National Theatre in crisis as director leaves

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The Independent Culture

The National Theatre has been hit by a fresh crisis after the director of a new production of Peer Gynt, due to open next month, returned home to Ireland on medical advice.

The National Theatre has been hit by a fresh crisis after the director of a new production of Peer Gynt, due to open next month, returned home to Ireland on medical advice.

The National said last night that Conall Morrison, a promising young director, had fallen ill and had now left London. His production is still running preview performances and is not due to open fully for two weeks.

Mr Morrison's departure was marked by reports of mounting friction between him and the cast at the Olivier Theatre. He was alleged to have been asked to leave the theatre last weekend after shouting abusively at the cast during a preview performance.

Following this alleged incident and the cast's growing discontent, it was claimed that Trevor Nunn, the National's director, would step in to oversee the preview shows.

The allegations were played down by the National, which denied claims that Mr Morrison had been sacked as director. A spokeswoman said: "It is untrue to say he has been fired or that he was escorted from the building. That's a highly exaggerated report."

The spokeswoman did confirm, however, that Mr Morrison had now handed over control of the production to his colleagues and had returned to Ireland. "Conall, having got the show on, is returning home ill on medical advice. The show is running and will open on schedule on 13 November," the spokeswoman added.

Mr Morrison rose to prominence in Britain after two of his successful productions moved from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to the Lyttleton Theatre. Tarry Flynn ran in 1998, followed by The Colleen Bawn in 1999. He also directed Martin Guerre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 1998.

The spokeswoman insisted that Peer Gynt would still open and run as scheduled until 9 December. She said the delays in staging the production's press preview and opening night were the knock-on effect of delays to the National's production of Romeo and Juliet, which opened late.

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