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Former Kidderminster student given top British theatre job
Top job: From left, Rufus Norris, Chairman of the National Theatre John Makinson and outgoing director Sir Nicholas Hytner at Tuesday’s announcement. Photos: RICHARD H SMITH.
A FORMER Kidderminster College student who worked as a painter and decorator in Wyre Forest in between auditions for drama school has landed the most prestigious job in British theatre.
Rufus Norris was named this week as the first non-Oxbridge graduate to become artistic director of the National Theatre for 40 years.
Mr Norris, a former actor, took a drama foundation course alongside his A-Levels at Kidderminster College from 1981-83.
After leaving college, he spent four years as a painter and decorator in the district and admitted he had “painted a lot of houses in Kidderminster” until one of his many auditions was successful and he was offered a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
The National Theatre announced on Tuesday that he will succeed current director Sir Nicholas Hytner from April 2015.
Mr Norris, who spent much of his childhood in Africa and Malaysia before moving to Worcester with his parents, told The Shuttle: “Before I went to Kidderminster College, I played in a youth orchestra.
“The reality of it was there was a girl I fancied in the orchestra who was also in the youth theatre at the Swan in Worcester, so I thought I’d go along to there too.
“I never got to go out with her but I really enjoyed acting and thought there’s got to be a course I can do.
“There was a great bunch of students at the college and the teachers were really enthusiastic.
“I was in all the shows and I was pretty much living there. I would often be rehearsing until 9.30pm before hitch-hiking back to Worcester.”
Mr Norris, 48, also recalled the thriving music scene in Bewdley and said he was a keyboard player with various bands but was “never any good.”
He added a friend he had met at college, Will Burrows, had a huge influence on him creatively.
Mr Norris is currently the National Theatre’s associate director and has a long list of theatre credits.
He has directed this year’s tour of Cabaret starring singer Will Young and recently worked with Blur’s Damon Albarn on an opera, Dr Dee, for the Manchester International Festival in 2011.
His debut film, Broken, premiered at Cannes and won Best Film at the British Independent Film Awards earlier this year.
Nigel Holman, head of acting at Kidderminster College, said: “I remember Rufus as a creative artist and an enthusiastic collaborator within the field of performing arts.
“He was always happy to work with people, no matter where they were from.
“Rufus is an inspiring demonstration of success being achieved through genuine talent and hard work.”
College principal Andy Dobson also spoke of his pride that a former pupil had landed such a prestigious job.
On his appointment, Mr Norris said he was “pretty scared” and that he had a lot to learn before taking over in 2015.
He added: “I’m not a famous name like some of the people who were in the running for the job [such as Sir Kenneth Branagh] but I don’t worry about that at all.
“It’s about the team that we work with and I’ve got on very well with everybody.”
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