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Rufus Norris named new NT director

Stage and film director Rufus Norris, whose works have included a collaboration with Blur star Damon Albarn, is to be the head of the National Theatre.

He has been appointed as the theatre's new director and will take over in April 2015, succeeding Sir Nicholas Hytner.

Rada-trained Norris - who was previously an actor - has been an associate director of the National for the past two years. He worked with Albarn on the opera Doctor Dee, and over the years has brought comic book character Tintin and Booker-prize winning novel Vernon God Little to the stage.

He said: "This appointment is a great honour and 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."

Sir Nicholas announced he was stepping down earlier this year.

He said : "I could not be more delighted that the board of the National Theatre has appointed Rufus Norris as the National's next director. 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."

At a press conference at the National Theatre, Sir Nicholas said the board had made an "absolutely brilliant" decision and that Norris's "productions have been as exciting as anything that could have occurred on our stages".

Norris said he was only told that he had got the job yesterday and so he had not made solid plans yet.

He said it was "a huge honour and privilege to be trusted with this particular mantle" and that he would "attack it with gusto and as much vitality as I can bring to it".

Thanking Sir Nicholas for guiding him over the years, he added: "This place couldn't be in ruder health."

He said he wanted to bring "fresh energy" to the National and "extend the net wider" when it comes to finding artists to perform on its stages.

Despite making his debut feature film Broken, which premiered at Cannes in 2012, Norris said his film work would have to stop.

"From the moment that Nick leaves here and an enormous amount of moments before that, I'm going to be committed to this building. It's an enormous job," he said.

After shooting London Road next year, Norris said he "would be chained to this place very happily".

Skyfall director Sam Mendes, Wallander star Sir Kenneth Branagh, ex-Donmar Warehouse boss Michael Grandage, Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry, theatre director and film-maker Danny Boyle, former Royal Court artistic directors Ian Rickson and Dominic Cooke, Chichester Festival Theatre's Jonathan Church and War Horse director Marianne Elliott had all been linked to the job.

Sir Nicholas, whose hits at the National have included The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guv'nors as well as the controversial Jerry Springer The Opera, said of the qualities needed to run the National: "The main thing is appetite, the number one quality is appetite.

"I've seen so many names mentioned in connection with the National Theatre who don't have the appetite, so don't even get to the starting point.

"Rufus has the appetite as well as the talent."

Norris, 48, admitted that he was "feeling nervous", saying: "Of course, it's enormous. It's a huge job and I don't think you can know what the job is until you do it.

"I'm as loaded with self-doubt and questioning as everyone else in this room so, yes, I'm nervous. But I'm pretty brave and nerves are part of the DNA of what we do in this industry. It's a necessary part of the job."

He acknowledged that it would take "a bit of learning" before he became a spokesman, like Sir Nicholas, for the arts, but said: "I feel very passionately about this art form, about subsidy and the power of what we do, the importance of what we do."

He said he took the position because he wanted to be "part of a bigger story" but that the "tipping point was, if I'm totally honest, when I started to believe I could do it".

Asked how he celebrated, the father-of-two said: "I had a nice tea with my kids last night and they sat there and took the piss out of me."

Norris has become the first former actor as well as non-Oxbridge graduate to be appointed director of the National since Sir Laurence Olivier, who became its first artistic director in 1963.

"There have been many times in my life where I regretted playing in bands and working as a painter and decorator for four years when I could have gone to university but I'm here, it worked out," he said.

"The simple fact is, lots of people who go to Oxford and Cambridge are very, very clever. That doesn't mean they're the only clever people," he said, adding that barriers were "breaking down."

Norris joked about following in the footsteps of legendary actor Sir Laurence: "I wasn't quite as good (an actor) as Olivier."

But he added: "I absolutely think, hand on heart, that an acting training is the only way to train for directing."


From Belfast Telegraph