23rd November 2013
The National Theatre is under going an 80 million pound renovation and it is almost complete. There will soon be an upper gallery walkway so that you can view the workshops in use and a large window on the new extension so that you can see artists at work. Until then, there are still backstage tours which have an even greater in depth look at the workings of the theatre.
This was a special tour for us to test out the feasibility for parents and babies, so this should be offered shortly. The tour was completely step free but I used a baby carrier so that Betty could look around. We started in the front of house and visited the Olivier and Lyttleton Theatres. I have been to both many times as I used to go to the theatre almost every fortnight before becoming a mum, but still great to see them empty. The great thing about the newer theatres in London (although the National is as old as me) is that you get a good view no matter where you sit. Unlike the Victorian theatres, which look amazing but are a very uncomfortable experience.
After learning about the history of the National and its theatres, we went through the security doors to the workings of the place. It’s huge! The National Theatre makes most of its sets and props on site so there are large workshops spaces. It is also a repertoire theatre so alternates plays in the theatre therefore has two spaces per stage to store the alternate sets and props. A huge amount of work and management to keep two productions going at once on one stage. I hadn’t realised that there were also rehearsal rooms on site, from the programmes these usually look like random, rented rooms, but the National Theatre has a rehearsal room to match each stage. They can make temporary sets in these spaces to rehearse, currently the Oliver rehearsal room is being used for Treasure Island. After seeing the three storey set and the rigging and treasure mound props, I really want to see it.
There is also a new cafe in the theatre which looks to have a great menu and very family friendly.
Baby friendly info:
The new tours will be step free and flexible for breaks, feeding etc.
There are baby changing facilities and the new cafe can heat food and serves babycinos.