Entertainment & Arts

Shock exit for National Theatre boss

Tessa Ross and Rufus Norris Image copyright National Theatre
Image caption Tessa Ross and Rufus Norris were expected to steer the National Theatre as partners

Tessa Ross has unexpectedly stepped down as chief executive of the National Theatre, just six months into the job.

Ross, a former head of Film 4, joined the theatre alongside its new artistic director Rufus Norris last year.

Announcing her resignation, she said only one person should be in charge.

"It has become clear to me that the new leadership structure, with a separate role of chief executive, is not right for the NT at this time," she said.

Ross started her career as a literary agent before moving into television, becoming head of Drama at Channel 4 in 2000.

There, she commissioned shows including Shameless, White Teeth, Teachers and Sex Traffic; and, after moving to the film unit, oversaw an annual budget of £10m.

Among the British films she developed were Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Four Lions.

She received a CBE in 2010 for her services to broadcasting and won a Bafta for outstanding contribution in 2013.

Image copyright Film 4
Image caption Ross was behind the success of Oscar-winning drama 12 Years a Slave

After being appointed to the board of the National Theatre in 2011, Ross officially started her new role last November, eight months after her nomination was announced.

Ross and Norris were seen as a "dream team", taking over from Nicholas Hytner and his executive director Nick Starr- the duo behind hits such as The History Boys, One Man, Two Guv'nors and War Horse.

But there appears to be no bad blood over her departure.

A spokesperson for the National Theatre said: "There is no difference of opinion, it is purely down to structure. The relationship is very strong."

Ross added: "I will, with great pleasure, continue to work with Rufus and Lisa [Burger, executive director] as a consultant, ensuring the smooth delivery of their first season and planning for the next one.

"It is an institution that I love and for which it has been a great privilege to work."

Norris said: "Tessa's role in the planning of my first year and beyond at the NT has been invaluable and immense.

"I'm sad that our partnership is ending prematurely but am grateful for everything she has done here, and happy that we'll work together on a consultancy basis.

John Makinson, chairman of the National, said it was with "great regret that we are saying goodbye to Tessa in this role", adding: "We recognise and salute the integrity of her decision."

Analysis: Will Gompertz, arts editor

When the National Theatre announced last year that it had hired Tessa Ross as its new chief executive, it was considered by many to be quite a coup.

The National billed her as one part of its new dream executive team, along with the recently appointed artistic director Rufus Norris. They were taking over the theatre from the extremely successful Two Nicks - Hytner and Starr - whose partnership was different: Hytner was the boss.

That worked. Two creative producers sharing centre stage has not. The National will revert to the old system, and Rufus Norris will be the sole person in charge.

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