The National Theatre’s newly appointed artistic director Rufus Norris has said he will “attack” his new role with “vitality and gusto”, pledging to broaden the venue’s audiences further.
He has revealed that while the venue’s core programming will always be based around the canon, he wants to take the venue into “new areas and periods of development, without alienating anyone at all”.
He told The Stage: “That’s obviously a challenge. My own personal interest has been a more total theatre, the kind of work that is accessible to potentially a very broad reach. It’s too early to talk about specifics but in terms of gender balance, cultural diversity and general diversity it will be really exciting to see where we can go.”
Norris discovered yesterday that he would be taking over from the South Bank venue’s current artistic director Nicholas Hytner from April 2015.
He admitted that while Hytner’s knowledge of the canon was “absolutely complete”, his was not and said he would have to “surround” himself with people to fill that gap. However, he acknowledged that his strengths lay in collaboration.
He told The Stage that he would be interested to integrate different “exciting” artforms into the programming more.
“I love that integration if it’s the right thing… But it’s about the story, the core material and if the content justifies the form to be fantastical and full of circus people flying around or whatever it is then great and if it’s two people sitting on two chairs then that’s great too. It’s just making the form fit the content,” he said.
Despite not having run a venue before, Norris is an associate at the NT and has directed a number of productions there – including Market Boy, London Road, The Table and The Amen Corner. In 2004, he won an Evening Standard Award for his production of Festen, which played at the Almeida Theatre before transferring to the West End.
He has worked in both the subsidised and commercial sectors but confirmed today that he “much prefers” the process and the support that the subsidised sector provides. He added that his experiences commercially would not inform his artistic leadership because hit shows could not be predicted.
Norris trained as an actor – which he said today was the “only way” to prepare as a director – at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before turning to directing. He is the second person, after Laurence Olivier, from an acting background to run the NT. He also breaks the pattern that his four immediate predecessors set of all being educated at Cambridge University.
Earlier this year it was also announced that NT executive director Nick Starr would leave the venue by 2014.
Under his and Hytner’s leadership, the NT has introduced its cheaper ticketing initiative, the Travelex season, as well as launching National Theatre Live, which films productions and broadcasts them to cinemas in the UK and abroad.
They have created producing partnerships both in New York and the West End, as well as self producing the National’s work within the commercial sector and have embarked upon NT Future, a £80 million redevelopment of the theatre’s South Bank home, that is ongoing.
John Makinson, chair of the NT, said the board and Norris would now decide what the best leadership structure would be before appointing a new executive director.
Norris revealed there could be more than one person taking on the role and that he would need to have a “strong personal spark” with them for the partnership to work.