This review is for the tour of the National Theatre.
The backstage tour of the National Theatre was a wonderful experience. Our tour guide showed us the 3 smaller theaters WITHIN the National Theatre, explaining the advantages of each. One catered to a much more smaller, intimate audience while the Olivier theater was definitely for the headlining shows. We also go to go backstage to see all the craziness and inner workings that are involved with putting on a production. There was also an area where they replicate the stage and scenes for rehearsals, all the mish mash of props from various shows, and we were even able to go on stage in one of the theaters. Truly an engaging tour!
If you are a theatre buff or like to see the technical aspects of shows, this is an absolute must!
The Royal National Theatre is constantly winning awards and voted one of the top independent theatres in London. It's easy to see why.
The Theatre uses that term in the most general way possible, since this is more than just a theatre. It is in fact, multiple theatres, each showing a wide array of famous classics and new plays. Whatever you are looking for: comedy, drama, a little mix of the two, they've got it.
They often do cheap ticket sales as well, so you can snag tickets for less than £10. And if you're 25 or under, you can always get a ticket for just £5. That truly is amazing.
I saw a show in the balcony and it was great. I could see well, I could hear well, I could not have been happier.
They also have a beautiful little cafe, bars, and individual stands throughout the space selling ice cream. Little ice cream stands for you to take to your seat. What a joy!
I would come back here in a heartbeat to see a show. It really doesn't matter which one too, I know it will be good.
From a geeky engineer's point of view, the national's building alone garners it some stars - it's an interesting structure. Not to everyone's taste, but you can't deny it makes wandering around inside more interesting, and despite being nook and cranny-y, it's actually very spacious and well designed. Plus check out the concrete formwork finish, should you want to geek out like me. Nice.
On a more theatrically-relevant note - you can't beat the 10 pound tickets at the National. Unlike the West End, the cheap seats won't give you a nose bleed and vertigo, and they're genuinely cheap. None of the theatres are so big that you get a bad view.
Yes, I've seen some not-so-great productions here, but I've also seen some mind-blowing ones. Every Good Boy Deserves favour, on at the moment, was interesting and a good length (short) - not the best theatre review ever, I'll admit - not my cup of tea, but for a tenner, worth a shot. Whenever they put on the classical Greek stuff, I'm there like a shot and it's never disappointed. Those will never make it to $100-a-ticket Broadway (pah) but plenty on here in past years did.
The bars are well designed so you don't die getting a drink at the interval; the shop also sells a good range of stuff. Now the South Bank's been revamped, there are plenty of places nearby to get a bite to eat so make an evening of it and head here.
The power of the picture is celebrated with a challenging, diverse selection of press photographs from 2010 currently showing at the National Theatre.
The Press Photographer's Year exhibition grabs your attention from the first with a miraculous image of UKIP candidate Nigel Farage, walking away from an air crash. The inevitable war section is a sensitively handled, although be warned, as there are some distressing images of wounded soldiers.
Other sections of the exhbiition cover, politics (look out for a striking three head montage of Clegg,Cameron and Brown which truly represents the hope, power and ultimate failure that political leadership embodies), entertainment, nature, sport, human rights and human interest.
The most heartbreaking image for me in the whole collection was that of Amina an HIV positive school girl in Tanzania, forced to wear a red badge at school to denote her condition.
She watches the other children she is excluded from playing with from behind the bars of her classroom window.
This exhibition serves as a reminder of how in a split second a photographer's lens can define a moment, evoke feelings from those who view the image and turn it into first a memory then history.
If there is a better theatre in London, or indeed the UK, then I'd like to see it.
In particular the main theatre space, the Olivier, is outstanding and even sitting in the back row of the circle you'll have a good view of whatever you're seeing. The spaces are all very modern and adaptable though so from elaborate scenery to minimalistic staging, the National can handle it all.
The National puts on some really incredible theatre, much of it brand new, by world-famous writers and ground-breaking theatre companies and everything I've seen here has been excellent. This is made all the more affordable by the fantastic Travelex ticketing scheme which offers decent seats in a lot of plays for just £12 per ticket. I strongly advise signing up for the advance membership scheme, which is only £15 a year, and gives you the ability to book new plays a few days before the general public.
