The National Theatre Company gave their first performance in 1963. It was a production of Hamlet starring Peter O’Toole. Since then, they have gone on to produce more than 600 plays. They were given a permanent home on London’s South Bank in 1976 and around 1000 plays are presented to the stage every year.
The building was designed by Denys Lasdun, one of Britain’s leading architects. It has 3 performance spaces – the Olivier, which is modelled on classical Greek theatres (and seats 1,160), the Lyttelton, which is designed like the proscenium arch theatres of the last 3 centuries (seats 890), and the Cottesloe, which harks back to the Tudor inn-yards which were the forerunners of modern theatres (seats 400). Restaurants, cafes and bars can be found throughout the building, and most of them have outside areas overlooking the Thames.
There’s a ramped entry to the Cottesloe on Cottesloe Avenue, which leads onto Level 1. There are 2 spaces for wheelchair users to watch performances on this level. The Lyttelton is accessed from Upper Ground and has 4 spaces for wheelchair users. You can also use this entrance and take a lift to the Olivier Stalls, where there are 3 spaces for wheelchair users. Disabled toilets have been installed near each of the auditoriums. There’s an infra-red sound amplification system for the hard of hearing in each of the theatres, with headsets or neck loops provided. You can find details of audio-described and captioned performances in the National Theatre programme.
Waterloo is the closest tube station (250m) and Embankment is also within easy walking distance, just across the river. The theatre has an underground car park with reserved spaces for disabled visitors, who can get a free parking voucher from the box office. There’s a charge for everyone else.
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