National Theatre reveals £50 million ‘Master Plan’

Lalayn Baluch

The National Theatre has revealed the first details of its £50 million ‘Master Plan’ to modernise its Grade II-listed London home.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the NT’s annual results, artistic director Nicholas Hytner and executive director Nick Starr revealed that a planning application for the scheme would be submitted to Southwark Council in the next six months.

First revealed in The Stage last December, the Master Plan aims to maintain the fabric of the Denys Lasdun-designed building, help develop the organisation’s artistic capabilities, and improve amenities for audiences.

The development will include a new learning and participation centre next to the Cottesloe Theatre, refurbished foyer spaces, and a new bar. It will also open up the venue’s workshop spaces, to allow theatregoers the chance to see backstage activities.

Designed by architects Haworth Tompkins – which was responsible for the modernisation of the NT Studio, and led the redevelopment of a number of venues including the Young Vic – the scheme will also feature environmentally friendly, energy saving elements.

Hytner said: “It is a very ambitious plan and the designs are close to being complete. It is a plan we can do as much of or as little of in various stages, as we feel is wise.

“It is part of the same ethos of Sunday performances and NT Live [a scheme to broadcast performances to cinemas]. It is about opening this place out, making it more available and more exciting. The National Theatre is in a very different place from when it was completed in the mid-seventies – the South Bank has changed completely and London has changed a lot. It feels like the right time to respond.”

Meanwhile, the theatre’s annual results reveal that it achieved a surplus of £465,000 on unrestricted funds for 2008/09, which will enable it to designate “significant” amounts to capital spending and the Master Plan.

Its turnover increased to £55 million, and the box office achieved 93% capacity, with 817,000 paid attendances. War Horse was the “biggest earner” of the year, taking in £2.7 million at the box office. The NT’s four-month pilot season of Sunday matinee performances was also a success, filling 99% of available seats. The 25 performances were seen by 25,000 people, of whom 34% were first time bookers.

Hytner also revealed details of next year’s Travelex season, which will open with Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean play Women Beware Women, directed by Marian Elliott. It will be followed by Richard Eyre’s production of Moira Buffini’s Eurydice, Georg Buchner’s Danton’s Death, directed by Michael Grandage, and a production of Hamlet directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Rory Kinnear

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