Laurie Sansom, the National Theatre of Scotland’s artistic director and chief executive, is to leave the company at the end of June.

He is leaving the post at the national company after three years.

In his tenure the theatre (NTS) has produced productions such as The James Plays, the trilogy of history plays charting the fortunes of Scottish Kings James I, II and III.

The award-winning plays, directed by Sansom, are currently on a Scottish and UK tour.

He said in a statement that he now plans to "explore ambitious directing opportunities in the UK and internationally" but was unavailable for comment.

Mr Sansom's departure was greeted with surprise in the theatre world yesterday.

Ms Featherstone left the company in 2013 after seven years in the role.

The company declined to comment on the exact circumstances of his departure - whether Mr Sansom resigned or otherwise.

The NTS is now to put in place a new management structure.

It is a time of great change at the National Theatre: it is building a new £6.5m headquarters in Glasgow, which is due to be opened later this year.

Two other key members of staff, Neil Murray, executive producer, and Graham McLaren, associate director, are leaving to run the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

On the social medium Twitter, Fergus Linehan, artistic director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said the departure had caught the festival by surprise and greeted news "Ah no!"

Sansom, who succeeded founding director Vicky Featherstone, said: "I’m intensely proud to have been part of a National Theatre of Scotland which has produced such a wealth of bold and relevant theatre for audiences across a nation and across the world.

"It has been a privilege to play a part in shaping the story of an amazing first decade in the life of one of the world’s great new national theatre companies but I believe it is time for new leadership to take the Company into its next decade as it moves into its new creation centre.

"I can’t thank enough the artists and audiences who have made this such a rewarding and inspiring time for me".

Lucy Mason will take up the role of interim Chief Executive, on his departure, while the National Theatre of Scotland puts in "place a senior leadership structure to take the company into its second exciting decade" a statement said.

Dame Seona Reid, Chair of the National Theatre of Scotland says: "During the past three years Laurie's imprint on theatre-making in Scotland has been impactful and far-reaching.

"Throughout this time, as they have done for a decade, the staff, company and wider community of creative collaborators that form the National Theatre of Scotland have delivered with passion on their mission of creating inspiring theatre experiences for, and of Scotland, for the widest range of audiences.

"Laurie is without question one of the world's leading theatre directors. It is entirely fitting that his three years at the National Theatre of Scotland come to a close as the epic trilogy of The James Plays which he has nurtured and directed have been playing to Scottish and international audiences and to critical acclaim.''