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New National Theatre director sees stage for political debate

The National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) will be a key voice in the debate over the country's political future, its new artistic director has declared.

LOOKING FORWARD: Laurie Sansom said he will provide Scottish theatre with a 'fresh pair of eyes'.
LOOKING FORWARD: Laurie Sansom said he will provide Scottish theatre with a 'fresh pair of eyes'.

Laurie Sansom, 40, made his comments after he was last night unveiled as Vicky Featherstone's successor.

The Cambridge graduate, who joins from a similar role at the Royal & Derngate theatres in Northampton, said the 2014 independence referendum and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will be key features of his tenure at the NTS.

Although the company, which is funded directly by the Scottish Government, will not "take a political position", Mr Sansom, from Kent, hopes it can form a stage for different views on the vote and its consequences.

"One of the theatre's great strengths is that it provides a forum for alternative views and opinions, and while it is important the company itself does not have a position, I think it can provide a fertile environment for artists to respond to the events in any way they want," he said.

"Exploring the ideas of cultural identity is something that theatre is really good at doing and I think it's imperative that the NTS is able to embrace a whole range of opinions."

Mr Sansom has directed several productions at the Edinburgh festival, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 2009, has visited Scotland since he was 11, and will move to Glasgow, where he has also worked at the Royal Conservatoire, next March.

Following Ms Featherstone, he said, would be a difficult task but he will build on the foundations she and her team laid, especially the theatre's concept of a "theatre without walls".

Mr Sansom said his nationality and lack of background in Scottish theatre was "both an advantage and a disadvantage" and he would provide a "fresh pair of eyes".

"The board told me that they were only interested in picking the best candidate available, and I am flattered that they thought that was me," he said.

"I am sure there will be some who will comment on me not being Scottish, but I think as long as I am doing the best work I can, as long as the theatre is doing the best for Scottish artists, then you can begin to ignore those voices."

Ms Featherstone leaves her post in December to join the Royal Court Theatre in London, and Mr Sansom will be in Scotland this winter to be part of the handover before she departs.

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