The National Theatre
Ah, the theatre. It is the place where I find my home, a place of creativity in all sorts of different mediums, a place of collaboration, a place of history, a place where people from around the world can come together and share in something similar, even for a moment. The theatre in question this time, the National Theatre, provided all of this and then some. The theatre itself is home to three theatres- the Olivier, Lyttelton, and the Cottesloe. As the National Theatre is a reparatory theatre, they have several plays on in each theatre at all times, up to six or seven! This is to provide people with a wide variety of theatre and a way to please all possible audiences.
First, we entered the Olivier theatre, names for Laurence Olivier, the first artistic director of the National, which currently had been transformed into modern London for a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors. Since the set for this show does not involve any pieces which go into the fly system, nor does the other show currently on, Thirteen, we could see straight up through the fly tower into the grid system, something I have to say I rather enjoy seeing. When one goes into a theatre, they focus on what is on stage. Few people, aside from those who are involved in technical theatre, ever actually seem to pay attention to the tech of a show. I enjoy seeing what goes into a production beyond what we see on stage.
When we went backstage, we were able to see set pieces for Comedy of Errors sitting in waiting as well as the entire set for Thirteen showing how the different plays are stored behind the stage, ready to be switched over at any time. In general, the shows seem to run alternating weeks, allowing audiences a different experience each week.
The second theatre we visited was the Lyttelton, named for the first board chairman, Oliver Lyttelton. This theatre currently is producing Juno and the Paycock and The Veil. Funnily enough, these are both Irish plays set in relatively close time periods though Juno is an old work and The Veil is a brand new work. While we could not get that close to the Juno set, as we wandered backstage, we were not only able to look at the Veil set but also walk through it! Even having worked on sets previously, I never cease to be astounded at the amount of detail that goes into creating a set. People always talk of how actors must create a world for themselves in which to portray their characters, but nobody ever mentions the intricacies of a set which certainly help the actor to imagine the world in which the character inhabits.
Third and finally is the Cottesloe theatre, named after Lord Cottesloe who was the chairman of the South Bank Theatre board. It will be renamed the Dorfman theatre in 2013 after a chairman of the Travelex group (ah the powers of sponsorship.). We did not actually go into this theatre on our tour, however. All I know about it is that it is smaller than the others. If I recall correctly, it is a smaller black box style space which allows for more experimental works.
Visiting the National Theatre and touring its spectacular spaces certainly took be back to being on and backstage at home, even more so than the Barbican. While I loved Barbican, and found myself incredibly excited when we we allowed on to the stage, (something we did not get to do at the National) when compared to the the facilities at the National it did not seem as impressive. I can’t wait to get back to the National soon to actually watch Comedy of Errors. Now that we have seen the space where everything started for the show, it will give seeing the final production that much more value.