Speaking at the press conference at which his appointment as the next Director of the National Theatre was announced, Nicholas Hytner stressed his affection for the institution - where he has worked several times before and is currently directing Mother Clap's Molly House.
Trevor Nunn mentioned that the announcement had been made earlier today to the entire company - some 800 people - at which they had burst into spontaneous and prolonged applause.
The press reaction was more muted, but the appointment is definitely a popular one. Hytner was asked a variety of questions about the role of the National and his own at its helm. His approach is that he wants the theatre to reflect the nation at large, to be truly national in the sense of offering a wide range of plays that would appeal to the whole population and the variety of communities that make up the country today.
While not commenting directly on the controversy surrounding Trevor Nunn's choice of American musical revivals - let alone his personal cut of the profits - he stressed his interest in a wide variety of art forms (he has a background in opera as well as plays and musicals) and mentioned the energy often to be found in the contemporary dance programs at Sadler's Wells as an inspiration: he clearly hopes to encourage cross-media events at the National, even though he asserted that "playwrights are at the heart of the National and its work." Nunn, meanwhile, pointed out that out of 80 productions so far during his time as director, only four had been musicals, and that it would be a shame to try to tie Hytner's hands in relation to potential productions of musicals once he had taken over.
In any case, Hytner will not assume control of the National until April 2003, and Trevor Nunn will be responsible for the programming until March 2003. Hytner is busy working on a Broadway version of The Sweet Smell of Success which will be produced on New York in Spring 2002, after which he will concentrate on getting to know all the various departments of the National and working in conjunction with Trevor Nunn prior to taking over the reins.
Answering a question about his background - "white, middle-aged and middle class, like his predecessors" Hytner raised laughter by stressing that he belonged to "several interesting minorities" and that he objected to being described as "middle-aged."
Hytner sees his job at the National as being at the forefront of British theatre as a whole and a hugely challenging opportunity to help shape the face of British theatre - though unlike Nunn he would not stipulate the amount of years he expected to stay in the role. Given that Nunn ran the RSC, the only comparably-sized theatre organization in England, for 18 years, Hytner may well have a long time in which to mould British theatre in his own image.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow