Former Rose Theatre artistic director Stephen Unwin has claimed the lack of funding through the Arts Council was one of the reasons he decided to quit.

Mr Unwin left this month after six years at the venue, although he returns in February to direct Jane Asher in Moon Tiger.

He directed both Noel Coward’s The Vortex and Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s The Second Mrs Tanqueray, which both received critical acclaim but underperformed at the box office, contributing to the theatre’s £204,000 annual loss.

Mr Unwin said: “As artistic director I was responsible for everything that happened onstage. Who directed what is pretty irrelevant to the overall issue.

“Most of my choices were very commercial - Importance of being Earnest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Smack Family Robinson - and I was sometimes criticised for being too popularist. “Certainly Noel Coward and Pinero are established writers who one would think would bring in bigger audiences.”

“The shortfall is what the Rose needs from the Arts Council to be able to produce a broad range of sometimes challenging, artistically interesting work.

“The lack of that, and my three hour daily commute, is why I stood down from the Rose, not the box office from any individual shows.”