Eight years ago, when he took over at the helm of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris knew that his life would be transformed. He must also have been aware that taking over from Sir Nicholas Hytner, who rarely seemed to put a foot wrong, wasn’t going to be easy.

Even Rufus Norris would probably struggle to claim that every early choice panned out as expected. Overall, though, he has navigated the ship with great skill, in doing so proving to be a champion of diversity, equality and a great supporter of underdogs.

To a degree, many of his primary missions are borne out by the latest varied roster of 12 productions that should fill the National’s three auditoria over the next year or so. Accompanying that announcement this week, Norris has confirmed his intention to move on at the end of his second term in the spring of 2025.

At that point, the man who might imminently become Sir Rufus may finally have a chance to stop and review a legacy that has been irrevocably changed by the advent of the COVID pandemic and subsequent economic downturn—a damaging recession in all but name.

After the lockdown, all theatres have struggled to normalise, cutting staff in proportion to devastating funding reductions from Arts Council England and generally limiting ambition in a desperate effort to survive. Norris and the National have done this as calmly and effectively as anybody.

At the time of his appointment, some commentators noted a lack of experience when it came to directing Shakespeare. If there is a single lacuna over the Norris decade that many might note with regret, it has been a very limited National Theatre exposure of the Bard’s plays.

Some might argue that Shakespeare is freely available elsewhere, although productions seem to be fewer and further between in recent years. Others would content that theatres on the South Bank should be concentrating on new and more varied writing. Even so, many will strongly believe that celebrating our greatest playwright with superlative productions should be a duty for National Theatre. That is a debate for another day.

It is a sad fact of life that as soon as the news of a departure breaks, interested parties will be screaming from the housetops “the King is dead” and wishing to complete the line with “Long live the King” postulate on who might be next in line.

Those with reasonably long memories will recall that in the run-up to the appointment of Rufus Norris, there was media chatter about whether 2015 might present the long-delayed opportunity for a woman to step up to the plate.

Given that, following the departure of the future inaugural Artistic Director Lord Olivier, the role had become a fiefdom for graduates from Cambridge, even the appointment of the less augustly educated Norris felt a little racy and radical—but only a little.

In the last decade, there has been significant change, as women such as Michelle Terry at Shakespeare’s Globe, Vicky Featherstone at the Royal Court and Josie Rourke at the Donmar have finally been admitted to the ranks of artistic directors leading some of our major theatres, while those from ethnic minorities such as Indhu Rubasingham and Kwame Kwei-Armah have done sterling work respectively at the Kiln and the Young Vic, with others now following in their footsteps.

To date, while the trans community has begun to make its presence felt on stages around the globe, representatives have not yet hit the heights as directors, but that must surely be coming as well?

Previously, the two biggest theatres in this country (unlike their peers in Scotland and Wales) had resisted the temptation to go beyond what Nicholas Hytner unkindly referred to in the context of critics as “dead white men”, but the RSC has now got halfway there with the joint appointments of Tamara Harvey and Daniel Evans.

While this critic is the very last person to even think about having a flutter, he strongly believes that the next Artistic Director of the National Theatre will be female, from an ethnic minority or, quite conceivably, both? Perhaps even someone mentioned elsewhere in this column.