Should our National Theatre represent the Nation? 

Convener(s): Daud Shah

Participants: 16

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


It seems unclear what the (Royal) National Theatre’s role is (RNT)

Is it an institute of excellence or is there a notion of representation in terms of a) the constituent of the audience i.e. widening demographics or b) the world of the play representing an audience group e.g. Market Boy

By keeping this unclear it maintains itself as a ‘moving target’ and relatively free from attack

Can these co-exist in practice?

The National Theatre of Scotland seems to be highly regarded but is a new organisation riding on the back of a new devolved feeling of Nationalism and without a building it has more money to invest on individual projects

It has created tours with accessible work where RNT seems very London-centric.

Is there a difference, as England doesn’t have a national conscience?

Some feel it is the best it’s been in terms of programming and risks are being taken. I.e. it is a good starting point

Education doesn’t seem an important part of its present role

Does it need a rep?

Should a NT be there to entertain an audience or inform

Co-productions seem to work as they have access to their own audience

Ken Tynan wrote a NT should include:

-New writing

-International Theatre


Has the NT become an established monster, should it be revered or even be badly behaved or had it become choked by it’s commercial masters and it’s own character at ease with this as it will be protected from attack.

NT is like the cabinet in government in terms that it becomes a reflection of the person at its head.

Gone are the days of Peter Hall and perhaps it’s become more homogenous

Can it fulfil all expectations?

Some audience groups want to see a refection of themselves on stage, e.g. Tamasha audiences, Romford people with Market Boy

Why do people still enjoy and relate to film where there can be totally unconnected to the protagonist and narrative, but in theatre some audience groups feel alienated from the stories and crave a personal link – is it to do with the live experience

Working at the NT feels like a boys club from a very elitist school, like you don’t really belong

3 stages allow a range of projects to co-exist 


There should be a public forum for regular discussion and development of its role but with protection from hijack by ‘focus’ groups.

An Inter-National company that could take some projects out around the country on tour and perhaps also take on more contentious and international projects.

Have quality and risk side by side

Avoid tokenism

Should always start form a point of excellence but be prepared to fail 

Continue to explore new writing perhaps in the loft