LocationUnlike many London theatres, the National Theatre is situated on the South Bank of London on the River Thames. The theatre is within close proximity of other cultural points of interest including the Southbank Centre, British Film Institute and Tate Modern, all of which put on varied arts and theatre programmes throughout the year. There are several restaurants and bars in the area to cater for the theatre and arts crowds - try the BFI bar when it’s cold, or have an al fresco cocktail on the banks of the river at the Southbank Centre during the summer months. The London Eye is also within walking distance of the National Theatre building, and St Paul’s Cathedral can be viewed across the river.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest station to the National Theatre is Waterloo on the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo and National Rail lines. From here it is a short signposted walk to the theatre.By bus: A huge number of bus services stop on the south side of Waterloo Bridge including numbers 1, 4 26, 59, 68, 76, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243, 341, 521, X68 and RV1.By taxi or car: There is a taxi rank at Waterloo station, and the National has its own car park at a charge of £8.00 per hour.
SeatingThe Olivier Theatre is the largest of the National's three auditoriums. It is known for its amphitheatre style, build half in the round around a circular (and often revolving) stage. The theatre was based on the ancient Greek Theatre at Epidaurus, with an open stage and fan shaped auditorium.
Seating surrounds the stage, split over two main levels. More expensive tickets are often at mid height in the Stalls, although there are clear views from everywhere in the auditorium. Each section offers a different way of seeing the show, with even the cheaper seats which are higher in the Circle providing excellent views of each production.
The Stalls are accessible by both lift and stairs from the main foyer. Built in a fan shape, the section is divided into a large central block with a wide central aisle and two smaller ‘slip’ sections fanning out at both House Right and House Left. The seats are very well raked, meaning that no obstructions are in the way, and you can effectively see over the audience in front of you. Cheaper seats tend to be nearer the front in all sections of the theatre, but the central section is usually more expensive giving a ‘straight on’ view of the stage. There is no overhang from the circle, so all seats are unobstructed.
The Circle is divided into three similar sized sections, fanning out around the stage. The section is above the stalls and does not overhang. The Circle is well raked, giving clear views of the stage in all rows. The seats can sometimes feel a little narrow, but leg room is on the whole very good. The expensive seats tend to be towards the centre, but the side sections also provide a solid view.
AccessibilityThe Olivier Theatre at the National is split into two main levels, the Stalls and the Circle. Entry to the building is via the Upper Ground on Theatre Square, with a lift up to the Stalls and Circle levels. The cloakroom is 11 steps up from the foyer, and there are ramps and lifts to the rear of the Stalls and Circle. There are 25 steps down to row A of the Stalls and 18 steps down to row A of the Circle. Concessions are available to all disabled patrons and their carers.
The Olivier is very well adapted for wheelchair users, with lifts and ramps linking most parts of the theatre. There are 5 wheelchair spaces at the back of the Stalls and transfer seating is available elsewhere in the section, with room for companions close by. Scooters can be stored in the foyer for transfer seating. There is an adapted toilet to the left of the Stalls corridor. The bars at the theatre all have level access, although drinks can be brought to disabled guests in their seats if preferred.
An infra-red system is installed in the auditorium, and there are two audio-described performances of each production. Guide dogs are permitted inside the auditorium or else can be left with a member of staff in the cloakroom for the duration of the show.Access bookings telephone line 020 7492 9930 or access booking form
HistoryThe National Theatre Olivier is one of three stages within the National Theatre building on London’s South Bank, and is the largest of the three. The National Theatre is one of the most successful and well-known publicly funded theatre companies in the UK, and its main residence is the controversial National Theatre building in London. A bold, concrete construction that incorporates elements of Brutalist architecture and industrial 1960s design, the building is often cited as both one of the most loved and hated in the capital, and has proved the perfect location for the experimental and boundary-breaking work that goes on within.
The Olivier stage - named after the great actor and first director of the National Theatre, Laurence Olivier - is the largest within the building and can seat up to 1160 people in its fan-shaped auditorium. There are two tiers of seats, all of which have been designed to provide a clear line of vision down to the main stage rather than being blocked by pillars or guard rails. The National Theatre Olivier is unique in its use of the ‘drum revolve’, a giant rotating stage with elevators that allows complicated pieces of scenery to be erected on the stage within seconds and creates breathtaking set pieces to enhance each production. In recent years the Olivier has hosted productions including War Horse, Women Beware Women, Hamlet, FELA! and Danny Boyle’s re-imagining of Frankenstein, all of which met with great critical acclaim. The current productions are Goldsmith’s classic She Stoops to Conquer, and Collaborators.