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Lasdun’s Lyttelton Theatre: Stalking the boards

Suzanne Waters

Donald Mill’s photograph of the first theatre in the Royal National Theatre accentuates the characteristic board-marked concrete interior – Lasdun’s particular interest

Lyttelton Theatre, Royal National Theatre  South Bank, London, 1976.
Lyttelton Theatre, Royal National Theatre South Bank, London, 1976. Credit: Lasdun Archive / RIBA Collections

Sixty years ago, Denys Lasdun was appointed as architect for the new Royal National Theatre on the South Bank and 13 years later in 1976, the Lyttelton (a proscenium style theatre) became the first of the three theatres at the National to open. Interestingly, the auditorium seating was designed without a central aisle so that audiences could be placed in the best area for seeing the stage. The access steps seen here leading down into the auditorium were positioned on either side of the seating. 

Note how photographer Donald Mill has focused on the fine board-marked concrete which was to become such a characteristic of the National Theatre, and an aspect that Lasdun was very particular about. So much so, that there is a wall in the ground floor foyer showing the results of different shuttering techniques, with examples of board-marked concrete ranging from the highly textured to the very smooth. Mill, an architect and keen architectural and landscape photographer, worked for Lasdun from 1962 until his death in 1981 and photographed many of Lasdun’s projects.