- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LONDON (AP) - The return of director Sam Mendes and a long-awaited musical by Tori Amos are among highlights announced Wednesday for the 50th anniversary season at Britain’s National Theatre.

Mendes, who began his career in theater before moving into film, will direct a production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” starring Simon Russell Beale and opening next January. It was originally slated for 2012, but delayed while Mendes made the James Bond adventure “Skyfall.”

The 2013 season will see “The Light Princess,” a musical adaptation of a 19th-century fairytale with music and lyrics by Amos. First announced two years ago, it will finally open in October.

Artistic director Nicholas Hytner said Wednesday that “musicals just take a hell of a lot of writing and developing and testing out.”

The season also includes a version of Shakespeare’s “Othello” starring Adrian Lester, and a production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II.” Two major American plays also are in the line-up: James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner,” set in a storefront church in Harlem, and Eugene O’Neill’s monumental family drama “Strange Interlude.”

Hytner said the “groundbreaking” but rarely performed play, which spans 30 years in the lives of its characters, would be cut down from its full five-hour running time for a production starring Anne-Marie Duff.

“If it works, it’s exhilarating,” Hytner said. “It’s a kind of knife-edge affair.”

Hytner said the company’s 50th anniversary will be marked with a televised performance including “a montage of highlights” from its greatest productions starring many of the original actors.

Founded in 1963, Britain’s flagship state-funded theater has had a run of successes in recent years, transferring several hits to Broadway _ including “War Horse” and “One Man, Two Guvnors” _ and reaching millions with live broadcasts to cinemas around the world.

Hytner said National Theatre productions reached 3.2 million people worldwide in 2012.

But like many major arts organizations, it has faced funding cuts as the government slashes spending in a bid to reduce Britain’s deficit.

Hytner said he would continue to argue that government cash for the arts should not be cut. He said the National Theatre, which soon will have four shows running in commercial West End venues, made 80 million pounds ($126 million) in income last year _ a major boost for Britain’s creative economy.

“The more you put in, the more you are going to get out at the other end,” he said.


Jill Lawless can be reached at https://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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