Tuesday, 16 August 2011

When is a theatre trip not a theatre trip?

Behind the scenes tour, National Theatre, London

Since my first trip to see a performance at the National Theatre earlier this year I've been keeping a regular eye on their website, whether it is looking at future productions, the shop or photos from past productions. One thing kept catching my eye - the behind the scenes tour.

I finally got to go on this last week with a good friend. The day turned into a bit of a disaster but our visit to the National was out of this world, and a bargain.

After meeting in the foyer our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide took us on a tour of the three stages (Oliver, Cottesloe and Lyttleton) as well as behind the stages, through the workshops and past the dressing rooms.

The tour struck just the right amount of theatre knowledge, promotion of the venue itself and technical knowledge. Our guide was very careful to keep all talk of productions very general so that anyone seeing a show didn't have anything 'spoiled' but still managed to explain how each of the current productions was staged and produced.

The National Theatre felt recognisable to me from the first moment I stepped through the door and I discovered that the architect of the building - Denys Lasdun - was also the architect of my former university (UEA), no wonder the shapes and interiors felt familiar!

As well as the general staging we were also shown how as much as possible it created in house at the National and got up close and personal with some of the props from former plays - I don't think I'll ever forget the explanation of how they made a tortoise explode on stage...

If you have a passing interest in seeing behind the scenes of a working, modern theatre then I really recommend this tour. I know that I will want to go again when other plays are in rep so that I can see the stages in different configurations and with other sets to view.

UEA, Norwich also designed by Lasdun

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