I went to the National Theatre to watch Follies for the final time and whilst I was down in London I went on the brilliant After Lights Down Tour.
So this tour is aimed at people who have already seen Follies at the National Theatre as it goes in depth of the shows design and creation. I absolutely love Follies at the National and I have written two other blogs about them so I will link them below.
The tour started off at 9:30pm on a Friday night, so I got there at 9 because they said there will be no readmittance to the tour. I spent half an hour wandering about the fantastic NT Bookshop and for a theatre enthusiast, it is a dream to be in!
We met our tour guide for the evening and she was a brilliant tour guide! She was so enthusiastic about Follies and I was actually on the last ever Lights Down tour so everyone was a Follies fan and it got me very excited for the next day in which I would be seeing Follies for the third and final time! I booked my tour tickets when I booked for Follies and I believe they were £15 which was such a bargain for an amazing tour.
The tour started off wandering through service corridors to get to the design studio. The design studio is there newest part of the building and it is where every single NT Production gets designed. Our tour guide explained the whole room and there was model boxes for productions for the future that were being designed. There were A3 laminated photos of the model box for Follies and we saw the initial idea for the set which was so interesting. They also had photos that Domonic and Vicki took in New York to help with the design. We moved on from the design studio to the Props department and we saw food props from different shows as well as a few props from Follies. I was astonished at the creativity to try and get an object to look like something else. Also because this tour is after 9:30 in the evening the lights in the rooms were turned off so it was quite exciting for the tour group to come in and switch the lights on to reveal more interesting rooms.
After we went to the set workshop where they build 80% of their own sets. The room is huge and we saw brick samples for the actual set. The bricks were made from melted plastic which was painted and textured over. I was baffled about how real the bricks looked. They mixed sand into the paint to give the gritty texture which was really creative. And the tour guide was so knowledgeable on everything! They stapled sheets of the melted plastic onto the tumbler frames of there set which seemed so weird to me because the walls look so real.
We then ventured up stairs to the Olivier Theatre rehearsal room which was so surreal because I have seen so many rehearsal photos in here. The rehearsal room is the exact size of the stage and it even had the revolve! At that time they were rehearsing Peter Gynt so there was bare set levels for the actors to rehearse on.
Then finally we headed to the stage. The Lights Down Tour is the only tour that you could go on the stage for. We started at the back and I was surrounded by black curtains masking quick change areas and I saw the Loveland set pieces. We went to see the stunning wigs and costumes that the ensemble wear and it was magical to be so close to them. After this we peaked into the orchestra section at the back and she told us that they have a gause in front to give the orchestra a ghost like feeling which I thought was clever. Then we headed to stage right to step foot on the stage. It was truly one of the most magical experiences ever. Looking up and seeing the fly’s never ending with the lighting hanging everywhere was so special. Getting up close and seeing the set was a huge highlight and what I noticed was the stage isn’t as big as it looks from the audience! It was really cool stepping on that huge drum revolve and a tech guy, who had worked at the national for 40 years, was talking to me about the show and how the set would be destroyed on Monday. I was so upset to hear that the National Theatre production of Follies will never come back. But I was so glad that I came down to see it one last time.
When I was watching the second to last show it was so weird when Sally says “why did they have to tear it down” and that was what was going to happen to the set. The tour finished at 11pm because we spent quite a lot of time on the stage. I came out the National Theatre so happy and excited for the next day.
This was a magical tour and it was on of the best things I’ve ever done. Standing on there Olivier stage was exhilarating.
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Thanks for reading!