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 (http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) 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.