Harpenden Evening Decorative and Fine Arts Society

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Visit Reports

Visit to the National Theatre and Tate Modern 9th February 2017


National Theatre
A cold grey February day failed to dim the prospect of an interesting but busy day going behind the scenes at the National Theatre and viewing an exhibition of photographs from Sir Elton John’s classic collection.

The day of our tour was in a week of major set changes in both the Olivier and the Lyttleton, which allowed us to see the full extent of both the stage areas and large portions of the backstage areas from the comfort of the auditorium. We were all amazed at the size and space and the huge amount of plant and equipment involved in any staging there, such as the five-story space below the Olivier Theatre from where enormously high sets could be elevated onto the stage.

The total area of the complex is some 5 acres and has all workshops on site for building stage sets, props and wardrobe, involving a work force of around 1,000 staff.

The visit gave us all a greater appreciation of the complexities and logistics of a varied, ever changing repertoire.

Tate Modern
Following a two-hour backstage tour at the National Theatre, extended by the number of questions everyone had, it was a quick lunch and brisk walk along the South Bank to Tate Modern to visit the Radical Eye Exhibition.

The basis of the exhibition was the first part of the 20th century when artists of the modernist period explored what the human eye alone could not, with photography able to produce the world in sharp detail and a capacity to create new realities through the manipulation of light, chemicals and paper.

There was a large number and variety of photographs, some over 100 years old. Quite a few of the photographs demonstrated effects that would be difficult to achieve now and it was fascinating to see the quality achieved by the photographers.

Mike Bird