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National Theatre, London


Crafting new art forms

A work devised by Katie Mitchell and the Company, from the text of Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves, this was one of the first shows to feature the cinematography and video design of  Leo Warner for Fifty Nine Productions.

Crafting a form that would come to be known as “Live Cinema”, The Waves had a significant impact on both critics and audiences, introducing many to a new way in which theatre and film might interact. Referred to by Guardian critic Lyn Gardner as “an entirely new art form” it was also praised as “art of the highest order” by the Telegraph’s Sam Marlowe.

Opened 2011

National Theatre, London

London has seen three pieces of British theatre this millennium that have felt like breakthroughs in theatre poetry: Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words, Theatre de Complicite’s The Elephant Vanishes, and this, a sensuously many-layered response to Virginia Woolf’s 1931 novel The Waves, devised by director Katie Mitchell and her company of actors and musicians. An absorbingly multi-media performance work, it pours forth meanings: we can follow it as an analysis of consciousness and as the construction of a work of art.
This exquisite feat of illusion is art of the highest order… an intellectual and aesthetic pleasure.
Imagine the miracle of encountering a production like Katie Mitchell?s, which flirts wittily with the fractured preoccupations of the modernist mindset… Film cameras project onto a screen emotionally vivid images, set up with self-conscious artifice on stage. So while, for example, on stage a man in black flaps a board in front of an actress, on-screen she's standing, hair blowing in the breeze, and suddenly it's possible to feel all her fears and desperation… Here Woolf pushes both the use of language and characterisation to its limits. Mitchell brings that intellectual quest to exquisite theatrical life.
This is an extraordinary show: spellbinding, sophisticated and moving
Ingenious and incrementally moving… the overhead camera angles, the twitchy life-of-their-own surrealism of the shots of epitomising objects reminded me of the work of the great Czech film maker Jan Svankmeije
Ingenious… this couldn’t be better done


Katie Mitchell

Vicki Mortimer

Lighting Designer
Paule Constable

Video Designer
Leo Warner

Paul Clark

Sound Designer
Gareth Fry

Kate Duchene
Michael Gould
Anastasia Hille
Kristin Hutchinson
Sean Jackson
Liz Kettle
Paul Ready
Jonah Russell

Produced by
National Theatre London