Beyond the theatre itself the building is an iconic and beautiful piece of brutalism, especially attractive when lit up at night, with excellent outside spaces including the square and a number of terraces. Bars are in plentiful supply and live music often features on the ground floor. There is also a gift/book shop and there are usually exhibitions on too.
Add to that the fantastic location and the NT is a MUST for theatre lovers.
How could it be not romantic to wrap up warm with a loved one and enjoy a free outdoor screening on a valentine's evening? Plenty of plays and poems @ the bookstore for pick-up lines.
My favourite so far is Alan Bennett's new play, the Habit of Art. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion's spent: ultimately, on the habit of art. "Real artists are not nice people. All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue."
You might get lucky for the day return tickets and there's always a few for the standing tickets at £5, painful but worthwhile for the Habit of Art :)
Despite tickets are often sold out early for either Olivier, Lyttelton or Cottesloe theatres, every day there is also free music in the main foyer, and exhibitions (from Congo with Love is on...), plenty of accompany in the South Bank color.
The £10 travelex tickets are good deals with very high quality productions, often quite experiential such as the remake of Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well, and England People are Very Nice (cutters' mobs, Papists, Jewish anarchists and radical Islamists across four tempestuous centuries...).
The whole world is in front of you...
We have seen productions at all three theatres here - the Olivier, the Lyttelton, and the Cottesloe - and have reservations about only the last, which has uncomfortable seats on both levels and restricted views from the gallery. Among the productions we enjoyed at the National long before they transferred to Broadway were "Amadeus," "Arcadia," "Copenhagen," and "The History Boys."
You can take a 75-minute tour conducted by knowledgeable guides who discuss the history of the complex while leading you through the three auditoriums and their backstage areas and the workshops where sets are constructed. The charge is only £5.90.
Mezzanine is a casual restaurant with Continental cuisine that offers a two-course meal with a glass of wine for £17. If it's a nice day, you can dine al fresco at Terrace Bar and Food, which offers a variety of tapas-like plates in addition to more substantial entrees.
Free pre-performance concerts are presented in the foyer Monday through Saturday.
The NT shop has a nice selection of posters, books, CDs, gift iems.
Be sure to allow time to wander through the permanent exhibit, located in the Olivier Circle Gallery, focusing on the National's history from 1848 to the present.
In my whirlwind tour of London (all done in 2.5 days!), I had the opportunity to check out the Royal National Theatre (aka, run inside to use their facilities).
I love how this theatre is on the affordable side. I've been to plays and musicals in London in previous trips but never here. I was impressed with the way the theatre is laid out and excited that there are outdoor entertainers during certain months.
I absolutely love the oversized couch and armchairs when I was visiting. It provided a lot of photo opportunities and to know that it used to be the set for an outdoor play is fantastic of them to allow the public to have fun.
The bf got a refreshing drink for us to share afterwards as we soaked in a bit of the atmosphere and the live music wafting around us.
Next time we're in London, I'm picking up tickets to see a play here.
It's an amazing theatre that does a huge range of different productions of new plays and classics. Even if the show isn't to your taste, there will always be something to admire in the production because it's always done to such high standards.
But, productions aside, it's a great place on the South Bank to hang out. Free WiFi and good coffee during the day. Free foyer music at 6pm every night - hundreds of concerts each year.
The Platforms, talks at 6pm on a range of topics and with all manner of visiting experts, are great value. Plus free exhibitions in the various exhibition spaces. And there's information on all of the above on the website...
A place to be proud of as a Londoner, the National is a myriad of theatre spaces, cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops. Even if you're not coming to see anything (but why not?) it's definitely worth a visit when on the South Bank.
Striking and normally lit up in bright colours, this place stands out on the riverside. The inside is just as interesting - an industrial warren of cubby-holes and hidden rooms.
They regularly have cheap theatre tickets available, and at least 3 shows to choose from on any given day.
The bookshop offers a great selection and the nunmerous cafes and bars are an ideal place to rest up and get your nose into a new play.
Sign up for the mailing list and keep an eye out for the offers.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is currently showing and it's amazing (especially if you have a fondness for numbers and Maths like me). Day returns are the only tickets available though if you want to go and see this superb show.
