I always enjoy taking a look behind the scenes of any theatre, so I jumped at the chance to go on a backstage tour of the Barbican. As an added bonus, the RSC‘s production of Richard II is currently playing in the theatre, so I had the chance to get close to the set and the props.
I saw the production in Stratford and again at the Barbican last week: the photos below were taken before the performance. I then booked up for the backstage tour taking place a week later. We met in the foyer at five (I had the afternoon off work) and, as the matinee theatregoers headed out of the building, we began our tour, escorted by a lovely and knowledgeable guide.
The first place we went was the Stage Door – we could see some of the actors milling about, but there was no sign of David Tennant, sadly! We went through the reception area and through some doors, taking us out into the back of the stage.
It’s hard to imagine, when you’re engrossed in a play, how much is going on backstage. There is so much machinery, and there are so many people needed to ensure all the lights come on when they are supposed to and everything moves as it should. This became even more apparent as we descended down into the bowels of the Barbican (each floor painted in a bright colour to counteract the effect of being isolated from daylight). At stage level, we explored the vast backstage area with props laid out and labelled on tables and an area for the cast to change costumes.
Finally, we were taken to the front of the auditorium for a sit down where our guide talked with genuine enthusiasm and appreciation about the play itself. Some aspects I hadn’t previously paid much attention to – such as Richard and his men being costumed in elaborate clothing, while Henry Bolingbroke and his supporters were wearing more down to earth garments.
After the tour we were let loose on the RSC costume exhibition by the foyer. I really enjoyed my glimpse backstage at the Barbican – next I’d like to go on one of their architecture tours to get an insight into how the building was constructed.