If you’ve ever fancied wandering around the back corridors and up to the high fly tower, then the Barbican is now offering backstage tours of its main theatre.
The tour groups are small, of necessity as some of the spaces are a bit cramped, although not usually as small as on my tour of just three of us, and start with an introduction to the Barbican art centre itself, and how the ravages of WWII created the space for an entire housing development and art centre to be built.
It also turns out that the architects of the Barbican had originally wanted two large multi-purpose rooms, but wisely brought in theatre designers to help, who equally wisely advised that multi-purpose spaces have to have so many compromises that they never please anyone. So the Barbican ended up with a dedicated concert hall and theatre instead. And the backstage tour is of the main theatre space.
Mainly though, the tour is a chance to walk around the back areas usually only seen by staff and actors. If you’ve never been to the Barbican’s theatre, the unusual entry through side doors will be a surprise.
What even regular visitors might not have noticed though is how the upper levels are angled forwards rather than back as is more commonplace and ensures that people are never too far from the stage even in the back seats. The seats are incidentally described as the most comfortable theatre seats in London.
Down long stairs into the depths where the theatre was dug out of the ground to get around the back and underneath the stage, which has variously been used for an orchestra, a swimming pool, or at the moment, something else for My Neighbour Totoro, and I will not spoil the surprise by revealing what.
Wandering around the back corridors, past the Green Room, and up a lift to get to the huge fly tower and a chance to peer over the edge down to the stage a long way below. Do notice the sign on the door as you go in as it certainly doesn’t say fly tower room.
A quick look outside at the lorry-sized lift that lowers delivery vans down three floors to the theatre space, and the tour is over.
It lasts about an hour and is a rare chance to wander around the back spaces of the Barbican. And lots of little details are pointed out from the shape of door handles to the reason behind the choice of paint colours for the backstage corridors.
They’re also quite decently priced at £15 standard or £12 for concessions and can be booked from here.
When booking it says to choose seats – there are no seats, just book tickets.
Due to the nature of the tour and the stage show at the moment, photos are not permitted during the tour as they want to keep the back spaces a bit of a secret to discover.