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Enjoy the VIP experience with a National Theatre tour

Published: Monday 7th of January 2013

A trip to the National Theatre on London's South Bank is certainly a memorable experience, especially if one manages to book a backstage tour.

Using a London Pass visitors can get access to the UK's foremost venues for contemporary and classic theatre, which has been graced by some of the world's most famous actors and actresses.

A backstage tour is free to pass holders and allows people to see what really goes on behind the scenes, giving an insight into this glamorous and often secretive theatrical spot.

The National Theatre Tours, which are situated close to Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery run several times a day, lasting 75 minutes, but advanced booking is highly recommend as times can vary according to rehearsals and performances.

They are also incredibly busy, as people can imagine, giving viewers an incredible view off the tourist sightseeing trail.

Each group is led by a well-informed and enthusiastic guide, who can reveal the secrets and stories of the three auditoriums, which features around 18 shows every year.

Tourists can also experience a backstage visit to see the theatre at work, as well as a sneak peak at on-site scenic workshops.

What's on this month?

Hymn and Cocktail Sticks: Sunday double bills

Hymn (January 13th)

Hymn is a memoir of music in childhood written by Alan Bennett, with music by George Fenton.

According to Bennett: "In 2001 the Medici Quartet commissioned the composer George Fenton to write a piece commemorating their thirtieth anniversary. George Fenton appeared in my play Forty Years On and has written music for many of my plays since, and he asked me to collaborate on the commission. Hymn was the result."

It features a series of memoirs with music, with speeches, instrumental passages, as well as hymns and music from Bennett's childhood and youth.

The music is performed by members of the world-famous Southbank Sinfonia.

Hymn is coupled with Cocktail Sticks, which is an oratorio largely performed without music.

It cleverly revisits conversations and themes covered in Bennett's memoir, with music performed by clarinettist Rachel Elliot and cellist Chris Fish.

Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett in both pieces and bears a remarkable likeness to the author, actor, academic and screenwriter.


Port (January 22nd to 31st)

Playwright Simon Stephens and director Marianne Elliott have returned to theatre following the success of their recent collaboration on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to bring Port to the stage this month.

Set in Stockport in 1988 it follows the story of 11-year-old Rachel and six-year-old Billy who are waiting in a car excitedly.

Meanwhile, their mother is gradually getting agitated with the children's chatter and fighting and dreams of heading to Disneyland and leaving them for good.

The father, on the other hand is drunk in the flat above and has locked the door.

This pivotal moment sees the children abandoned, for the most part, and having to face a 13-year struggle of living alone without parents and growing up in the deprived suburban shadows of Manchester.

Stephens' Port is certainly a celebration of the human spirit, set against a colourful portrait of a town in flux.

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Posted by Kevin Smith

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