In an interview this week with The Stage newspaper, Stafford-Clark commented on the situation: "At the moment, people want to be asked without having been seen to be asked, but I would certainly be interested in having an appropriate conversation about the National. Where new writing is concerned, it is something I could contribute to."
The perceived lack of emphasis on new writing is one of the areas where, since taking over the directorship from Richard Eyre in 1997, Nunn has received his harshest criticism. Many of his detractors have been unhappy with what they consider to be unimaginative programming and an over-reliance on "safe" revivals such as My Fair Lady.
Stafford-Clark, on the other hand, has built his entire career around the discovery and development of new talent. His previous positions include the artistic directorship of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre and the Royal Court in London, both dedicated to new writing. Upon leaving the Royal Court in 1993, he set up Out of Joint, a national and international touring company whose primary purpose is the production of new works.
Under Stafford-Clark's leadership, Out of Joint has premiered plays by some of the theatre's leading writers, including Sue Townsend, Jim Cartwright, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Sebastian Barry. Neither Stafford-Clark nor Out of Joint have steered clear of controversy either. It was they who, for instance, brought Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking to the stage, as well as Ravenhill's later work, Some Explicit Polaroids.
More recently, Stafford-Clark has enjoyed considerable commercial success with Alistair Beaton's Feelgood, which premiered earlier this year at the Hampstead Theatre and is now running at the West End's Garrick Theatre, starring Henry Goodman and Nigel Planer. This autumn, he will premiere two more new works - Sliding with Suzanne by Judy Upton and Hinterland by Sebastian Barry. Notably, the latter is a co-production with the National (as well as the Abbey Theatre, Dublin) which will run at the NT Cottesloe this autumn.
Other contenders to replace Nunn include Nicholas Hytner, John Caird, former Royal Court director Stephen Daldry, Donmar Warehouse director Sam Mendes, Michael Grandage of the Sheffield Crucible, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse's Jude Kelly. Whatsonstage.com's recent Big Debate poll, in which over 1,100 voted, found that Stephen Daldry was the theatregoers' choice for the appointment, collecting 43% of the popular vote.