Rufus Norris Named New National Theatre Boss
Rufus Norris has been named as the National Theatre's new artistic director, taking over from Sir Nicholas Hytner.
The actor and director said he was thrilled after signing a contract starting in April 2015, describing his appointment as a "privilege".
The 48-year-old is the first actor to take on the role since Lawrence Olivier in 1963 and the first non-Oxford or Cambridge graduate to get the job.
He joked that he would have liked to have spent those years studying rather than working as a painter and decorator and playing in bands, but he thinks it helped stand him in good stead for a future in film and theatre direction.
Sir Kenneth Branagh and Danny Boyle were rumoured to be in the running to take the role.
But Norris, whose experience includes his stint in charge of the Young Vic, will take over the high-profile role from Sir Nicholas, who has become something of a spokesman for the arts in general.
Because the theatre is subsidised by the taxpayer, the job comes with more responsibility than most in the world of theatre.
Sir Nicholas is credited with turning around the fortunes and reputation of the theatre over the last decade.
Hit shows at the venue over recent years include One Man Two Guvnors, War Horse and Frankenstein, which boasted high-profile cast and crew members such as Danny Boyle, Benedict Cumberbatch and James Corden.
There are now high expectations on Norris to tackle gender balance, cultural diversity and ticket prices, and the challenge of making theatre more accessible to young people and a wider audience.
Norris admitted it would not be an easy ride. "What a privilege to be trusted with this," he said.
"I'm very nervous sitting here in front of you, and loaded with self doubt, but I'm very brave. Nerves are part of this job in this industry."
More than 70% of the National Theatre's costs are now covered by ticket sales and revenue from the venue's cafes and shops.
But 20% of its income comes from the taxpayer via the Arts Council, with the rest made up of charitable donations, so the Royal National Theatre has a unique responsibility as a "public service".
John Makinson, chairman of the National Theatre, said; "There is no-one more qualified for this role than Rufus. It will be brave and exciting and adventurous under his leadership."
Nicholas Hytner echoed his sentiments and declared Norris a "fabulous choice for the National", which celebrates its 50th anniversary next week.
On juggling his film directing work with this new role, Norris joked: "I'd like to think you can do this job while directing a film a year, but clearly that's not possible.
"So I am 100% committed to this building. It's an enormous job and I'm not kidding myself about it."