Inspiration for Actors- The Sherling Backstage Walkway at the NT
As actors, we’re always seeking inspiration. Whether it’s attending a workshop to learn something new or to connect with other industry professionals, seeing a heralded actor work on stage or screen, or reading a recommended play, even when we’re not working, we’re working.
Luckily for us, London and the rest of the UK is rich with opportunities to learn. There are historic sites to visit before acting in a period drama. There is our brilliant range of theatre, ranging from the opulence of the West End to the unique tradition of pub theatre. And throughout the country, the range of accents alone is enough to keep an actor busy learning something new for months, or more likely years!
Another inspirational learning opportunity that I discovered recently is the Sherling Backstage Walkway at the National Theatre. The Sherling Backstage Walkway offers visitors views into the busy production NT workshops for set construction and assembly, scenic painting and prop-making. It is a behind-the-scenes look at how a large-scale theatre like the National really functions and it’s pretty amazing! Access is from the Gallery Level in the Dorfman Theatre Foyer and it’s absolutely free, just walk up!
You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the workshops, in one, a massive house set being built for When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, starring Martin Crimp and Cate Blanchett (in her National Theatre debut!) The props workshop houses everything from thrones to flowers to old-fashioned telephones… anything and everything that might be used in an NT play. Along the walkway, there are examples of set pieces and costumes, with more information about, for example, how they achieve a burnt look to wood or how the wigs and costumes are created.
While you’re there and in a behind-the-scenes frame of mind, check out the (again, free) exhibition Playing with Scale: How Designers Use Set Models. Production models include those from Exit the King, Antony and Cleopatra, The Life of Galileo, Antigone and The Comedy of Errors, each of which went through many iterations, taking into account the designer’s vision, the director’s vision, and how the set actually functions with getting actor on and off stage. Also included in the exhibition is a history and video of the famous five-story Drum Revolve stage, located in the National’s Olivier Theatre, another unique and integral part of how plays are presented in that space.
Seeing the sheer scale and production value of everything that happens at the National is inspirational for anyone, but as an actor, it really reinforced my goal to work there. It also reinforced the excellence that goes into everything that they do- and the continued work that actors need to do to achieve those heights.
Go and be inspired!!