The National Theatre company, which was formed 1963 and gained Royal status in 1988, is one of Britain’s leading theatre companies, the other being the Royal Shakespeare company.
Built in the mid 1970’s next to the Southbank centre the Royal National Theatre is another example of brutalist architecture, although this building is only Grade II listed.
The building contains three separate auditoria, the Olivier, Lyttelton and Cottesloe theatres which, present a wide variety of international classical and contemporary drama.
The largest of the three is the Olivier which was modelled on the ancient Greek Theatre at Epidaurus. It holds over a thousand seats, each with an unobstructed view of its large open stage.
Incorporated into the stage is a drum revolve which, can extend to five storeys, making the theatre an ideal place for large scale productions and musicals.
The Lyttelton Theatre is a conventional proscenium arch design and the Cottesloe (to be renamed the Dorfman Theatre in 2013) is a small, adaptable studio space.
Outside the National Theatre there is a statue of Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. He was the first Director of the long awaited National Theatre of Great Britain and has been succeeded by other famous Directors such as Sir Trevor Nunn, who introduced musical theatre to the repertoire.
At night, when the horizontal and vertical elements of the building are illuminated, the shapes against the night sky are seen as a beautiful addition to the London skyline.
There are also exhibition galleries, places to eat and drink, a bookshop and plenty of open space to sit and listen to free music and performance both inside and, especially in the summer, outside on the forecourt.