Nunn's £2m donation keeps National Theatre out of the red

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The Independent Culture

THe director Trevor Nunn saved his final season at the National Theatre from going into the red by donating £2.29m in royalties from his musicals, it was disclosed yesterday.

The cut-price six-month Transformation season, designed to attract a younger audience to the London venue by staging more edgy work in a reconfigured Lyttelton theatre, led to a fall in box-office income.

This was offset only by programming two musicals, South Pacific and Anything Goes, and by the gift of royalties which Mr Nunn had received from the transfer of earlier musical hits to the West End, according to the theatre's annual review published yesterday. Mr Nunn departed as artistic director at the end of March after a stormy five-year tenure and with a surplus for his final year of just £58,000.

But while Mr Nunn's gift only became public this year, a National Theatre spokeswoman said it was always the intention that it should fund his ambitious farewell programme. "Trevor's donation was specifically targeted to be able to do new work and specifically Transformation," she said.

His successor, Nicholas Hytner, will be operating on a £500,000 deficit budget this year until increased funding from the Arts Council kicks in to help fund the theatre complex.

But Mr Hytner announced that an extra $450,000 (around £300,000) income a year has been promised by two New York producers keen to take more of the newly rejuvenated theatre's shows to Broadway.

Bob Boyett and Bill Haber have signed an initial three-year deal to partner the National in America. Discussions are under way over plays such as the revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, which has secured a transfer to the West End.

My Boyett, who recently produced Edward Albee's The Goat or Who is Sylvia? on Broadway with Bill Pullman, said yesterday: "The National has an extraordinary history, significance and tradition as a great English-speaking theatre company. We are extremely enthusiastic about the recent productions - truly some of the finest work being done on the stage by writers, directors and other artists in the world today."

Mr Hytner's opening season, including Henry V with a black king played by Adrian Lester, and Jerry Springer the Opera, has attracted houses of between 80 and 90 per cent compared with an average last year of 80 per cent. An initiative offering thousands of seats for £10 will continue because of sponsorship of more than £300,000 a year from Travelex.

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