The National Theatre’s boss has hit back at claims by Julian Fellowes that it only sanctions “left-of-centre” voices.

National Theatre’s director Rufus Norris dismissed the claims at a press conference announcing a new programme of work.

“I don’t know Julian and I haven’t seen him here recently,” he said, suggesting that Fellowes had not seen the National Theatre’s recent work.

“I totally dispute the idea that we’re speaking in any particular bubble”, he added, citing “the whole way we’re broadening our repertoire, the artists that we’re working with and where we’re working.

“We are increasingly working nationwide, more than theatre has ever done ... I suspect that fact probably was not known to him because he hasn’t looked.”

He also said of the National Theatre’s diversity targets: “Our diversity targets are based on the population of this country, that’s a fact. It’s not in dispute.

“Half of the country are women, it’s a fact. If he’d like to argue about that then he’s welcome to come along.”

The Downton Abbey creator had previously claimed that the National Theatre, along with other arts institutions, is part of a “left-of-centre metropolitan elite”, stating: “They have dealt with their opinions as if they were facts, and everyone else’s opinions as if they were nonsense.”

Norris said he wants the National Theatre, which tours productions around the UK, to become “even more national”.

It is creating new works with theatres and broadcasting productions around the country, as well as working with schools.