National Theatre Backstage Tours

Rob Greig
Monday February 18 2013 0:00
Subservience of form to function is bracingly absolute in Sir Denys Lasdun's building, which was completed in 1976. The Lyttleton sits at the apex of an L-shape, with massive storage areas behind and to one side. This facilitates the repertory system the National operates, with a number of different productions using each auditorium concurrently. In the prop and set-building workshops sculptors, carpenters, smiths and painters create everything used on stage, from silicone broccoli florets to giant chunks of polystyrene rubble. In contrast to the Lyttleton's familiar set-up, the Cottesloe is an infinitely configurable modern studio space, based loosely on an Elizabethan courtyard theatre. It's the Olivier, though, with its razzle-dazzle drum revolve – a huge circular section in the middle of the stage which goes up and down as well as round and round – that is the National's pride and joy.