Rufus Norris is to step down as National Theatre director in 2025

The National Theatre’s Director Rufus Norris has announced that he will step down when his second term concludes in 2025.

Rufus Norris National Theatre
Rufus Norris. Photo: Paul Plews

Rufus Norris is to step down as Director of the National Theatre when his second term concludes in 2025 after ten years in the post.

Under Rufus’ leadership the National Theatre has broadened both its programme and audience, while at the same time expanding its reach far beyond the South Bank, making it more accessible to audiences than ever before.

Since joining the National Theatre in 2015 Rufus Norris has shaped a programme of distinctive, thought-provoking work, with a key focus on widening the representation of voices and stories told on the National Theatre’s stages. Through establishing the New Work department in 2016 he has ensured that a broad range of artists are supported and nurtured to create new productions at scale for the NT’s stages, catalysing a significant increase to the proportion of productions staged by living writers while he has been Director alongside a marked increase in artists making their NT debut.

Rufus Norris
Rufus Norris. Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

Since 2015, the NT’s South Bank theatres have been on average 88 per cent full – as high at any point in its history, despite the disruption of Covid. Frequent transfers to the West End and Broadway – from People, Place and Things and Nine Night to Angels in America, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Lehman Trilogy – have attracted huge audiences and garnered numerous accolades, including 14 Tony Awards.

Digital innovation under his leadership has seen the NT reach new audiences in over 180 countries, and the flagship National Theatre at Home platform – born from a passion to create a collective theatre experience during the pandemic – has ensured that the NT’s work is shared with the widest audience reach and impact. National Theatre Live, now in its 14th year, has reached over 11.8 million people in cinemas worldwide and broken the event cinema box office record for the UK and Ireland twice.

Passionate about removing barriers to accessing theatre, as Director Rufus has led the NT to create new careers and skills pathways into the industry for those currently underrepresented in the sector through paid placements, apprenticeships and programmes such as Young Technicians. In 2019, the National Theatre Collection was established making world-class theatre productions available to stream for free in schools; the platform is now used by 85 per cent of UK state secondary schools and will soon be available for free to every public library in the UK.

Community engagement has been central to Rufus’s vision while at the NT – from the award-winning UK-wide we’re here because we’re here which reached 30 million people through live and digital engagements, to the in-depth work delivered through the celebrated Public Acts programme which embodies his vision of theatre as a force for change.

In parallel with steering the NT through the unprecedented challenges of the Covid pandemic, Rufus has prioritised environmental sustainability as essential to the future of theatre. The National Theatre played a leading role in the creation and implementation of the pioneering Theatre Green Book which is now being adopted by cultural organisations around the world. The NT is also spearheading a new large-scale sustainability initiative, in collaboration with theatres across the industry including the Young Vic, Royal Court and the Kiln. From 2024, it will bring together the theatres’ storage of costumes, props and recyclable scenery under one roof a new site in central London to encourage reuse and reduce carbon impacts.

Speaking about today’s announcements, Rufus Norris said: ‘It has been and remains the greatest privilege of my career to lead the National Theatre. For the past eight years I have had the honour of shaping the programme of extraordinary work that sparks imagination, brings people together and illustrates the vital role theatre can play in all our lives. The daily highlight has been to work with the peerless theatre-makers who work here, together with the incredible range of freelance artists upon whom the present and the future of the art form relies. I am enormously proud to be part of the diverse, thriving, creative hub the National Theatre is today and am fully committed to steering the course over the next two years. From the work on our stages, to the audiences all around the UK and beyond that engage with us on tour, in cinemas, in schools and at home, the NT entertains and inspires people through our creativity, expertise and unique reach. The magic of the National Theatre is that there is nowhere else like it; to have been a small part in its illustrious history, particularly through the challenges of the last few years, is a true honour.’

Chair of the National Theatre, Sir Damon Buffini said: ‘Rufus Norris has led the National Theatre with extraordinary skill, foresight and resilience during a decade of huge change in the UK and globally. The National’s artistic programme, as shaped by Rufus, has been exceptional in quality, prescience and popular appeal, reaching bigger audiences than at any time in the theatre’s history. Alongside that, Rufus’ passionate belief in opening up hands-on opportunities to young people and communities has boosted creativity right across the country and beyond. Rufus has always been ahead of the game, leading with both heart and head. Rufus’ legacy is already immense; I am excited about what will be achieved in the final two years of his tenure as the National Theatre continues to stage unforgettable productions and make great strides in addressing key priorities – from creative education and skills to environmental sustainability. The NT Board and I offer Rufus our most sincere admiration and thanks.’

Recruitment for the new Director will begin imminently, with an appointment expected towards the end of this year or early into the next.

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