In fact, everything I've ever seen at the National has been outstanding and as such, is usually sold out. You really have to be on the ball, or on their mailing list, if you want to get tickets for some of their shows.
However, the National do something else that very few theatres do... they broadcast their plays to cinemas around the world live. The Curious incident will be showing on the 6th Sept and if you missed the chance to see it in the theatre itself, I'd highly recommend seeing it at the cinema.
They also love playing around with the space outside the theatre, providing play areas, imaginative seating and entertainment on the South Bank itself. They have several bar areas, a great book shop, coffee shops and probably a lot more I haven't found yet.
I can't praise the National quite high enough. I have seen so many good plays here, and also a couple bad of course - but that's the point of an establishment like this.
If you're canny, the tickets are cheap and readily available. Embrace the £10 Travelex tickets - a fantastic idea if ever I saw one.
The Olivier is stunningly impressive, with a moving stage and huge capacity for set changes. The Lyttleton is more of the "traditional" theatre, stalls and a circle - not that that detracts from the fact that one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen, The White Guard, blew me away in there. Finally, the Cottesloe has an unusual set-up, with some side facing seats, but again, this somehow works.
Please try this place out if you haven't already - it really is a cut above the rest.
Despite the National Theatre being a bit of an institution in London, The Long bar is anything but stuffy. The layout is really open plan and airy, and there is a mixture of tables and chairs, alongside soft leather couches. The best time to go is at about 6pm on weeknights because they have different performers play there free of charge each evening for about an hour and a half. Last time I went there was a brilliant violinist who danced around the stage and composed his own music. Sometimes there are bands playing Salsa or Jazz.
They have a list of events for the month at the front desk though so you can plan ahead. The drinks are reasonable, £4.40 for a small bottle of wine and £1.95 for a fizzy drink. The bar staff are friendly and really efficient and the whole atmosphere is quite fun and young. It gets pretty busy at about 7.30pm when people start to arrive for the evening performances in the main theatre so if you get there early hold on to your seat.
The Royal National Theatre is so much more than a performance hall! The space is amazing! In addition to having numerous stages in the multi-floored venue it has restaurants, cafes and so much more. On Saturday, we grabbed a drink at the espresso bar and had intended just to sit and talk. After a few moments we were able to enjoy a live jazz trio playing Christmas carols. I have a feeling this is something that happens on a regular basis because everyone else seemed to be expecting music.
I enjoyed the beautiful venue and you can even take backstage tours. We didn't take a tour but we did take advantage of the venue and purchased tickets to see War Horse, which is supposed to be amazing. I'm looking forward to the show!
How about a theatre with virtually no bad seats? I saw "Fela" at the National Theatre and was blown away, not just by the performance but the actual venue itself. Online booking lets you click on certain seats on the map of the venue in order to see the view of the stage from that particular spot. I ended up booking a bit late so was placed on the far left. Amazingly they turned out to be fantastic seats - upon looking up behind me I realised that there really aren't any bad seats here.
The sound system was also great, location easy to find, they let me take my beer and sandwich into the theatre at intermission, and the staff was friendly.
The only drawback were that the machine that lets you swipe your card in order to automatically get your tickets wasn't working, and the selection of drinks and food at intermission was standard (could have done with a wider selection, but oh well...).
Highly recommend this venue - two thumbs up.
I can't believe no one has reviewed the National!
A stalwart of British Theatre since it's inception in the 60's/70's and production house of many great shows over the last few decades.
This is the National Theatre, where all that is good in British Theatre should end up at or come from.
There are three seperate auditoria in the building, The Olivier (the largest, for the big time shows) , The Lyttleton (smaller, but still nearly 1000 capacity) and Cottesloe Theatre - an adaptable studio space for more experimental or developmental work.
By all accounts it's an ugly building from the outside by day, by night it's lit in various colours making it less of an eyesore on the lovely Southbank. Inside, it's almost labyrinthian, with bars, cafes and the multiplicitous theatres snaking off in different directions.
Since 2003 Travelex sponsorship has allowed many NT tickets to be sold for £10, which is really terrific value for this type of stuff.
