I remember there was one critic who found the idea of a boy trying to seduce a teacher completely incredible and we put it to the vote in the rehearsal room, “who here tried to seduce a teacher?” and one member of the cast not only tried, but succeeded.
Nicholas Hytner discussing The History Boys on Alan Bennett at 80
For his latest production Nicholas Hytner decided to have Othello take place in a British military camp in Cyprus. A brilliant move, as it brings a much needed freshness to a heavy play that has been performed countless times in its 400-year-old history.
Adrian Lester is excellent in the title role, making Othello’s change from respected leader and loving husband to a suspicious and brutal murderer seem very plausible in the course of three hours. Yet for me it was Rory Kinnear as the plotting, deceitful Iago who really stood out in this production. I have seen many actors struggle to deliver Shakespeare’s language naturally but Kinnear has a knack for making his lines sound not only modern but even improvised, which is no mean feat. Olivia Vinall is a bit wet as the hipster Desdemona, whereas Lyndsey Marshal had the real balls, playing the reluctant but later gutsy wife to Iago.
The set design is outstanding. We’ve seen soldiers playing football against the sandy coloured concrete bunkers, Othello spewing his guts out in the camp lavatories and Iago spraying beer over a soldier in the common room.
Lester’s and Kinnear’s double act keeps you on the edge of your seat in this refreshed and very accessible Shakespearean production.
Richard Bean’s fast and furious new play is an anarchic satire about the press, the police and the political establishment. Billie Piper plays Paige Britain, ambitious young news editor of The Free Press, a tabloid newspaper locked in a never-ending battle for more readers.
Great Britain opens tonight at the NT and is playing until 23 August.
Nicholas Hytner: a look back Part two – 2009 to 2015
As Nicholas Hytner’s tenure as the Director of the National Theatre comes to an end, here’s a reminder of some of the plays he directed.
Phèdre by Jean Racine, in a version by Ted Hughes (2009) London Assurance by Dion Boucicault (2010) Hamlet by William Shakespeare (2010) One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, with songs by Grant Olding (2011) Collaborators, a new play by John Hodge (2011) Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare (2013) People by Alan Bennett (2012) Othello by William Shakespeare (2013) Great Britain by Richard Bean (2014) The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard (2015)