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Rufus Norris: ‘I earned less than £10k a year until I was 36’

Rufus Norris, National Theatre director. Photo: Richard H Smith Rufus Norris, National Theatre director. Photo: Richard H Smith
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Rufus Norris has said that “emotional stamina” is the key to success as a director, revealing that he did not earn more than £10,000 in a year until he was 36.

The National Theatre’s director, now 50, said that directors needed to be able to endure prolonged periods of low pay while working in the profession.

He was speaking alongside Young Vic artistic director David Lan as part of Soho Create festival.

When asked what directors needed to succeed, he replied: “Emotional stamina,” adding: “It’s a privilege to really enjoy your work, so keeping your overheads down is number one. For years, I was squatting for a while, then I was either cycling or jumping over Tube barriers… I was having too much fun [to give up].”

Earlier this year, findings by industry body Stage Directors UK revealed that theatre directors earn on average £10,759 per year from directing, and that half earned an annual sum of less than £5,000 from directing jobs.

Lan, who has ran the Young Vic since 2000, said that since he took over the venue it has become even harder to break into the profession.

“When I started 15 years ago it was difficult but it is much more difficult now. You do need stamina. It’s the stamina to find the money to do it – both [the money] to live and to put the show on,” he said.

“One of the consequences of that is that only people who come from families who can lend them money can do it,” he added.

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