National to stage a Sunday epic

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The Independent Culture
The Royal National Theatre in London is to open on Sundays for the first time when it presents a seven-and-a-half hour production by the Canadian director Robert Lepage.

The marathon performances of Seven Streams of the River Ota, conceived by Lepage, will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, starting this autumn.

The performances of the epic fable, chronicling the 50 years since the Hiroshima bomb and combining the horrors of the bomb with the Holocaust and Aids, will start at 3pm and include a one-hour break. It will be the second longest play staged at the National; the record belongs to Illuminatas in 1977.

This autumn's programme, announced yesterday, sees the return of former National Theatre director Sir Peter Hall, directing his first plays at the theatre since he left in 1988. Sir Peter will direct Alan Howard in Ranjit Bolt's new translation of Sophocles' Oedipus Plays. Before playing at the National, the Oedipus Plays will be staged in the ancient theatre at Epidaurus, the theatre on which the National's Olivier auditorium is based, and where Oedipus Rex was originally performed more than two thousand years ago.

This September also sees the world premiere at the National of Blinded by the Sun by the award-winning writer Stephen Poliakoff, a play which revolves round a scientific fraud at a British university.

As a premiere of a different kind, the National's new-season plans will give theatregoers the chance to meet performers. In July and August theatregoers will be able to take tea and scones at the National's Terrace Cafe with Anna Massey, Dame Judi Dench, Patricia Hodge, Isabelle Huppert, Sian Phillips and Joanna Riding.

One of the theatre's biggest recent successes, Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber, has been selected to go on a five- month international tour. Marber will again direct his own play, a hard-hitting comedy about poker playing and thedreams and obsessions of compulsive gamblers.