Permanent theatre company usually subsidized by the state and housed in one venue, where national classics of drama are performed in repertory. The oldest national theatre is the Comédie-Française
, founded in 1680. The National Theatre of Great Britain
, first advocated by Garrick
, only became a reality in the 1960s. Its first production, Hamlet
, took place on October 22, 1963, at the Old Vic
Theatre. Sir Peter Hall
succeeded Laurence Olivier
as artistic director (1973–88). In October 1976, new buildings designed by Sir Denys Lasdun officially opened and comprise the Lyttleton Theatre, the Olivier Theatre, and the Cottesloe Theatre. Other directors include Sir Richard Eyre (1988–97), Trevor Nunn
(1997–2002), and Nicholas Hytner (2002– ).
Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre a government-funded repertory company based in London. Although the idea for such a company originated in the 19th cent., the National Theatre was not finally established until 1963, with Laurence Olivier appointed as director. Temporarily housed at first in the Old Vic theater, the company opened with Hamlet in 1963. Peter Hall took over the directorship in 1973, and the National Theatre complex opened in 1976–77 in its new building on the south bank of the Thames. In 1988 the name of the company was changed to the Royal National Theatre, and Richard Eyre took over as director. Eyre was succeeded by Trevor Nunn in 1997 and Nicholas Hytner in 2003. The National Theatre engages many of England's most talented actors, directors, and designers to produce its repertory of classic and modern plays.
First proposed by Effingham Wilson (1848), but bedevilled by false starts, conflicts of interest, and two world wars, the idea of a state theatre received parliamentary approval (1949) but the promised funding was not forthcoming. The National Theatre company was finally incorporated in 1963, with Laurence Olivier
as director and the Old Vic
providing a nucleus of actors, but it was not until 1976, after financial difficulties and criticism, that the company moved into its permanent home, a three-theatre complex on the South
Bank (London), partly state subsidized. Since 1988 the prefix ‘Royal’ has been permitted.
A. S. Hargreaves