Recent highlights have included, Complicite's Measure for Measure, Jerry Springer the Opera, The History Boys and His Dark Materials.
There are so many shows produced by the NT across the whole range - new writing, old classics, reworkings, star casts, star writers, new talent. It's a place teeming with theatrical activity.
Another good spot for coffee and people watching on the Southbank, there are often free outdoors performances on the terrace in the Summer.
Essential for any theatre lover.
True, it seems extraordinary that no-one has reviewed the National here, before now (although I think specific productions have featured) still we are putting that to rights!
BushGirl has explained comprehensively why the National is such a treasure, and a must-visit, so I'll just add a few personal highlights
I have seen two of the best productions ever, here: The Rose Tattoo (Tennessee Williams, with Zoë Wanamaker, in 2007) and The Sea with Judi Dench, several years ago - both for a bargain ticket price and long to remain in my memory.
The Cottesloe - the most informal and smallest space - is often set-up in the round, and especially audience-friendly. The Travelex and last-minute ticket offerings make good theatre accessible to all, so long as there are still tickets available for your chosen performance
Don't miss the National Theatre, it's one of London's star-turns!
I know nothing about theatre. But I really enjoyed coming here. A great example of how some decent lighting can make even the worst looking building look, well, quite interesting. It's certainly distinctive.
I remember not being able to buy bitter in the interval, but perhaps one should be drinking wine under these circumstances.
You get very, very close to the actors. So have to be quiet. And you can always pretend you're watching Heat if you get bored
Even though I visit the Southbank quite regularly, I haven't actually been to the National for quite a while.
I went to a preview performance of in-i with Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan at the Lyttleton last night. It was just fantastic (if you can still get your hands on a ticket - book now!!).
The concrete jungle of the Southbank architecture provides the perfect backdrop for all things creative.
Modern pieces which rely on minimalist stage sets and the audience's imagination particularly benefit from the lack of distraction.
Yesterday's stage design consisted of a square wall and two chairs only, but ever-changing atmospheres were created with the clever use of light. I felt completely immersed in the story.
Comfortable chairs and good views from whereever you are make this the perfect theatre.
A brilliant theatre, especially when it comes to attracting young people - it doesn't just put on plays but also supports loads of projects for schools and students, including open days, tours and workshops. It's an organisation that really lets people get involved.
All three theatres in the complex have their own type of space and layout, and the productions have these in mind. There are alos great last minute ticket offers, for students and non-students alike!
The National Theatre is a London landmark worth visiting. There is always something going on here whether it's a live band in the foyer or the matinee of the latest RSC production I recommend you visit this place.
There are a number of different theatres in the one building (4 in total I think) and usually the best productions take place in the Olivier or the Lyttleton.
The tickets are really reasonable prices (compared to those of theatres in the West End) and if you are under 26 you can apply for a membership card which means all tickets are only a fiver!
I visit the National regularly and have never been disappointed by any production here. Absolutely at the forefront of British theatre, the NT champions new work as well as old masterpieces, which keeps the range fresh at all times.
While the Lyttelton and Olivier are spectacular performance spaces (and having seen the epic two-part staging of His Dark Materials I really feel that I have seen the revolve stage put to its best use), I personally love the more intimate Cottesloe most of all, and have seen some some excellent new material here.
From farcical comedy to Greek tragedy, it's all happening in this iconic building - and you can get a really decent meal, too: check out the top level restaurant for really good pre-theatre mezze platters at a decent price, or if you want to go up-market, the Mezzanine restaurant is a brilliant dining experience and is one of my favourite in London - you don't have to be seeing a play to eat here, and it's well worth the trip.
The national theatre is really something special! Its called the National Theatre for a reason, because really and truly it is the most respected and popular theatre in the whole of the UK in my opinion. You can get upto £5 tickets on certain shows and also £10 day seats. They have a saled caramel ice cream in their little cafe that is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. If you and are in London, you MUST come here.
As has been mentioned in previous reviews, this is a seriously ugly building from the outside. However they have done a good job making the inside a really nice place to be.
Unsuprisingly I love the bookshopIts brilliant for plays, biographies and other drama related text books, and I can happily while away hours in there.
