Nunn Has No Plans to Renew National ContractDate: 20 November 2000
Royal National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn will be stepping down at the end of his current term. Nunn's five-year contract runs out in 2002 and, according to a report in The Independent, he will not be seeking a second term.
Nunn began his NT stewardship in September 1997, taking over from Sir Richard Eyre, whose acclaimed South Bank reign lasted nearly ten years. But despite box office and critical successes, Nunn has come under harsh criticism from many, including his bosses, which he is said to be “intensely irritated” by.
Recently, the National seems to be careering from one high-profile disaster to another. In the past two months, Nunn has had to intervene at the last minute to save two NT Ensemble productions - Romeo and Juliet, originally under Tim Supple's direction, and Peer Gynt, originally under Connall Morrison's.
Critics have said that this highlights one of the biggest problems at the National – that there are no associate directors to share the management load with Nunn. He is the first NT director not to have appointed any, but a National spokesperson denied that this was intentional. She said that Nunn had approached various directors but all had declined.
Nunn's National has also been criticised for his programming - opting for too many safe revivals of established hits over new work - for his day-to-day management skills and even for his decision to introduce miking onto the National stage.
Despite these perceived failings, however, Nunn has overseen some of the National's biggest hits in recent years including the smash-hit production of Oklahoma!, which transferred to the West End. He also launched the NT Ensemble, the National's repertory company which, before this season had performed to wide critical approval. At this year's Olivier Awards, the Ensemble scooped eight awards including Best Actor (Henry Goodman for The Merchant of Venice), Best Actor in a Musical (Simon Russell Beale for Candide), Best New Musical (Honk! The Ugly Duckling), Best Outstanding Musical Production (Candide) and both Best Supporting Actor and Actress (Roger Allam and Patricia Hodge, both for Money). And Nunn personally won Best Director in all three major theatre awards – the Oliviers, the Critics Circle and the Evening Standard Drama Awards.
Nunn will reportedly stay on at the National until his successor is appointed. Directors likely to be considered include former Royal Court director Stephen Daldry, Donmar Warehouse director Sam Mendes, Almeida co-director Jonathan Kent and West Yorkshire Playhouse director Jude Kelly. However, the National executive management may find itself facing the same dilemma as Nunn did when searching for associates – battling the lure of Hollywood and greater glories. Both Daldry, who has hit the headlines with Billy Elliot, and Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for his screen debut, American Beauty, are currently hot properties in Los Angeles.