Rufus Norris has been announced as the next Director of the National Theatre, taking over one of the world’s most prestigious theatre roles in April 2015 from Nicholas Hytner who will depart from the venue after 12 years at the helm.
The announcement, which follows months of speculation, rumours and a long-list of high-profile actors, writers and directors tipped for the post, was made today at a press conference held at the National Theatre’s home on the Southbank, with Hytner describing himself as “delighted” with the appointment, declaring: “He has been a superb Associate Director for the last two years, actively involved in repertoire planning and delivering a series of outstanding productions. His work as a director is always searching, deeply considered and adventurous and I have no doubt he will bring these qualities to the running of the National. His appointment will be welcomed with great excitement both within the National and in the theatre at large.”
An Associate Director at the much-lauded venue since 2011, Norris has more than proved his NT credentials with a string of critically acclaimed hits staged on all three of the theatre’s main spaces. Making his National Theatre debut in 2006 with David Eldridge’s Market Boy. 2009’s Death And The King’s Horseman followed, but it was his return in 2011 with Alecky Blythe’s controversial verbatim musical London Road where Norris scored his biggest success, the Olivier Award nominated production proving such a success it transferred from the Cottesloe theatre to the venue’s larger Olivier theatre in 2012 for a short season, with a film adaptation also set to be directed by Norris in the works.
2013 saw Norris return to the venue with two very different productions demonstrating his versatility as a theatremaker. The Amen Corner, complete with full gospel choir, won the hearts of the public and critics alike in the Olivier theatre, while his collaboration with wife and writer Tanya Ronder, Table, opened the National Theatre’s temporary space The Shed earlier this summer.
Away from his forthcoming home, Norris is perhaps most famous for his Olivier Award-winning 2006 production of Cabaret, which starred James Dreyfus, Sheila Hancock and Anna Maxwell Martin, and was described by The Stage’s Mark Shenton as “a fearless, frank production that magnificently renews a classic musical”. So magnificent it was, in fact, it returned to the West End last year with Will Young earning an Olivier Award nomination for his role as the Emcee in Norris’ revival.
The director has also worked extensively at acclaimed London venues the Royal Court theatre, the Young Vic (where he was Associate Director from 2002 to 2007) and the Almeida theatre, with notable credits including Ronder’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Booker Prize-winning novel Vernon God Little, which played at the Young Vic theatre in both 2007 and 2011, and his Evening Standard and Critics Circle Award-winning production of Festen, which played at the Almeida in 2004 and transferred to both the West End and Broadway.
Norris, who trained at RADA as an actor before turning to directing, described the appointment as “a great honour”, commenting, “I am thrilled at the prospect and challenge of leading this exceptional organisation, where it has been a privilege to work under the inspirational leadership of Nick Hytner… The National is an extraordinary place, full of extraordinary people, and I look forward with relish to the task ahead – that being to fill our theatres with the most exciting, accessible and ground-breaking work our unique and broad community of artists has to offer.”
Norris, who also made his mark on Broadway with his five-time Tony Award nominated production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 2008, faces an exciting and no doubt intimidating challenge in taking over the helm from Hytner, whose hugely successful tenure at the Southbank venue has resulted in numerous successful productions ranging from the globe-conquering War Horse, the Olivier Award record-breaking drama The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, and the hugely popular The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors.
Check Official London Theatre later today for further reactions to the news.