Where: Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
When: Currently running Saturday mornings 9 January – 23 April 2016.
What’s on: The Royal Court is first and foremost a writers theatre and runs an exciting programme of predominantly new work
How: You can check times and book on their website
Cost: Tickets £7 or free on Open House Weekends
Duration? About 90 minutes
The beautiful building dates from 1888, and spent time as a theatre, then a cinema, before being bomb damaged in WW2. It re-opened in the 1952 with the English Stage Company and artistic director George Devine, committed to discovering new writer and creating new work. The third play they premiered was George Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, a play that changed the face of modern British theatre.
The building closed for refurbishments for a few years in the 90’s and re-opened bigger and better in 2000, extending underneath Sloane Square. The architects were briefed that the theatre owes everything to it’s past but looks only to the future.
We started our tour in a cozy corner of the bar called the The Ladies Room…made, fittingly from what were previously ladies public toilets, donated from the council to the theatre!
The whole building is filled with little stories and unexpected discoveries. Mirrors turn out to he secret doors. A wonderful piece of public art extends through the levels front-of-house. The lift talks to you in the voices of several famous actors. Elements such as the window covers are grilles from those ladies toilets. Even the offices are incredibly well-appointed and contain two of the original auditorium doors. Impressively, the whole building is fully accessible for visitors and staff alike.
We visited both of the theatres. The little Jerwood Theatre Upstairs has always been associated with risky work, it can be totally transformed and the design of the building makes it feel as though you are climbing into a secret attic where anything can happen.
The Jerwood Theatre Downstairs was currently home to the new Caryl Churchill play …and the stage was mainly covered with live grass which we were unable to stand on. But we still got to go onstage and feel how wonderfully intimate this performance space is. While we waited our turn to stand onstage we checked out ‘writers row’ where writers typically sit to watch their play in previews. The seats all bear the names of famous playwrights.
The named seats on ‘Writers Row’:
We had a great look backstage as well!
Our lovely guide had so many great stories to tell – which I won’t give away…you have to go and hear them on the tour!
If you want more backstage tours information, visit backstagetheatretours.com