Behind the Scenes Tour
Attention all RSC Key members! A new discount is now available, with the ever popular Behind the Scenes Tour of our unique theatres reduced to £3.50 exclusively for Key members! This is a chance to go behind the curtain and discover the intricacies of backstage goings-on, with all the knowledge of our experienced Tour Guides at your disposal. We recently sent Kathryn, one of our Marketing Interns, round the theatres in order to give you an insider’s experience of a typical tour.
A trip behind the scenes is undoubtedly a treat for any theatre-lover, but this one hour tour of both the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre is definitely worth experiencing. Following the transformation of the theatres in 2010, the new Front of House (where the tour begins) now boasts some rather special features that could easily be missed without the tour, such as the old stage flooring that ensures you quite literally tread the same boards as many famous actors and actresses.
The first section of the tour takes you up to the third floor, where floor to ceiling windows provide a fabulous view over Stratford-upon-Avon and the RSC estate. From this vantage point it is possible to appreciate the eclectic architectural style of theatres, from the gothic Swan Theatre to the newer and more Art Deco RST. A further fascinating factor of this area includes the strategically placed theatre seats high up on the wall of the rooftop restaurant, giving you an idea of the height of the very back row of the upper circle before the theatre’s transformation.
Moving into the backstage area of the RST, the tour allows you to become privy to aspects such as the speaker layout of the entire theatre and even the RST control room. The control room provides a particularly great insight into the way a theatre like ours works. Home to the automation and lighting controls, as well as the immensely important deputy stage manager’s desk, this room overlooks the 1,040 seats of the RST auditorium – the best view in the house, unless you have a fear of heights!
The maze of backstage corridors connects the two theatres together, so the tour takes you directly from the RST into the Swan. It is in these areas that you get to see the outstations used by actors during performances – these are used both by the actors to confirm they are in position and by the deputy stage manager to cue their entrances. It is often these elements that get forgotten when you are swept up in watching a performance, but of course without these the show would quite simply not go on.
If you’re lucky, and there are no rehearsals or events taking place, you may also get to go into the Swan auditorium. For fans of the theatre’s history, this point of the tour is a great opportunity to vocalise any and all questions about the Swan’s background (such as the story of how it was funded, or its use as a wartime canteen).
Returning to the labyrinth of corridors and rooms that make up the backstage areas, the tour takes you past the dressing rooms that serve both theatres, giving you a further glimpse into the actors’ surroundings. It must be said, with warm floors and balconies overlooking the river, these rooms banish all preconceptions of cold and draughty changing rooms stuck unceremoniously in a basement area.
Throughout the tour there are always plenty of opportunities to ask questions about the current and upcoming productions, and it is guaranteed that no two tours will be the same. Without access to this kind of tour, visitors to the RSC would definitely miss out on an all-round experience of the theatres, and one that is both fascinating and educational. I urge you to take this opportunity whilst you can!
Please note: as the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon has two working theatres, tour destinations may vary. For more information about our tours please click here.