Friday, May 18, 2007

Backstage at the National Theatre

I went on a backstage tour of the National Theatre on Friday and I very much enjoyed it!

It was very interesting to see the three very different performing areas that the National Theatre has.

The Cottesloe theatre is basically a small black box with a very adaptable stage (in Goldilocks terms, this is Baby Bear), the Lyttleton has a proscenium arch (Mummy Bear):

And the grand and impressive Olivier Theatre (very much the Daddy bear).

You get to have a look at the some of the props that were used in previous performances, and a feel of a severed head, which I was reliably informed by the well informed guide that was the exact weight of a real severed head! I'll have to take her word for it. And we were introduced to Pat the tortoise, whose animatronic twin nearly upstaged Simon Russell Beale during a play.

To get a chance to go, if only fleetingly, backstage of a working theatre it's pretty good. While in the Olivier auditorium, I saw some of the set for A Matter of Life and Death and a man started to play a double bass for some reason while we in there and we saw Gisli Örn Gardarsson, who plays the Norwegian Conductor, but he's actually Icelandic.

They are still building the set for Philistines, which looks very sleek. I was very impressed that one enterprising set builder managed to keep hammering for about fifteen minutes straight with out a break while we were there. The set for Rafta, Rafta was glimpsed tucked away behind the Lyttleton and it looked phenomenal. It's like a huge dolls house that has been cut in half and dressed like a real house.

Philistines of course stars Ruth Wilson as Tanya, and the website has a little bit of blurb about it here.

The flytower of the Lyttleton theatre not only has a teetering Anthony Gormley statue balanced on top of it, but it is currently covered in real, growing grass. I saw a man watering it. If your click on the link above, you'll be able to see a video of how they did it: lots of grass seeds in clay basically.

I recommend the National Theatre ( website as a great site to go to for info on plays at the National, but it does also have workpacks for some productions, where the plays are discussed a little which are very interesting and informative.


Mai said...

Hi Penny,
You are lucky!!
I live in Spain...:(

pennyforyourdreams said...

Ola Mai,

When you come over to England, and I hope you do, there's lots to do in London, and other places too of course.

But it's nice that I don't live too far away from London. It's nice to go up there once in a while. And the weather on Friday was lovely, a perfect day for sitting by the Thames in the sun!



Anonymous said...

Thanks for this "behind the scenes" look at the NT! This is pretty coincidential, because I hope to be at the NT myself on 14 July to see Anne Marie Duff in St Joan. Studied that play for A Level English and it's awesome just to read, never mind see performed on stage. I've retained my love for the play but have not seen it performed live yet, so am keeping my fingers crossed I can bag some tickets for me and my friends when the box office opens on Thursday.

Cheers Penny


pennyforyourdreams said...

Hi Fi,

Enjoy the play! I'm not familiar with it though, I'm afraid. I did all the cheery plays when I did my A levels, many eons ago: Hamlet, King Lear, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Duchess of Malfi.

I did see some burnt trees (for St. Joan) being mocked up in the paint shop. They looked, erm, burnt...

I'm sure you'll be able to get tickets easily, and Anne Marie Duff is a fab actress, so it's bound to be a good show. Hope you have a great time. And check out the NT website, they occasionally do "trailers" for plays, don't know if they do have one for St. Joan yet, you might have to wait for it to open.

Have fun :)