LAURIE Sansom’s sudden departure – at only two months’ notice and just as the NTS prepares to accept a major European theatre award for its first ten years of work – comes as a profound shock to people across the Scottish arts scene, who greatly admired his contribution over his three years in the job, and particularly his heroic work in directing Rona Munro’s massive James Plays, which have just returned from a hugely-successful international tour.
The news that NTS is looking to restructure its leadership, opening up the possibility that it may not in future be led by an artistic director, will also cause concern to everyone who cares about the creative future of Scottish theatre, since the huge success of the NTS in its first ten years was undoubtedly founded on the outstanding creative leadership given to the organisation by its founding director Vicky Featherstone, and the team she gathered around her before her departure in 2012.
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Undoubtedly, some major restructuring at the NTS was already inevitable, given the imminent departure of its founding executive producer Neil Murray and associate director Graham McLaren to become joint directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
It would have been much more reassuring, though, if Laurie Sansom’s departure had been announced at least six months in advance, as Vicky Featherstone’s was, so as to allow for the recruitment of a new artistic director; and if assurances had been given that the organisation would continue to have the kind of artistic leadership which has served it so well in its first decade.
Given the scale of the changes now facing the organisation, along with its planned move this autumn to its new headquarters at Rockvilla it looks as if the board is now managing a transition so profound that it amounts to a crisis; and one that must reflect deep differences of opinion about the organisation’s future, although it seems to have blown up so suddenly.