The potted Pinter review
Pictures: Frankenstein Q&A @nationaltheatre

The day of theatre tours and why it's good to ask

The-National-The_1464353c Had my friend Chris staying for a few days this week and on Thursday we ended up doing not one but three theatre tours. Two by design, one by chance.

The National Theatre backstage tour and The Globe tour and exhibition were the two by design and the New London Theatre, where War Horse is playing, by chance but I'll come onto that.

I've done the National tour before and it is excellent. You spend 80 minutes with an enthusiastic guide going behind the scenes to get a flavour of work that goes on. I've done it before but each time it is different as there are always the sets of the current productions to get up close to (Frankenstein being the draw this time although they were setting the lights so we couldn't go on stage, just behind it) as well as what is being made for upcoming productions.

In the set workshop we saw some of the forthcoming Cherry Orchard set and props being worked on as well as the set model and some of the back drops being painted for One Man Two Guv'nors. We were also lucky enough to catch a brief glimpse of the cast of the latter, including James Corden, in one of the rehearsal rooms, just before the shutters were brought down to obscure them from view.

It is certainly worth the £7.50 particularly if you have seen or are seeing one of the plays on stage at the time. Or maybe it's just me and my fascination with all things theatrical?

Contast that with The Globe tour which is more historical and about how the theatre came to be built and the context of its namesake. The tour costs £11.50 lasts 40 minutes but includes an exhibition on Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre.

It is busy with large groups and with tours starting every 15 minutes there are times when guides are competing to be heard. Inevitably a lot of the tour groups are made up of students and school kids with the disadvantages that brings in terms of noise and general crowding.

The Globe is an amazing achievement of determination and endeavour, incredibly beautiful and unique. The tour is mildly interesting and informative but you could probably glean just as much from seeing a play there. Once is enough and I'm not sure it's worth the fee.

Got some piccies on my iPhone though as the stage was empty prior to the season starting:

 

And the New London Theatre tour? Well arguably this was the best because because it was unofficial and unexpected.

My friend Chris is one of those people who not only talks to anyone but has an unashamedly bold streaks at the heart of which is the tenet: 'if you don't ask you don't get'.

On Thursday evening we were at the New London Theatre for a performance of War Horse - my birthday present to her - and she got talking to the lady and her young son sat next to us. They knew one of the actors in the play and were going to meet up with him afterwards so he could show them the puppets, sets and costumes as a special treat.

Chris being Chris, before I know it there we are at the stage door with our new 'friends' waiting for the actor to arrive and take us on our mini tour. And how fabulous it was. The puppeteer who operates the goose was on hand to give us a personal demo - I think Chris was quite smitten (with that goose, not the puppeteer although he was quite cute). We got to walk onto the stage and see the trap doors some of the actors use.

And then we went backstage and got to play with the controls of the Topthorn and Joey horse puppets, moving their ears, heads and legs as well as seeing some of the other larger props up close.

I love those horse puppets. I want one of those horse puppets complete with operators to make it come to life (can you imagine that for a 'pet'?). Even though they were safely hung up and without their human masters, I just kept expecting them to turn and look at me, move their ears to listen or do something. The puppeteers just make them come to life so effectively during the performance they feel real and I couldn't resist having a stroke and saying 'hello' - this time it was me who was smitten. Stupid I know.

We then went to the quick change dressing room to see some of the costumes, all the time asking our lovely actor tour guide questions.

It was a great end to a theatre-centric day and all due to Chris. So when you read this petal, after your Lenten internet fast, thanks very much ;0)

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