I’m a sucker for anything Halloween-related, so the After Hours Tour at the National Theatre was a must-do for me, especially as I wanted to go last year but it was sold out. I’ve already done a backstage tour at the National, but even though the tour went over old ground at times, there was plenty new to see.
We were taken backstage via the Dorfman Theatre (which I didn’t get to see on my last tour) and into the workshop areas where the sets are built. Some of these were ones I hadn’t been in before – one advantage of going on a late tour is that there’s no one around doing work that you need to stay out of the way of. It was looking a bit spooky in one of the rooms thanks to the giant puppets under construction for the forthcoming production of Pinocchio.
In a rehearsal room we were greeted with the sight of a (prop) dog lying in the middle of the floor – a ‘curious incident of the dog in the night time’! Fake hands were dotted about as we ventured on our way, and at one point we ran into a rather frightening gory mannequin. We learned about theatrical superstitions – the thirteen dressing rooms on each floor, for instance, have been numbered 0-12 so that no one has the dressing room with the unlucky number.
The best bit was getting to look at the props table and learn about theatrical special effects – how they get the blood to flow when someone on stage is stabbed. Some of the props were a bit gory – I passed on my chance to hold a model of a severed head, thoughtfully designed to weigh as much as an actual head.
Finally we ended up backstage at the Dorfman, where we got to see the coat worn by the ghost of Hamlet’s father during the infamous Daniel Day Lewis production. A hugely enjoyable tour – I’m glad I managed to catch it.