The bars are all done differently, but are all nice, and they have entertainment and music in the evening in the main foyer.
In the summer the outdoor theare has a great mixture of shows that are free and often great fun.
Even if your not much of a theatre goer, the christmas shows at the National are always brilliant, and pitched well to be great for whole families from grandparents down to toddlers.
One of the best places to go in London to see such a wide array of performances from classical, to musicals, to local playwrights and international ones, The Royal National Theatre has it all. Not to mention, the lobby of the theatre hosts musicians for pre-performances music, usually some local photographer or artist's work on the top level, and it's got a very nice cafe/restaurant. Plus... entensive book store for plays, if you're into to that, which I am.
best view of the theatre is at night, walking across the Embankment bridge.
This lump of concrete on the south bank produces endless amounts of world-class theatre. With three theatres inside the building, producing 18 plus shows a year, and at ten pounds a ticket for many shows, it's cheaper and better than most london cinemas. It should be made part of law that people should visit the National.
If you've never been, go. If you do go, go more. And if you see everything there, then you're probably a critic.
A classic of "Brutalist" architecture on the Southbank, designed by Denys Lasdun, this is a stunning Grade II listed building and a wonderful place to watch both modern and contemporary theatre. Famously loathed by our very own architectural guru Prince Charles; this in itself makes it worthy of a visit, if only to make your own mind up.
Others have given a good run down on the three separate auditoria, which have housed some of the most notable productions in the UK over the past four decades. So I thought I'd mention some of the other great stuff the "National" has to offer the Londoner, or the out of towner, in search of a little bit of this great city on the cheap.
Don't feel that you need to have booked a ticket to see one of the many fine productions which are "on" at the National to put this on your itinerary for a day out South of the river. The foyers, terraces and bars/restaurants are all open free to the general public and you could do much worse than spend an afternoon chilling with the National.
This Saturday I dropped in to check out some extremely fine Cuban music in the foyer provided by the Sugar Kings, a great trio from Havana. They played an absolutely storming set and it was just perfect to be able to grab a cold Corona from the bar and then get a seat not more than a few feet from the stage. Until the summer, when the schedule slows down and you get more stuff outside, you will find music by some top notch artists pretty much every day of the week before the theatre performances and the lunchtime sessions at the weekend are always worth checking out.
After the Sugar Kings set I wandered upstairs to check out the free exhibition of Allen Ginsberg photographs: "Angelheaded Hipsters". Most of these pictures will probably already be pretty familiar to you if you are a fan of the Beats but it's a well-staged exhibition and I spent a very enjoyable hour wandering about. If you are interested in modern American literature and the "lions" from the 40's, 50's and 60's you will find this fascinating.
Another great thing about the National are the "platforms"; a series of events associated with the plays or exhibitions. These are reasonably priced lectures or happenings led by experts in the field which are run to coincide with, and complement, what's going on at the theatre. There is a "Discovering the Beat Movement" event on 19 February for a fiver which will see Barry Miles and the poet Michael Horovitz amongst others talking the stage to give you their insight into Kerouac et al - to my mind a bit of a bit of a bargain.
On your way out make sure you hang onto your wallet and check out the very well-stocked bookshop. Lots of interesting, and often hard to find, stuff and I rarely leave without a package being tucked into the man bag - I like to persuade myself that having had a free afternoon's entertainment this represents a good way of putting some money back into the theatre.
So anyway; the National Theatre, the Southbank and Brutalist architecture - I salute and thank you.
Every so often, my mum emails me to tell me she's coming to London and has booked theatre tickets. And every so often those tickets are for a show at the Royal National Theatre. And whenever that's the case, I know I'm in for a treat.
I think I've seen two of the theatre spaces here, and they're wonderfully diverse - a big traditional theatre and a small black box space. The plays are just the same; diverse and always interesting. I don't think they've ever disappointed.
I love this theatre; although enormous,it
feels intimate. I especially like the Olivier.
Grade 11 Listed Denis Lasdun building &
it still looks modern!
