Royal National Theatre

Royal National Theatre (91)

The National, as many people call it, is more of a drama and cultural laboratory of experimentation than just a simple theatrical space. The building, located in a culturally rich area on the South bank of the Thames, was designed by  Denys Lasdun and opened in 1976. 

However, the acting company had already been formed under the baton of the mythical actor Laurence Olivier in 1963. While it did not have its own home, the National company’s headquarters was in the Old Vic.

Today, this intellectual hotbed has 3 spaces for performances. The Laurence Olivier hall, with a capacity for 1,120 spectators, is the main space. Situated above the theatre foyer, it is a modern fan-shaped auditorium in the image of the Greek theatre of Epidaurus. However, these echoes of antiquity are combined with the most cutting-edge technology, specified in the Drum Revolve, a sophisticated mechanism placed below the boards that enables fast and fluid changes of stage scenery. Despite its massive size, they say it transmits a high level of intimacy towards the spectator. 

The second venue is the Lyttleton hall, a conventional space at first sight, but possessing a subtle precision in terms of acoustics and the angle of vision. The absence of pillars and the peculiar design of the hall means, according to the heads of the Royal National Theatre, that every one of the 890 spectators has exactly the same level of quality view. 

Finally, 300 spectators can attend performances in the Cottesloe hall, reserved for the more experimental pieces. This rectangular interior space with dark walls is full of surprises. Its extreme adaptability means that the distribution of the seating is different in each production.

The National’s programme offers a unique mixture. It combines the well-known classic works with avant-garde productions. This reflects British culture itself, where the more traditional work is mixed with the latest tendencies.

Its commitment also goes beyond the moment when the curtain comes down, since here there are many activities such as courses, conferences, exhibitions and guided visits. 

The complex of the Royal National Theatre also has a bookshop and diverse restaurants and cafés that become a theatrical experience in a setting with real charm.

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