In a previous blog post, I explored all the theatres featured in London Belongs to Me, but one theatre—the National—appeared more often than the others, so I felt it deserved its own post.
When I visit London, I probably spend more time here than anywhere else, so it made sense for me to set much of my debut novel, London Belongs to Me, within its imposing cement walls.
Its brutalist architecture isn’t loved by everyone—to quote Freddie in LBTM: “The building’s a bit…ugly though, isn’t it?” But to me and Alex Sinclair, “…she’s beautiful.” Like all the best things, beauty comes from within, and the National Theatre celebrates creativity, storytelling, and the importance of the arts. The National’s heart is in the right place and that’s why it’s so beloved.
Let’s get to know the National a little bit better since it’s so important to London Belongs to Me as well as Alex and Mark.
The National isn’t one theatre, it’s actually three.
The largest theatre is the fan-shaped Olivier with 1,500 seats, the Lyttelton is slightly smaller and offers a traditional proscenium theatre experience with 890 seats, and then there’s the baby, the 450-seat Dorfman, which has seating that can adapt into all different configurations depending on the needs of each production. The National is also home to soaring public spaces, popular bars, restaurants, and a terrific bookstore where you can purchase playtexts, theatre souvenirs, and gifts you can’t find anywhere else.
On any given day, you will find students, tourists, and writers just hanging out on the building’s various levels, or on the outside terraces. It’s a great place to kick back and take a break from the bustle of London, or get creative and work on homework or a writing project. I’ve spend many hours there, camped out in Alex’s favourite writing spot on the second floor just outside the Olivier theatre. I’ve also worked on freelance writing pieces here including my Script Lab profile pieces of Stephen Beresford, the BAFTA-award winning writer and Golden Globe nominee of my favourite movie, Pride.
If you’re planning on a visit to London, try to see a play here. The three theatres all have their own charms and different productions running through out the year.
But if you can’t get a ticket, you can still explore the National. Channel Alex and go on a tour. The National offers regular backstage tours as well as architecture tours. I’ve been on several (research!) and they’re never the same and always so much fun! You might even get to see a set before it hits the stage.
Time to relax
After learning about props, costumes, and how the National works, it’s time to relax with some refreshments. The National has something for everyone: bars (including the Long Bar where some of our fave LBTM actors worked), afternoon tea, restaurants, a riverside pub, but my favourite is Kitchen—the café frequented by many of the characters.
I won’t say much more about what happens there in my novel (spoilers, sweetie!), but it is a very important setting for London Belongs to Me, and a place that’s close to my heart (and stomach). I mean, look at the goodies…but before I give everyone a sugar rush, Kitchen does serve healthy sandwiches, soups, and salads, too (and really yummy french fries). I had to test much of the menu out for research…yeah, that’s what it was.
It was a sad day for me when the kiddie cheese sandwich in the ladybug box was taken off the menu (it was a sad for Alex too, I’m guessing). My inner 10-year-old pouted, but then I quickly cheered up over a yummy chicken caesar sandwich and a brownie. It doesn’t take much!
And their hot chocolate is TO DIE FOR! I brought a new friend with me the last time I visited in August.
And no trip to the National isn’t complete without a peruse around the bookshop. It’s so much more than just books and playtexts—although those babies are my fave things in the world! They have London souvenirs, cool items associated with current productions at the NT, and at Christmas time, they sell the most beautiful decorations. It’s always love at first sight for me—my wallet flinches every time!
If you do visit London, take some time out to see the National on the South Bank. It’s a definite must-see. And if you haven’t read about its starring role in London Belongs to Me, you can pick up your copy here. For more behind-the-scenes features related to my books, click here. xo
(all photos by Jacquelyn Middleton)
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