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National Theatre Backstage Tours

Rob Greig
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.
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