The National Theatre is 50 in October 2013 and has given the BBC unprecedented access to make two Arena documentaries for BBC Four.
The films ask why it took until 1963 to create a National Theatre, and Dame Joan Plowright talks frankly to director Adam Low about the appointment of her husband Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor of his generation, as the National's first artistic director. The films uncover the life of the Theatre's early golden period at the Old Vic, the National's first home, under the towering presence of Olivier; the commissioning and construction of the controversial and now iconic Denys Lasdun building on the South Bank; and the turbulent succession of Peter Hall at the end of Olivier's reign.
Through the personal anecdotes of those who wrote, directed and performed on the National's many stages the films reveal the stories behind the greatest hit productions, from Olivier's Othello to War Horse, under artistic directors Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and up to and including the latest great successes under Nicholas Hytner. Other contributors include Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Alan Bennett, Judi Dench, Francis de la Tour, David Hare, Alan Ayckbourn and Adrian Lester.