The National Theatre is getting £2.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help towards a major refurbishment of the listed building and facilities.
NT Future, as the project is known, recently began an extra fundraising push to find the final £10m of the £70m needed so this grant is an excellently timed fillip. The building’s barely been touched since it opened in 1976 and, much as we love it, it’s in need of some modernisation. The foyer space will be reconfigured and opened up to the South Bank path, bars and cafes will be refurbished and/or moved and a new riverside cafe and bar will be created, plus a public garden. A new public walkway overlooking the production workshops will be catnip for theatre nerds.
But the biggest change will be the complete overhaul of the small, flexible, wonderful, but not always that easy on the backside, Cottesloe Theatre. When The Effect finishes its run in a few weeks the Cottesloe will close. In 2014 it will re-open as the Dorfman Theatre (named after the Travelex Chairman who gave £10m to the NT) with more – and more comfortable – seating, better sightlines, more flexibility, more loos and the bigger foyer space it’s been in desperate need of for some time.
To make up for the lack of a third space, a temporary theatre is opening in front of the NT from April. Called The Shed, you can see it taking shape now and the first performance is set for 9 April. We recently spoke to playwright James Graham (whose play This House opens on 23 February; more on this to come) and he was very enthusiastic about The Shed:
It’s going to really change the dynamic of the National Theatre, and possibly of London theatre, because it’s going to have such an eclectic mix of work which will be more dynamic than this building normally gets to programme. So I’d definitely keep an eye on The Shed, I think it’ll be very cool.
If you feel like chipping in to the redevelopment fund you can do so via the NT Future website. If you’ve got at least £100 to spare you’ll also get your name etched into the building somewhere.