Indhu Rubasingham chosen as National Theatre’s next director | National Theatre #Indhu #Rubasingham #chosen #National #Theatres #director #National #Theatre

Indhu Rubasingham has been announced as the next director of the National Theatre, marking the first time that a woman and a person of colour has taken on the biggest role in British theatre.

Rubasingham, who has been artistic director of the Kiln theatre since 2012, will take over from Rufus Norris in spring 2025, when his second term ends. She and Kate Varah will also become joint chief executives in a co-leadership model.

During her tenure at the Kiln in north London, Rubasingham collaborated with Zadie Smith on White Teeth and The Wife of Willesden, which transferred to Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York earlier this year.

She directed Ayad Akhtar’s play The Invisible Hand, which was twice nominated for an Olivier award.

Rubasingham takes over an institution that, in the words of Michael Billington, cannot go back to being “an exclusively white enclave on either side of the footlights”.

Before Norris, five other white men had held the role of director at the National Theatre: Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn, Nicholas Hytner and Laurence Olivier, who was the founding director appointed in 1962.

There had been doubts over whether the theatre would continue Norris’s project of opening up the venue to new audiences and daring to be different, or whether it would opt for a safe pair of hands at a time when theatres are struggling financially.

But Rubasingham, 53, who was the favourite to take over, was described by the Guardian’s chief theatre critic Arifa Akbar as having “the flair, leadership and creativity for the job and the confidence to take the NT to new places”.

Born in Sheffield and of Sri Lankan heritage, Rubasingham studied drama at Hull University and went on to hold positions at the Gate theatre, Birmingham Rep and Young Vic. In 2017, she was awarded an MBE for services to theatre in the new year honours list.

Under her leadership at the Kiln, new writing became a mainstay of the theatre’s mission. As the first woman of colour to run a big London theatre, she oversaw a major £9m capital campaign, reopening what was the former Tricycle theatre with a new building and name in 2018.

She has also previously worked at the National Theatre in all three South Bank auditoriums, directing productions including The Waiting Room, The Ramayana, The Motherf**ker With the Hat, The Great Wave, Ugly Lies the Bone, Kerry Jackson and most recently the critically acclaimed production of Anupama Chandrasekhar’s The Father and the Assassin which returned to the Olivier theatre earlier this year.

Rubasingham said it was “a huge honour” to be appointed to “the best job in the world”.

She added: “The National has played an important part in my life – from tentative steps as a teenage theatregoer, to later as a theatre-maker, and to have the opportunity to play a role in its history is an incredible privilege and responsibility.

“Theatre has a transformative power – the ability to bring people together through shared experience and storytelling, and nowhere more so than the National.

“I’ve been fortunate to have directed on the National Theatre’s stages and to have witnessed first-hand the commitment, collaboration, brilliance and pride of those who bring the magic to the building, both on stage and off.

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“There’s nowhere like it, and it will be a joy to be a part of this iconic building’s next chapter, leading the company alongside Kate [Varah].”

She said she was “thrilled” to be following in the footsteps of Norris and looked forward to working closely with him to plan her first season.

During Norris’s 10-year tenure, he brought a bold vision that had already seen him win awards for overseeing productions of Festen and David Rudkin’s Afore Night Come as a young director.

In 2017, he was criticised for his focus on new, forward-facing work at the expense at established classics. But that approach was vindicated when the work he chose – Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (1991) and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (1971) – went on to commercial success with Tony award wins and Broadway transfers.

Norris’s penchant for new writers meant he could give platforms to diverse talent, championing female playwrights (Annie Baker, Lucy Kirkwood, Yaël Farber and Nina Raine) and people of colour (Inua Ellams, Clint Dyer, Roy Williams), something that was a theme throughout his time as artistic director.

Norris said Rubasingham’s experience would be invaluable at the National Theatre.

“Together with Kate and the brilliant, dedicated team here, I know that the National will continue to thrive and remain at the heart of British cultural life,” he said.

#Indhu #Rubasingham #chosen #National #Theatres #director #National #Theatre

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