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National Theatre Blog

Diversity and inclusion: an update from Lisa Burger and Rufus Norris

Last July we said that we still have further to go to increase representation and make the National Theatre a fully inclusive organisation. Since then, we have taken action internally and externally to foster lasting change throughout our organisation and our theatre’s ecosystem.

  • We have set up a cross-organisational Racial Equity Group that reports to our Board.
  • We have held a Listening Project with all our staff to get feedback on issues which are important to them and have begun to take action on those issues.
  • We recognise that to make long term and sustained change we need expert advice and support. We have engaged a leading racial equity consultant to work together with us on this journey.
  • We continue to openly engage staff and freelancers in our work towards a more equitable future for all.


Reinforcing racial justice and equity is an ongoing commitment for the National Theatre. While this work progresses we remain focused in our support for other underrepresented groups as they too drive for access to opportunities, to be treated fairly and to have their voices heard.

We believe the National Theatre must be a place where artists come to make their best work and that our productions should be a proud reflection of the diversity of this country. We also believe that whether an artist, member of staff, supplier or audience member, the National Theatre must be a place where everyone feels valued and can comfortably be themselves.

As part of our plan to increase diversity across the National Theatre, including on our stages by 2021, we set a number of publicly available targets to indicate our progress. Our targets to be achieved by March 2021, were to:

  • Set and meet targets for the directors, writers and actors on our stages.
  • Develop a workforce that is at least as diverse as the UK.
  • Support the performing arts sector in this area.
  • Develop a culture where diversity is hard-wired into everything we do, is understood by all of us, and where we all have an opportunity to be a part of this ongoing conversation


Although targets are only part of the picture, pre-COVID we were on track to meet or exceed our intentions relating to representation on stage and among our staff. The very regrettable reductions we made to our workforce because of the financial impact of Coronavirus and because we have not been able to perform on our stages has, temporarily, had a negative impact on representation in some areas of the organisation. We remain absolutely committed to ensuring we increase diversity on our stages and that we build back a more diverse workforce, especially in the areas where there is now a gap.

We have extended our current commitments for on-stage representation to March 2022 to ensure we have clear milestones to pass even as we emerge from the uncertainty of COVID, and will set new staff objectives by that time.

We will be publishing updated diversity data as follows:

  • Staff – by the end of 2021
  • Directors & Writers for 2021-22 programme – by the end of 2021
  • Actors for 2021-22 programme – in Summer 2022 
  • Audiences for 2021-22 programme – in Summer 2022 


We are committed to evolving as an organisation. Creating an inclusive culture that recognises everyone is the only way to be truly national. It is also the most creative path - it fuels our imagination and enables us to make theatre that is entertaining, challenging and inspiring for everyone.

You can read our last published diversity data and our 2020 response to the #TheatresPullUpOrShutUp here.


Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger are Joint Chief Executives of the National Theatre.

19 May 2021