In the UK, the National Theatre is a government subsidised institution that puts on plays around the country. Their main base is the National Theatre on the South Bank of the river Thames, London. Large amounts of their funding from the government goes to the up keep of this building which is one issue that they have been criticised on. People say that they should be putting more money into plays rather than on the building (they often are mean to the government due to grants that they deem small).

Currently they get £11,167,000 as a grant from the Arts Council. They also get about 11% of their total income as sponsorship money and patronage (about £3,346,640). The total amount of income (including the above and the money they make from the box office, drinks and food, souvenirs etc.) is about £30,424,000.

There are three theatres in the main building: the Olivier (after the first Director), The Lyttelton (after the first chairman) and the Cottesloe (named after the chairman of the South Bank Board, who were in charge of the building of the National Theatre).

The current director of the National Theatre is Nick Hytner. Before that was Trevor Nunn (1997-2003). Before that was Richard Eyre (1988-1997) and before him was Peter Hall (1973-1988). The first director was Laurence Olivier.

The National Theatre makes it possible for those with financial difficulties to still be able to see decent plays.

General Facts

They have, in total, carried out 500 plays with several going on per week.
The most plays in one day has been 18 (see the history section).
They have won many awards over many years with the most being 25 in 1999.
People working at the National Theatres (as administration staff) are civil servants.
Carries out musicals as well as plays.
The first play to be carried out by the company was Hamlet directed by Laurence Olivier and Peter O'Toole played Hamlet (1963).
For 13 years the company spent its time in the Old Vic Theatre while it waited for its building to be finished.
The first tour of the National Theatre was Laurence Olivier's production of Uncle Vanya in 1964 which then became the first foriegn tour as well when it went to Moscow soon afterwards.


1848 The idea was first conceived by Effingham Wilson (a London Publisher)

1903 Harley Granville Barker and William Archer publish detailed plans for National Theatre. There had been some attempts at one before this but they had failed pretty miserably.

1937 A site is chosen and bought in Cromwell Gardens but due to the outbreak of World War II the building was not built.

1942 The London County Council agrees to allow the site to be exchanged for the one on the South Bank of the Thames. This is where the present building now stands.

1949 The National Theatre Bill is passed through Parliament (without a division). This allows the government to give a grant to the National of up to £1 million for the building and equipment.

1962 Govenors of the Old Vic theatre allow it to be used by the National Theatre for (initially) five years.

1963 Denys Lasden was chosen as the chief architect for the new building. He was also the architect for the IBM building in London as well.

1973 Peter Hall takes over as Director of the National Theatre.

1976 The Lyttelton theatre is opened first (out of the three theatres in the new building) with an opening production of Hamlet (played by Albert Finney).
The Olivier theatre opens on the 4th October of the same year with Marlowe's Tamburlaine The Great (directed by Peter Hall). The Queen officially opens the National on the 25th October

1977 4th March: the Cottesloe theatre is finally opened with Illuminatus! by Ken Campbell (an eight hour epic!). All the theatres in the National are now open. Still some building work was needed and some of the machines didn't work. These delays in the building lost the company money.

1982 The National sends out its first production from its Education department, Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle. It goes to different centres.

1984 The National's Studio is founded to encourage new writing. This workshop is still in use today.

1985 The closure of the Cottesloe theatre due to cuts in the Arts Council Grant. The last production is Doomsday (the final part of Bill Brydon's production of The Mysteries).

In the autumn, the Cottesloe reopens thanks to a private grant from the Greater London Council

1987 22 awards attained by the National Theatre for work over the past year. This is a new record for the company.

1988 Richard Eyre takes over as director.
To mark the 25th birthday of the National, the Queen gives the National Theatre the new prefix of Royal. From now on it can call itself The Royal National Theatre.(' What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.' -- Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet).

1990 11% increase in the subsidy of the National Theatre.

1992 24 awards recieved for the years work.

1993 Saturday 18th October, a record of 18 performances in one day at the National Theatre.

1997 In October the current director of the National (Trevor Nunn) succeeds Richard Eyre.

1998 The National Theatre Online sees its first foray into the world wide web. (see it at

1999 The National Theatre wins 25 awards.