LONDON – A new Alan Bennett play, a behind-the-scenes drama about Parliament, and a swashbuckling adventure from “One Man, Two Guvnors” author Richard Bean are part of the upcoming season at Britain’s National Theatre.
Artistic director Nicholas Hytner announced Wednesday that Bennett’s contemporary drama “People” will open at the riverside London venue in October.
Hytner revealed few details about the play, saying only that “it’s funny, it’s got lots to say and it’s touching.”
New plays by Bennett, author of “The Madness of King George” and “The Habit of Art,” are major events in British theatre. His school drama “The History Boys” was one of the National’s biggest hits of the last decade, transferring to Broadway and spawning a 2006 film.
Also coming this year are James Graham’s parliamentary play “This House” and Bean’s boisterous adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Bean’s buoyant farce “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starring James Corden, is due to open at New York’s Music Box Theatre in April.
Britain’s flagship state-funded theatre has had a run of successes in recent years, transferring several hits to Broadway and broadening its audience through a discount ticket policy.
The 2012 lineup also continues the triumph of “War Horse” — the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated World War I movie — which is currently running in London’s West End and in New York. A 20-city U.S. tour is planned for this year, and productions are due to open in Toronto and Melbourne.
Other productions planned for 2012-2013 include an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and a new play by Stephen Beresford, “The Last of the Haussmans,” starring Julie Walters, Rory Kinnear and Helen McCrory.
As part of the London 2012 Festival coinciding with this summer’s Olympics, the theatre will stage a series of outdoor pieces and performances along the River Thames. Indoor offerings will include a production of Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens” starring Simon Russell Beale.
Hytner joked that the play is “as savage an explosion of misanthropy as has ever been written. We’re doing that for the Olympics.”