admin On ottobre - 23 - 2011

The National Theatre’s Backstage

The National Theatre Backstage Tours lead you into a land of enchantment. Guides will take you through the backstage areas of the three theatres, following in the footsteps of the greatest actors and directors of the last 35 years, revealing the secrets that bring their work to the stage.

One can not resist the charm of the Olivier Theatre, named after Lawrence Olivier who was the artistic director for more than 10 years, but for fairness and propriety never acted in this theatre. His only whim was to choose the colour lavender for the seats apparently because it recalled him the nuance of his wife’s eyes, Vivienne Leigh…who’s eyes were actually green.

The Fly-Tower, the secret passages, the workshops where the sets are made: everything single spot is a place of wonder. The dressing room area is an endless maze decorated with posters of old performances, for navigation purposes only, to give the actors the chance to find their bearings. Apparently Julie Walters when she was performing ‘All my sons’ had lost two cues because she was totally disorientated by the vast space and labyrinth corridors.

The actors have a rehearsal room in which they may gradually get into character and get acquainted with the story they are going to live out on the actual stage, so their process isn’t too abrupt.

Shows stay up for no more than 6 months. The sets are done exclusively in the theatre’s workshop, from the carpentry, to the metal, to painting, up to the armoury where weapons are made, not to mention all of the props. Wigs are made with real hair, except when it’s curly and it’s made synthetically, whilst moustaches and beards are done using yak’s hair belly.

The astounding real-sized scenery lasts only for the show and is then dismantled and transformed for the next performance. A temporary life, that of the set construction, just as the theatrical one itself.

The National Theatre is a very young theatre, its debut occurred in 1976, too much of a  young history to have a ghost haunting the theatre. But just old enough to have a collection of over 85.000 costumes in its warehouse. Want to feel the rapture of actors travelling through time and space when they wear their theatrical robes? Well you may try them out or even hire them. Really worth trying, just as the bewildering Backstage Tours.

by Chiara Spagnoli



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