Home » London Theatre News » Kully Thiarai New Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales

Kully Thiarai New Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales

NTW New Artistic Director Kully Thiarai
NTW New Artistic Director Kully Thiarai


Kully Thiarai, the founding Artistic Director of Doncaster’s Cast has today been named as the new Artistic Director and Chief Executive of National Theatre Wales, the country’s English-language national theatre, following John McGrath’s departure to run the Manchester International Festival.

Kully has been credited with both putting Doncaster firmly on the UK’s cultural map and giving the town’s artistic appetite an astonishing transformation since the £22million venue Cast was opened in September 2013, drawing 40,000 people through its doors in its first three months.

She already had, by then, an impressive background leading some of the UK’s best-loved theatre venues and producing companies, including Contact Theatre in Manchester, Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Theatre Writing Partnership Nottingham, and Red Ladder Theatre Company, Leeds.

Her directing credits for productions staged in Wales, across the UK and internationally over almost 30 years span a range of work from large-scale outdoor shows to intimate theatre performances, with a demonstrable emphasis on new writing, genuine diversity both on and off-stage, truly inclusive audience development and meaningful community engagement.

These include: Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Kes and Cinderella (for Cast); United Colours of FrustrAsian (Cast, Black Country Touring, Oldham Coliseum and Southbank Centre); Obama The Mamba by Kevin Fegan, (nominated for two Manchester Theatre Awards – Best Play and Best Actor 2012); Mandala, a large-scale outdoor arts spectacular for the Cultural Olympiad; The Soul Exchange, created with the communities of Butetown, Cardiff as part of NTW’s launch year, and Digital Tea Dance for Bangor University.

Her other productions include Do We Ever See Grace? by Noël Greig, Salaam – a devised show made with young Muslim men, Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey, Bogus Woman by Kay Adshead (London, UK, Australia, New York), The Fortune Club and Unsuitable Girls by Dolly Dhingra (London, Leicester), Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys, Captured Live!, West Side Story, The Witches, Bollywood Jane, Plague of Innocence and Death of a Salesman.

Kully is much in demand as an international keynote speaker on the arts (e.g. at No Boundaries in 2014 & 2015, supported by ACE & British Council), a consultant (inc. to the Secretary of State and the DCMS, on Supporting Excellence in the Arts), a tutor (e.g. for Hong Kong University’s Advanced Cultural Leadership Programme 2015) and board member (inc. of the Manchester International Festival).

Kully said: “I am thrilled to be joining National Theatre Wales. I have been hugely inspired by the range and diversity of work that has taken place over the last five years under John McGrath’s leadership. A wonderful artistic mapping of Wales and its people; extraordinary work that is daring, provocative and joyous, found in surprising places across the country.

I intend to build on this legacy by ensuring that National Theatre Wales continues to be original, radical and relevant. Many people and organisations have contributed brilliantly to making the company such a national and international success, and I look forward to working with them all.

Phil George, Chair of NTW’s Board, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Kully to the leadership of NTW. She has a deep connection with the values and ambitions of the company and brings terrific experience from her times as Artistic Director at major theatres in Leicester and Manchester and from the creation of Cast, Doncaster as a dynamic and socially-significant performance venue. She has superb cooperative skills and will forge strong relationships with artists and writers in Wales and internationally. There are exciting times ahead as we build on John McGrath’s legacy of a bold, innovative company with deep community engagement and a strong, international profile.

Dai Smith, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, said: “”In a short space of time, National Theatre Wales has gone from the dream of a national need to the reality of a national marker for Wales, both here at home and on the international stage. Phil George as its first Chair and John McGrath as its first Artistic Director have more than fulfilled the brief given them by the Arts Council of Wales to be excellent in the work on offer and socially engaged with particular audiences right across Wales. Now comes the challenge of the second Act: how to continue to be daring, radical, rooted and inspirational in the young tradition which NTW has created. In appointing Kully Thiarai, a creative talent whose own vision and practice clearly mirror what Wales has been enjoying from NTW, the signal given out is bright and confident. I am sure that the cultural institution she will now lead is set to deliver more of the amazing drama and performance we have come to relish as all our own, and some for the rest of the world too.

Outgoing Artistic Director John McGrath said: “I am utterly delighted that Kully Thiarai has been appointed the new Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales. An inspiring leader with a proven commitment to extraordinary international theatre, and to deep engagement with the widest range of communities, she is a perfect choice for this fantastic job.

Andy Carver, Chair of Cast’s Board of Trustees, said: “Kully has achieved fantastic success in launching and running Cast as a vibrant new cultural venue in Doncaster, producing great work and building new audiences. We are sad to see her leave but wish her every success in this fantastic new challenge at NTW.

Follow National Theatre Wales on Twitter: @ntwtweets

National Theatre Wales has been making English-language productions in locations all over Wales, the UK, internationally and online since March 2010. It operates from a small base in Cardiff’s city centre, but works all over the country and beyond, using Wales’ rich and diverse landscape, its towns, cities and villages, its incredible stories and rich talent as its inspiration. The Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales are supporting National Theatre Wales. nationaltheatrewales.org


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

    View all posts
Scroll to Top