Rufus Norris

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Rufus Norris
Norris in 2012
Born (1965-01-16) 16 January 1965 (age 59)
Cambridge, England
OccupationTheatre director
Tanya Ronder
(m. 1995)

Rufus Norris (born 16 January 1965) is a British theatre and film director, who is currently the artistic director and chief executive of the National Theatre.

Life and career[edit]

Norris grew up in Africa and Malaysia, attended North Bromsgrove High School and Kidderminster College of Further Education, and later trained as an actor at RADA before turning to directing.

In 2001 he won the Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Newcomer for his production of David Rudkin's Afore Night Come at the Young Vic.[1]

In 2004, Norris won another Evening Standard Award, a Critic's Circle Award and an Olivier Award nomination for Best Director, for his production of Festen.[2][3]

In 2006 he made his National Theatre debut directing Market Boy by David Eldridge. From 2002 to 2007 Norris was an Associate Director at the Young Vic, where his productions have included Feast by Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Rotimi Babatunde, Marcos Barbosa, Tanya Barfield and Gbolahan Obisesan (2013), Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (2007), adapted by Tanya Ronder (2009 and 2011), Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, which Norris adapted, with David Greig (Barbican, 2005; UK tour & West End, 2007) and his own adaptation of Sleeping Beauty (Young Vic, 2002; Barbican, 2004, UK & international tour).

His production of the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret, produced by Bill Kenwright, ran at the Lyric Theatre in London's West End from 2006 to 2008. The production toured in 2008 and 2009 before being revived at the Savoy Theatre in 2012, followed by another UK tour. Another UK tour began in 2017.

In 2009, Norris's first film King Bastard, written by his wife Tanya Ronder, was produced by BBC Films. In the same year, he directed the National Theatre's production of Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman, which played in the Olivier Theatre.[4]

He created the 2011 production Dr Dee for the Manchester International Festival, in collaboration with musician Damon Albarn, which was subsequently performed at ENO in 2012. In 2010 he directed Mozart's Don Giovanni, also for ENO.[5]

Norris was made an associate director at the National Theatre in 2011. His production of London Road by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork opened at the Cottesloe in 2011, before transferring to the Olivier in 2012, winning the Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.

His 2012 film Broken premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and received the Golden Eye Award for best international film at the Zurich Film Festival. At the 2012 British Independent Film Awards it won the award for Best British Independent Film.

In 2013 his production of Tanya Ronder's play Table launched the new space, The Shed, at the National Theatre. He subsequently directed James Baldwin's The Amen Corner at the National Theatre.

Director of the National Theatre[edit]

In March 2015, Norris replaced Nicholas Hytner as artistic director of the National Theatre.[6] During his first season, he directed the medieval play Everyman in a new adaptation by Carol Ann Duffy starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role and for the Christmas season, the premiere of a new musical, Wonder. Land (following a run in summer of 2015 at the Manchester International Festival and before a run at the Théâtre du Châtelet in summer of 2016) with music by Damon Albarn and lyrics and book by Moira Buffini, inspired by Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.[7]

In summer 2016 he directed Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, in a new adaptation by Simon Stephens and starring Rory Kinnear as Macheath. In spring 2017 he directed My Country; a work in progress by Carol Ann Duffy, using the words of people across the UK regarding Brexit, which was followed by a UK tour. In the Dorfman Auditorium in July 2017 he directed a new play Mosquitoes by Lucy Kirkwood, starring Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams.[8] In 2018 he directed his first Shakespeare play in 25 years, Macbeth, with a cast including Rory Kinnear as Macbeth and Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth.

In 2019, Norris directed Helen Edmundson's adaptation of Andrea Levy's book Small Island in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre.[9] The critically acclaimed production[10][11] was broadcast to cinemas worldwide by National Theatre Live.[12] Following its initial sold-out run, Small Island was scheduled to return to the Olivier Theatre in late 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed its return until spring 2022.[13] Small Island was also shown as part of the free National Theatre at Home steaming programme during the UK 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.[14]

Hex opened in December 2021 but the production was curtailed in January 2022 due to a resurgence of Covid-19. It was restaged at the end of 2022 and ran into January 2023. The critical reaction was favourable, [15]

In June 2023, Norris announced that he would be stepping down from his position in spring 2025.[16]

Honorary Degree[edit]

In November 2023, Norris received the honorary degree, Doctor of Letters (DLitt),[17] from the University of St Andrews.


On 16 August 2018, he condemned the destruction of the Said al-Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza, which was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on 11 August 2018.[18][19]


Theatre productions[edit]

Plays directed by Rufus Norris
Play Playwright Theatre Opening date Notes
Hex Tanya Ronder, Jim Fortune and Rufus Norris Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 6 December 2022
Small Island Helen Edmundson Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 1 May 2019 Broadcast as part of National Theatre Live and streamed as part of National Theatre at Home
Macbeth William Shakespeare Olivier Theatre, National Theatre & UK Tour 26 February 2018 [20]
Mosquitoes Lucy Kirkwood Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre 18 July 2017 [21]
My Country: a work in progress Carol Ann Duffy Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre & UK Tour 28 February 2017 [22]
The Threepenny Opera Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill, translated and revised by Simon Stephens Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 25 May 2016 Broadcast as part of National Theatre Live Moira Buffini & Damon Albarn Manchester International Festival & Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 23 November 2015 [23]
Everyman Carol Ann Duffy Olivier Theatre,

National Theatre

22 April 2015 Broadcast as part of National Theatre Live[24]
Behind the Beautiful Forevers David Hare, based on the book by Katherine Boo Olivier Theatre,

