Backstage at the National Theatre – Review of the Backstage Tour

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I’ve sat in all three theatre spaces of the National Theatre, I’ve wined and dined in most of its eating spaces/cafes and restaurants, spent far too much money in its fabulous bookshop and enjoyed sitting outside watching events, or just chilling with friends in the summer. Yesterday however I got the chance to go behind the scenes to see backstage.

The NT hold tours :

Monday – Friday: 10.15, 10.30, 12.15, 12.30, 17.15, 17.30
Saturday: 10.30am and 12.15pm
Sunday: 12.30pm ( on days when the building is open)

and the tours cost:

Individuals – £8.50
Concessions – £7.50
Entry Pass Members – £5 (not available to book online)
Groups of 8 or more – £7.50 each (not available to book online)
Schools rate (for 30 or more places): £5 (please call 020 7452 3400 to book)

All tours bookers receive 25% off in the Espresso Bar and 15% off in the NT Bookshop.  (bargain!)

It takes about 1hr 10 mins and takes you behind the scenes of this fantastic theatre. Seeing them changing the sets from She Stoops to Conquer to The Comedy of Errors was exciting. As was looking up into the fly tower, which contained sets for both these productions.

I was most impressed with the Lyttleton and how the entire set is literally on a trolley that gets wheeled in or out of the space. I’ve always wondered how the hell they can do such quick change overs, and now I know, they “just” wheel one set off and slide the other one in.

I knew the NT was a purpose-built and clever theatre, but I had no idea it had its own workshops on site and seeing these was also enlightening. They were painting the sets for the Broadway production of One Man Two Guvnors, yesterday.

Throughout the tour our guide pointed out little bits of trivia, such as why the Olivier theatre seats are the colour they are, and geared the tour to the little group I was part of. It’s listed as one of Time Out’s “101 things to do in London”, and I really wished I’d done it sooner. The reality is I’ll certainly do it again in the future as when other productions are in, it’ll be a totally different tour.

I came away with even more of an appreciation for how lucky we are to have the NT and the hard work and dedication that goes into putting on a production there.

If you’ve an interest in the NT, theatre, architecture or just fancy being nosy, this is a brilliant tour of a brilliant theatre.

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4 thoughts on “Backstage at the National Theatre – Review of the Backstage Tour

  1. That sounds so cool, will definitely have to try to fit in when I’m back in London before I head home to Australia. I went on subsequent nights to She Stoops to Conquer and Comedy of Errors and I was blown away that such large sets could be changed over so quickly.
    So why are the Olivier seats the colour that they are?

  2. Hi Simon,

    I really do recommend it. Especially as you have seen productions there.

    We got to stand on the Lyttleton stage and seeing the Juno and the Paycock set that close was a real highlight too.

    The seats are the colour they are as that was Olivier’s favourite colour.

    What did you think of Comedy/She Stoops? I’ve not had a chance to see them, but I really want to catch She Stoops to Conquer if I can.

    • Olivier’s favourite colour- of course!
      I wonder if I would have liked Comedy of Errors more if I had not just seen She Stoops to Conquer the night before.
      Hope you get to see She Stoops- it’s a ripper!

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