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383 Remodelled National Theatre

Date: October 2020
Designed by: The National Theatre, UK, Katrina Lindsay
Credit: Cameron Slater

“During lockdown, nobody really knew what the playing field was going to be like, but Rufus was very keen to make plans as much as he could for something to reopen. During an associates meeting, the idea of making the space in the round came up. That was chosen as a nice way to reopen the space, to be able to do social distancing but in a way that still felt communal. So Rufus approached me and some others to talk about it from a spatial point of view, and then I followed it through with the design digital team. [We’ve been working the plans] on and off, God, maybe since June. It was all remote and so it was all tricky, all over the computer.

[The last six months have been] er... quiet. Everything collapsed for me in March and the project that I was about to do got postponed, and all the future stuff that was in the diary got put on hold as well. As a freelancer, I haven't had anything. I've been one of those people that can't get the support. Literally, everything just stopped.

The National is lucky in that they have a big enough space to do social distancing. For a lot of theatres, it's very tricky. That's why the Olivier was chosen, as it’s a big enough space to do a social distanced event. We've kept the auditorium as it is, but I've extended the stage space out a bit and added a rostra onto the opposite end, which normally is the scenic space.

To tell you the truth, the brief is that it's not costing money, because we've used a steel deck that was around, and very low-cost materials. If this was done in another time, it would be a completely other thing, but this is very much put together through stuff that's already there. It's not going to be the most pristine finished thing, but hopefully through a bit of light and stuff like that, it will be welcoming and warm. But it's meant to be quite makeshift.

The way that an audience come into the space all has to be completely choreographed. They'll be guided in through different entrances and a very particular sequence of events. Around each person there has to be between one and two metres so immediately it throws up stuff that you've not had to think about before.

I think the idea of people being able to see live work again, having a buzz of people around the space again... when I think about the National and the South Bank, it's just always full of people and events going on. So the idea that could be happening again, it's quite emotional.”