The Inventory: Trevor Nunn

Trevor Nunn, 72, has directed productions for theatre, film and television and has been artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. He was knighted in 2002.

What was your earliest ambition?

I was five … in the infant school nativity play. The teacher said to me afterwards, “You’re a good actor.” My fate was sealed.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

I passed (probably by no more than one mark) the 11-plus and went to the local grammar school. I was lucky. Then I was even luckier and went to Cambridge on a scholarship. Life-changing.

Who was or still is your mentor?

An inspiring teacher called Peter Hewett, who became a lifelong friend. The most brilliant producer/director of the age, Peter Hall – to whom I owe my career, and who also became a lifelong friend. Lucky again …

How physically fit are you?

I swim 50 lengths and walk for miles most weekends, and I run up the Tube escalators every day.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Neither matters as much as luck – which is my theme, obviously.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you?

My politics derive directly from my dad, who was a committed socialist. My education was only made possible by Attlee’s 1945 Labour government; my wellbeing was assured by Bevan’s Health Service; my career in theatre by Jennie Lee achieving subsidies for the arts. I’m not likely to change my views now.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I recycle, use public transport and have planted a few trees. But I do fly to New York occasionally, and feel guilty all the way there and back.

Do you have more than one home?

If it were practical to live only in the country, I would, but my job dictates that I have to have a place in London as well.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A couple of Picassos would do nicely.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Eating out after the show.

In what place are you happiest?

At home, with my children, at Christmas, but also on a deserted beach in Cornwall, alone with my thoughts … and latterly going to see my daughter who’s at university in Cambridge, and reliving my youth.

What ambitions do you still have?

I’ve directed 30 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays; I’m determined to direct the remaining seven.

What drives you on?

I’m so lucky that my work is exactly what I would do for fun – no driver is necessary other than the pursuit of pleasure.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Five marvellous children.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

My great frustration has been never getting permission to do a wholly new production of West Side Story.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“I can’t believe it … those crazy daydreams actually happened.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Hitchhike to Cornwall and live on that beach.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?


Do you believe in an afterlife?

Not in a biblical sense. But we are all a collection of atoms in a universe composed of collections of atoms, so perhaps particles of our consciousness do contribute to a fund of consciousness that might be harnessed again in a million years …

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

To have been as lucky as I have and to rate life at anything less than a 10 would be ungrateful.

‘Kiss Me, Kate’, directed by Trevor Nunn, runs at The Old Vic until March 2 2013;, 0844 8717628

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