The Royal National Theatre, more commonly known as simply the National Theatre, is one of the United Kingdom’s most prominent theatres for both contemporary and classical theatre productions.
The brutalist building on the South Bank of the River Thames houses three separate theatres: the 1100-seat Olivier Theatre, the 890-seat Lyttleton Theatre and the 400-seat Dorfman Theatre. In addition to the three permanent theatres, open-air performances are sometimes held on the theatre’s riverside forecourt.
What to see at the National Theatre
Seeing a show at the National Theatre is a great way to experience this venue and, with prices starting at £15, it is a good value way to spend a few hours.
Taking a guided tour is another way to see the theatre. The National Theatre operates several different tours including architecture tours, backstage tours, costume tours and family tours.
The most popular of these is the 75-minute backstage tour. This tour runs at 5pm Monday–Friday and at 12 noon on Saturdays and allows you to see preparation for shows including rehearsals, prop and costume production.
The National Theatre’s costume tour runs on selected Saturdays and focuses on the theatre’s wardrobe department allowing you to see inside the cutting room and the wig room.
The Family tour is essentially a shorter (60-minute) version of the backstage tour that has been tailored to be more suitable to families with children aged 5–12.
Visiting the National Theatre
The National Theatre is located on the South Bank of the River Thames next to Waterloo Bridge. It is only a five-minute walk from Waterloo station and both Embankment and Temple tube stations are around a ten-minute walk away.
Tours can often sell out several weeks in advance and it is worth booking ahead if you want to score a tour on a specific date.
The terrace bar offers views the same as the Oxo Tower restaurant, but for a fraction of the price.
The National Theatre’s location in South Bank places it within a short walking distance to many of London’s other attractions including the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Somerset House and The Courtauld Gallery. It is also a short walk to both Waterloo and Charing Cross railway stations.