Barbican Henry IV Backstage Tour

Barbican Centre exterior. Main entrance with concrete and glass.
The Barbican Centre

Where? Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

What was on? The RSC were in residence. Henry IV Parts 1&2.

How? Book online on their website. Tours on offer vary depending on what is happening in the theatre.

Cost? £10.50 each plus booking fee. Members, concessions and under 16s: £8.40

Barbican Centre Lakeside Terrace entrance. Concrete and glass.
Barbican Lakeside Terrace entrance

The iconic Brutalist Barbican Centre building – which is Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue – was completed in 1982 and sits at the heart of the Barbican Estate. Much of the Barbican is built below the ground and at times you feel like you’ve entered a huge subterranean world!

Barbican detail of ceiling lighting. Blue squares in a circular concrete hole.
Barbican detail of ceiling lighting

It’s an odd sensation to go underground to get into the theatre, and every level you descend the walls change to a different lurid colour. The deeper you go, the brighter it gets.

The wonderful thing about the Barbican Tour is the amount of backstage access you get. By the time you’ve finished this tour, you really feel like you’d had an insight into how this theatre works.

We went half-way up the fly tower – the tallest in Europe, in its day – and looked up into the grid above and down onto the stage below. We descended under the stage and saw where a live orchestra can sit, and where the actors go when they vanish through trapdoors! We even saw a few bits of the paper ‘blizzard’ still remaining from the recent Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch.

As if this wasn’t impressive enough, we also had a chance to go on the stage itself. Although this auditorium has more than a thousand seats, the space looked and felt quite intimate from here and it was great to look up and view what we’d seen from the fly tower from the actors’ point of view. It’s also interesting to see the unusual projecting upper levels of seats which ensure everyone gets a good view in this theatre – although you might need a bit of a head for heights if you are near the top!

We continued by walking around the sides and rear of the stage, taking in a range of props, weapons, costumes and set making this tour a terrific accompaniment to seeing the show.

Barbican Estate from the Lakeside Terrace
Barbican Estate from the Lakeside Terrace

Barbican Centre exterior

Verdict: I was so impressed with this tour. We took the most incredible route, there was lots of great backstage access and I feel like I know the Barbican so well now! It’s the kind of tour you’d want to come back and take again for different productions. You can also explore the Barbican further with an Architecture Tour. Why not team it up with a National Theatre Architecture Tour for a full day of concrete enjoyment?

For more about backstage tours visit backstagetheatretours.com

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