‘She will make the National Theatre truly feel national’: applause for Indhu Rubasingham appointment | National Theatre #National #Theatre #feel #national #applause #Indhu #Rubasingham #appointment #National #Theatre

“It’s Indhu!” After months of speculation since the summer, when Rufus Norris announced his departure from the National Theatre, the news spread late on Tuesday night that Indhu Rubasingham would take over Britain’s biggest theatre role in 2025.

Rubasingham, who last week had her leaving do at the Kiln theatre, which she has run for a dozen years, was the runaway favourite to succeed Norris at the National’s South Bank headquarters. Her appointment has been enthusiastically received by leading figures in the industry.

The playwright Roy Williams, whose most recent instalment of the Death of England series has just run at the National, said: “It is simply the best news. Indhu’s impressive directing record over the years speaks for itself. But more than that, she is one of the most compassionate people I know. She loves new writing and cares so deeply about playwrights and what they want to say. With every fibre of her being, she adores theatre.”

That love is infectious, added Williams, whose early play The No Boys Cricket Club was directed by Rubasingham at Theatre Royal Stratford East in London in 1996. The pair reunited for three more productions: Starstruck, in 1998, at the Tricycle theatre (which Rubasingham renamed the Kiln), and Lift Off and Clubland, both at the Royal Court, in 1999 and 2001 respectively. “On each occasion, she provided nothing but an atmosphere of trust in the rehearsal room,” he said. “Everyone, myself included, felt inspired to go out of their way for her. I could not have asked for a more supportive director and a friend. I would have been lost without it during those early nervous days of my career. She was never afraid to push me and kick my arse whenever I deserved it – and I did.”

Rubasingham with playwright Amy Trigg.
Rubasingham with playwright and actor Amy Trigg. Photograph: Alex Brenner

The playwright Samuel Adamson, whose family drama Wife was staged by Rubasingham at the Kiln in 2019, found the director “rigorous, challenging and kind” when they worked together. He continued: “She’s a very warm person, with a great sense of humour, which seems vital in our anxious times. It’s a really wonderful appointment.”

The diversity of the Kiln under Rubasingham’s 12-year-tenure has been widely applauded. When her departure was announced in June, the playwright Lynn Nottage called the Kiln, which is in north-west London, “a theatre that reflects the diversity, vitality and distinctiveness of its neighbourhood”. Williams thinks the director “will make the National truly feel national. She will reflect how our diverse country – as well as the world – truly looks in all of its complexity.”

Rubasingham becomes not just the first woman, but also the first person of colour to take the top job at the National Theatre, which has to date been run by six white men. The playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar, whose drama The Father and the Assassin was directed at the National by Rubasingham in 2022 – and returned this year for a second run – said that it was “a groundbreaking appointment on so many levels”. The pair collaborated in 2007 on Chandrasekhar’s play Free Outgoing at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs; it later moved on to the theatre’s main stage and also played at the Traverse in Edinburgh. They reunited for Disconnect at the Royal Court in 2010 and for When the Crows Visit at the Kiln in 2019.

“Working with her at the NT recently, I was blown away by how much respect and love she commanded both in the building and outside,” said Chandrasekhar. “She’s certainly one of the finest directors of new writing in the UK in my opinion. Her genius aside, I think her magic ingredient is her knack of creating a healthy, joyous ecosystem for creatives to take risks in. Plus, she is genuinely one of the kindest and bravest persons I know and fiercely protective of her team.”

The producer Ellie Keel founded the Women’s Prize for Playwriting in 2019 and Rubasingham has been one of its judges from the beginning. This year she is the chair. “When I first approached her to be a judge she immediately asked to phone me for a chat, even though we didn’t know each other,” said Keel. “I quickly realised it was because we didn’t know each other – and Indhu wants to know people.”

Rubasingham programmed the prize’s first winning play, Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me by Amy Trigg, straight after lockdown, at a time when many theatres were struggling financially and looking for safe bets to bring cautious audiences back into venues. “Despite the huge risks and challenges of doing so,” said Keel, Rubasingham was committed to Trigg’s debut play, which sold out its Kiln run, toured the UK and then returned to the Kiln. “As a playwright, I find [the National Theatre’s appointment] exciting as her record with new writing – discovering it, developing it and, crucially, getting it on – really is second to none,” added Adamson.

Rubasingham joins the National as director designate from spring 2024, officially taking over from Norris in spring 2025 when his second term as director ends. What will she bring to the NT? “Her brilliance, her visionary leadership and her passion to nurture a new generation of theatregoers and theatre-doers,” said Chandrasekhar. “There is a lot of talk in theatre about collaboration and support,” said Keel. “Indhu embodies these values. She tackles problems head-on with a kind of compassionate directness that I find very rare.

“The best thing is I know she won’t be locked away in her office, impossible to reach without an appointment booked months in advance,” continued Keel. “She’ll be on the phone, or walking around the building, or dropping into rehearsals – and that approachability is, for me, the essence of a brilliant artistic director.”

#National #Theatre #feel #national #applause #Indhu #Rubasingham #appointment #National #Theatre

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