is you keep the blinking lights on, Jack.
The unlikely subject of James Graham's This House
is Parliament during the Labour government of 1974 to '7 -
a period which was traumatic for Britain and for the National itself.
'For me politics was never something
'that was really alienating or strange.
'I think if you're going to lock people in a room for two hours
and talk to them, then I feel it has to be important,
and I feel like you've got to leave having talked about stuff
and having really engaged with things that are important
and political issues do that.
I think the default position of younger writers is that maybe
we don't have the right or the tools to write these big political plays
and that we should just write small plays about our own stuff
and I've just never believed that's true.
Jack, I just want to talk about this. There's nothing I can do
Would you hold on a second? Christ...
In the last four years, the National has started to broadcast
its productions live into cinemas in Britain and around the world
Walter Harrison! I think we've got you, haven't we?
More than two million people
have now seen a National Theatre Live performance,
and it is vastly extending the range and size of the National's audience.
This is an area that people are obviously going to be
moving into and I think we've got to be pretty careful about this.
Most British independent movies open and close in a weekend
and are lucky if they take a couple of hundred thousand.
?2 million in British cinemas, that's a big opening.
Any questions for Nick?
By the autumn, I suspect I will be,
I'll be making my last report about what's coming up in the future
Nick Hytner will be leaving the National in 2015
after perhaps the most successful directorship in its history,
in which the building and the theatre
have begun to fulfil the dream that was shared by so many for so long
and which at times seemed elusive and even in jeopardy.
Do you know why the seats are purple? Why?
Because it was Laurence Olivier s favourite colour.
What changes would you look for in our own company?
I'd like better conditions, first of all.
Such as? A better theatre.
In order to increase activities
So that eventually, perhaps,
the art of the actor may finally be regarded
as an important part of the life of the people.
We'll head off back to the stage door now.
Don't call me a cock-up, you cock-up!
You slapped me!
Yes, I did, and I'm glad I did
'When Harley Granville-Barker and George Bernard Shaw
'said the British genius is for theatre,
'that's what the British do, that's the thing they do best
'and that need to be incorporated
'in a way which resists commercial pressures.
'And the story of that, through many, many people's hard work'
and commitment, happening, is one of the few British success stories.
Sit down, have a cup of tea now
Turn all the lights off, all the way up round the building.
It'll be in pitch darkness.
Then the others will go round the plant rooms and stuff
and turn all the lights off in the plant rooms, check everything is OK.
And car park patrols.
They more or less cover every inch of the building overnight,
make sure everything is off,
power down for five hours till housekeeping come in.
'The board of National Theatre has decided who is going to be
'the director of the National Theatre as of March of 2015.
'Their decision, I am happy to say,
'is one that is completely delightful to me.
'The next director, Rufus Norris '
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The National Theatre is 50 in October 2013 and has given the BBC unprecedented access to make two Arena documentaries for BBC Four.
In the second film Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and Nicholas Hytner talk about running the new National Theatre - the biggest job in the British theatre - from its opening by the Queen in 1976 through the strikes which nearly forced it to close in the 1970s, clashes with the government, the controversy of the play Romans in Britain, to the fulfilment of Olivier's original dream with the huge success of shows like Amadeus, Guys and Dolls, War Horse and One Man Two Guvnors.
With contributions from Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, James Corden and many others.