Rufus Norris Q&A: Who is National Theatre's new director?
The man chosen to replace Hytner is a former actor who has directed string of West End hits
RUFUS NORRIS has been named as the National Theatre's new director, and will replace Nicholas Hytner in April 2015. The 48-year-old is currently an associate director at the NT and directed a well-received production of The Amen Corner on the South Bank earlier this year. But who is Norris and why has he been handed what is, arguably, British theatre's top job?
He's a breath of fresh air:
Norris is good choice for the NT job says the London Evening Standard's Nick Curtis, because he breaks the mould. "Unlike most incumbent, recent and incoming artistic directors, who are products of a literary, usually Oxbridge, university education, Norris left school at 16 and trained and worked initially as an actor," writes Curtis. Although he is somewhat publicity-shy - unlike Hytner - he is well respected by his peers.
He's not precious:
Norris has a way of talking about the theatre which is unlikely to make him a fixture in Private Eye's notorious 'Luvvies' column. Take his assessment of the musical The Book of Mormon for example. Interviewed by The Independent he said: "It was brilliant and mundane in equal measure; there's hardly a tune in it and the story is pretty standard in essence, but there's some wicked laughs on the way – and the fingers up to Western patronisation of Africa is gorgeous."
He thinks black actors get a "raw deal" in British theatre:
Norris told The Guardian that the UK lags far behind the US when it comes to casting black actors. Speaking at the launch of The Amen Corner, an all-black production he staged at the NT's Olivier Theatre, he said black actors were often denied a shot at roles played by their white colleagues. "In America, there is much more colour-blind casting," he said.
His work is diverse, but hugely popular:
Norris has had "big hits in the West End", says the Daily Telegraph – a production of Cabaret and his "highly original version of Festen, are two examples. But he doesn't shy away from less commercial work. His direction of Dr Dee, a collaboration between the English National Opera and former Blur singer Damon Albarn, was acclaimed by critics. The folk opera about Elizabethan occultist John Dee had a "flamboyant theatricality" that was difficult to resist, the Daily Telegraph's Rupert Christiansen wrote.
He's made a movie:
Norris made his debut as a film director this year with the drama, Broken. The tale of an 11-year-old diabetic boy living in London, received lukewarm reviews. "It feels relentlessly miserable and shocking – as if all the most lurid events in two decades of Brookside. had been squeezed into 90 minutes," wrote the Daily Telegraph's David Gritten. ·