And now I can afford tickets with the new Travelex system :
great at £10 & £12. Best theatre in town
And outside on the approach they have a lawn for open air
concerts : fabulous idea while you wait for your performance
Just been to see The Curious Incident at the Cottesloe -
best play in years a fantastic production
Great Theatre with some fantastic additional extras such as platform talks, backstage tours and other events.
It also houses one of the best Theatrical bookshops I have ever seen, so many choices, but quite expensive, ideal for any theatre students though!
Love bistro cafe with outside seats and reasonable prices!
So not only does this place have the most amazing theatrical bookshop but also live jazz music in it's vast entrance hall.
Such a variety of things to see. My favourite being Oedipus starring Ralph Fiennes. Stunning performance and gripping storyline.
Another favourite Celebration of Pinter. A star studded cast, simple yet effectively done to remember the work of the great late Harold Pinter. And only £10! great for a drama school student :-)
Comfy seats, good views all round, great service.
I have seen some perfectly formed gems at the National. I've also seem the worst piece of theatre that I've ever seen - seriously I had to put my hands over my eyes it was so awful - one of those "If The picture of Dorian Grey starts singing I'm walking out" moments.
And the reason I've seen so much? You can get tickets for £10! The nice people at Travelex have taken pity on us theatre addicts and run a £10 Ticket promotion for SOME of the National's shows. It's easy as pie to get them as well, from either the box office or the website. It costs more than a tenner to see a film in most cinemas in the evening so ten English Pounds is a bar-gaine for performances of National theatre calibre.
The programs are easily the best value in all London as well - £3 and packed with useful information if you're quite nerdy about your theatre addiction.
I can't cope with paying full price for things. Neither can my wallet. Take this tip and experience something bigger than yourself. Even the awful thing was memorable.
Now we know why NT only costs about £10 while the Royal Opera House runs up to £100 per ticket. At the ROH they give you cough sweets to shut you up; where as the Docent thought I wanted to first buy, then borrow throat sweets when I asked for some to shut me up.
Great theatre that puts on lots of different shows (I really wanna see Comedy of Errors!). Great place to relax as there's sometimes musicians, and has a nice cafe and bar. There is currently a free exhibition going on for Landscape Photographer of the Year, and it is actually breathtaking! I highly recommend it.
The National is quite simply HOME!!!
No other theatre in London has the extensive collection of innovative, inspiring and thought-provoking plays that the National puts on. The theatre itself has multiple stages - all so intimate, enabling the play to engulf it's audience wholly into the performance.
By nightfall, it's the most beautiful building by the Thames - it outshines everything else along Southbank.
My life, my love, my home!
Sort of an intellectual theatre multiplex with multiple stages replacing screens, The National is the most reliable place in London to see some really quality theatre. Playing host to all the big names of the stage with frequent innovative stagings of everything from Shakespeare to Pinter. Tickets don't have to be frighteningly expensive, you can get £10 student deals quite easily. The terrace is also one of my favourite places for an interval drink with a twilit view of the river and some good people-watching. The 50s Brutalist architecture is also amazing.
Perhaps the proudest of South Bank institutions, the Royal National Theatre truly does set the standard for large scale theatrical production in England. As a former theatre actor I have looked to this place since childhood as beacon of accomplishment, taste and sometimes daring, and one would be remiss to disregard it as stuffy owing to its official nature. Just saw Ralph Fiennes in a new Oedipus and not for a moment did I want to poke my own eyes out. Brilliant.
Great location, great productions and great service
Although it can be hard to snare tickets for popular shows, the production value is of such a standard that it makes queuing for up to an hour for returns and stand-by worth it just to get a seat. They are commited to widening participation and a popular scheme of theirs is the Travelex £10 tickets.
They also run the National Theatre 'New Connections' programme, an initiative created to give young people the opportunity to perform in plays written by leading playwrights commissioned by the NT.
Fantastic theatre. It's obviously got a great location, on the South Bank - perfect for a pre-theatre walk along the river. They've always got an interesting selection of plays on. The theatre staff are a nice bunch too: I was there last week and some lady refused to get out of our seat. But the staff were very lovely and helpful, giving us tickets for another night. My tip would be to go sign up for the Travelex £10 ticket alert, then you can book bargain seats as soon as they come out. Previews also tend to be half price, so get in early.
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