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After seven years at the helm of the National Theatre of Scotland, Brenna Hobson has decided to move on to new adventures in her homeland of Australia. Here she reflects on her international career.

Headshot of Brenna Hobson. She has dark hair, is wearing a black top, black glasses and red lipstick

The return – Sydney Opera House (2024)

Next month, I will be starting a new role back in Australia as Director of Programming at the Sydney Opera House. But it doesn’t seem that long ago I was making the journey in the other direction. 

'Very brave' – National Theatre of Scotland (2017-2024)

When I started talking about moving to the UK to work for the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) people would say “that’s very brave”. Brave as in politically brave, brave as in foolish, brave as in “you realise it might not work and then you are stuck on the other side of the world with no job and a dubious reputation”. 

Fortunately, that’s not how it worked out. In my years as Executive Director at the NTS I’ve been lucky to spend time with shows, large and small, throughout Scotland and across the world. I also acted as Chief Executive during Jackie Wylie’s maternity leave, only to get her back three weeks before the pandemic. Along with everyone else in the industry I learned to pivot.  

During my time here I have experienced the differences and similarities in theatrical culture between Scotland and Australia and - not surprisingly – I discovered many more similarities than differences. And I’ve been part of an arts community that’s had a tough few years and that is navigating significant social change while also trying to sustain itself in a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by real term funding cuts.  

As I come to the end of my stay at NTS, I’m thinking about my gratitude for the community here and my hopes for its future. 


Pages of the Sea on Roseisle Beach, a National Theatre of Scotland production. Photo: Mark Richards

Homecoming - Belvoir (2008-2017)

Before NTS, I was Executive Director at Belvoir, an Australian theatre company based in Sydney. It was a job I loved at the company where I began my career. 

My role there started with working with the company’s first Artistic Director Neil Armfield. I then managed the transition to a new Artistic Director Ralph Myers, previously best known as a set designer, and finally to the current Artistic Director, Eamon Flack. 

I drove a large amount of organisational change including moving the company from a flat pay structure to market-based rates.

Possibly the most satisfying aspect my tenure was the internationalisation of the organisation. During almost a decade at Belvoir, we toured to the United States (including a Broadway transfer), United Kingdom, Korea, India, Austria, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands. 

Making mistakes - Jigsaw Theatre Company (2006-2007)

My first Executive Director role was at Jigsaw Theatre Company in Canberra. It was a two-and-a-half person company making work for children - a brilliant opportunity to learn how to run a theatre company by having a hand in just about everything. 

At Jigsaw I managed the accounts, booked shows into schools, drove the company van from Canberra to Adelaide, contracted playwrights, found rehearsal space and generally got involved in everything. No two days were the same and it gave me a fantastic grounding in the breadth of an organisation’s operations - a grounding I’m still using today. 

I also made lots of mistakes, but Canberra is quite a small artistic community so not too many people witnessed them.

Following artists – Bangarra Dance Theatre (2004-2006)

I joined Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australia’s premier First Nations dance company after working on Page 8, the story of composer and company member David Page. The show was directed by his brother Stephen, the then Artistic Director and founder of Bangarra Dance Theatre. 

I’ve been privileged in my career to work with several extraordinary First Nations artists. To be part of a company led by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists was a joy. 

Although resident at the Sydney Opera House, Bangarra is fundamentally a touring organisation and it was here I learned the flexibility required to work for a touring company, something that has stood me in good stead at National Theatre of Scotland. 

Starting out - Belvoir (1994-2004)

I started my career backstage at Belvoir, first as an Assistant Stage Manager, then Production Coordinator and finally as Production Manager. 

The roles gave me the opportunity to spend time in the rehearsal rooms of some of Australia’s finest directors and actors. It’s also where I learned how to deliver a show on time, on budget and in line with the vision of the creative team. 

Brenna Hobson is outgoing Executive Director of the National Theatre of Scotland and Director of Programming (Designate) of Sydney Opera House.
 nationaltheatrescotland.com/ | sydneyoperahouse.com/
@NTSonline | @sydoperahouse 

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Headshot of Brenna Hobson