National Theatre

10 November 2014 Broadcast as part of National Theatre Live[24]
The Amen Corner James Baldwin Olivier Theatre,

National Theatre

11 June 2013 [25]
Table Tanya Ronder The Shed, National Theatre 9 April 2013 [25]
Cabaret John Kander, Fred Ebb & Joe Masteroff Savoy Theatre 3 October 2012 [26]
London Road Alecky Blythe & Adam Cork Cottesloe and Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 7 April 2011 & 12 August 2012 Won Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.[27]

Nominated for four Olivier Awards in 2012, including Best Director and Best New Musical.[28]

Doctor Dee Damon Albarn Palace Theatre, Manchester 30 June 2011 [29]
Vernon God Little Tanya Ronder Young Vic 27 January 2011 [30]
Don Giovanni Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart English National Opera 6 November 2010 [31]
The Country Girl Clifford Odets Theatre Royal, Windsor 21 July 2010 [32]
Death and the King's Horseman Wole Soyinka Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 1 April 2009 [33]
Les Liaisons Dangereuses Christopher Hampton Selwyn Theatre, Broadway 1 May 2008 Nominated for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2008.[34]
Cabaret John Kander, Fred Ebb & Joe Masteroff Lyric Theatre & UK Tour 22 September 2006[35] [36]
Market Boy David Eldridge Olivier Theatre, National Theatre 27 May 2006 [37]
Festen David Eldridge Music Box Theatre, Broadway 23 March 2006 [38]
Festen David Eldridge Almeida Theatre 29 March 2004[39] Won both the Evening Standard and Critics Circle Best Director Awards.

Nominated for five Olivier Awards in 2005.[40]

Nye Tim Price Royal National Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre[41] 24 February 2024 Broadcast as part of National Theatre Live and streamed as part of National Theatre at Home[42]



  1. ^ Curtis, Nick (26 October 2010). "Opera for the unconverted". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  2. ^ Curtis, Nick (13 October 2006). "The man who made this Cabaret go round". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Eldridge Collects Festen's Best Play Award". What's on Stage. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  4. ^ Coveney, Michael (13 April 2009). "Death and the King's Horseman review". The Independent. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Doctor Dee". Manchester International Festival website. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  6. ^ "National Theatre Twitter Feed". Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Rufus Norris announces first season as National Theatre artistic director". What's on Stage. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  8. ^ Billington, Michael (26 July 2017). "Mosquitoes review – sparring sisters collide in Lucy Kirkwood's science stormer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.
  9. ^ "Andrea Levy's Small Island novel to be staged next year". 3 October 2018.
  10. ^ "The Stage Theatre Round Up - Small island". 7 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Guardian Review - Small Island". 2 May 2019.
  12. ^ "National Theatre Live website - Small Island".
  13. ^ "Evening Standard - Theatre News". 19 February 2020.
  14. ^ Wiegand, Chris (11 June 2020). "National Theatre announces final free streams including Small Island". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  15. ^ The Guardian (7 December 2022). "Musical Sleeping Beauty casts a darkly dazzling spell".
  16. ^ "Rufus Norris to step down as National Theatre leader in spring 2025". The Guardian. 15 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  17. ^ "Rufus Norris - Graduation - University of St Andrews". Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  18. ^ Letters (16 August 2018). "We condemn the destruction of Gaza cultural centre in Israeli airstrike | Letter". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  19. ^ Ritman, Alex (21 August 2018). "British Film and Theater Figures Condemn Israeli Bombing of Major Gaza Cultural Center". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  20. ^ Billington, Michael (7 March 2018). "Macbeth review – Rufus Norris's brutal take misses the poetry". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  21. ^ Billington, Michael (26 July 2017). "Mosquitoes review – sparring sisters collide in Lucy Kirkwood's science stormer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  22. ^ "My Country: A Work in Progress review – Carol Ann Duffy tackles Brexit". the Guardian. 12 March 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  23. ^ Billington, Michael (3 July 2015). " review – Damon Albarn musical goes down digital rabbit hole". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  24. ^ a b National Theatre Live, retrieved 7 October 2020
  25. ^ a b "CalmView: Overview". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  26. ^ Gardner, Lyn (10 October 2012). "Cabaret – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  27. ^ Editor, Web (24 January 2012). "The 2011 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". The Critics' Circle. Retrieved 7 October 2020. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  28. ^ "Olivier Winners 2012". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  29. ^ Hickling, Alfred (1 July 2011). "Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester | First night review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  30. ^ "Vernon God Little". Young Vic website. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  31. ^ "Don Giovanni, English National Opera". 7 November 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  32. ^ "Production of The Country Girl | Theatricalia". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  33. ^ "CalmView: Overview". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  34. ^ "The Tony Award Nominations". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  35. ^ "Cabaret the Musical London theatre stage show". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  36. ^ "Cabaret, Lyric Theatre, London". the Guardian. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  37. ^ "CalmView: Overview". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  38. ^ "Festen Broadway @ Music Box Theatre - Tickets and Discounts". Playbill. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  39. ^ "BBC - London - Entertainment - Theatre - Festen, a first night review -". Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  40. ^ "Olivier Winners 2005". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  41. ^ Price, Stephen (14 February 2024). "Watch: First look at Michael Sheen in 'Nye' trailer". Nation.Cymru. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  42. ^ Powster. "Nye | Official Website | 23 April 2024". Nye | Official Website | 23 April 2024. Retrieved 15 April 2024.

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