Avant garde Swiss director joins race to head National Theatre

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The Independent Culture

The avant-garde Swiss director Luc Bondy emerged as a surprise contender yesterday in the race to run the National Theatre just weeks before a decision on the new artistic director is expected.

Mr Bondy, the artistic director of the Vienna Festival who has won awards for his work in theatre and opera houses worldwide, has been interviewed as a possible successor to Trevor Nunn, who is due to leave next year.

He took a production of Chekhov's The Seagull to last month's Edinburgh Festival, which is where rumours of his interest in the National emerged, and previously worked with an acclaimed Macbeth for Scottish Opera.

But despite his operatic success, theatre remains his first love. "Theatre demands your whole intellect, but opera only needs your emotion. It is much more difficult to direct theatre because there you are making your own music," he once said.

His appointment to the National would raise the thrilling prospect of visits by other giants of world theatre such as his mentor, Peter Stein. But he is notoriously difficult to pin down and many would be surprised if the National board managed to secure him.

Nicholas Hytner, who has directed National hits including Carousel and The Madness of King George, has been widely regarded as being the frontrunner to take over Mr Nunn's troubled stewardship. Others in the running include Jude Kelly, who is considered to have done an impressive job in making the West Yorkshire Playhouse a notable regional theatre.

The appointments process at the National has come under fire for its lack of transparency. The post, arguably the most important in British theatre, has not been advertised. Instead, a committee headed by Sir Christopher Hogg has been talking to possible contenders since the spring. A decision is expected within weeks. Mr Nunn has been criticised for relying on commercial productions such as My Fair Lady.

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