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Leigh, Gambon and Broadbent line-up for The National Theatre's new season

Preview by Jack Foley

THE National Theatre has enlisted some heavyweight talent for its upcoming season, with the likes of Mike Leigh (pictured), Sir Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and former Spooks star, Matthew McFadyen, all contributing in some way.

Racial tension will also be tackled during the season, as part of David Edgar’s Playing with Fire, which opens at the Olivier Theatre in September.

Announcing the new season during the first week of February, National Theatre director, Nicholas Hytner, said that he hoped the theatre would be 'as bold as we always have been'.

"I'm absolutely determined that we won't hold back," he added, in direct reference to fears that Playing With Fire might prompt similar scenes to those at Birmingham Repertory Theatre last year, when a run of the racially-sensitive play, Behzti - which depicted a murder in a Sikh temple - provoked riots.

Edgar's production is set in a contemporary industrial northern town run by an Old Labour council and is described by Mr Hytner as 'very pertinent'.

Of the other works, Mike Leigh is due to direct at the Cottesloe Theatre in September - although no further details have been announced.

Leigh's presence on The National's schedule is sure to heighten interest among theatre-goers given the success of his latest film, Vera Drake.

Another certain audience favourite will be the pairing of Sir Michael Gambon and Matthew McFadyen in a new production of Henry IV at the Olivier Theatre from April 26.

While Jim Broadbent 's depiction of Edward Lionheart in The Theatre of Blood, an adaptation of the 1973 horror film, is sure to be a sell-out when it debuts at the National's Lyttelton Theatre from May 9.

2005 will also see the return of the Travelex £10 Season, as well as the premiere of The UN Inspector, which has been freely adapted from Gogol’s Russian satire, The Government Inspector, by David Farr (at the Olivier Theatre from June 16).

Other works at The Lyttelton include Tom Cairns' new production of Irish playwright Brian Friel's play, Aristocrats, and Katie Mitchell's revival of Martin Crimp's Attempts on Her Life.

Physical theatre company, DV8, will showcase their latest, Just for Show, for nine performances, while Nicholas Wright will direct a new version of Jonathan Kent’s production of Ibsen’s 1881 classic Ghosts.

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