National Theatre – Lyttleton Theatre

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Traverse staging to create bespoke tiered seating for The Effect

The National Theatre (NT) is one of the UK’s most prominent performing arts venues, and is home to three world-renowned theatres, The Olivier, Lyttelton and Dorfman Theatres. Steeldeck has a long-standing relationship with the NT and benefits from the invaluable expertise of Steeldeck team members who have previously worked within NT production departments, giving sound inside knowledge and productive collaborations.

Steeldeck are often invited by the NT to provide seating hire and staging hire solutions to support theatre performances. In July 2023, the NT restaged a production of ‘The Effect’ by Lucy Prebble in the Lyttelton Theatre.

Given the intense intimacy of the play, The Effect creative team; Director, Jamie Lloyd and Designer, Soutra Gilmour wanted a bespoke seating configuration for their traverse staging to create a stage where the audience sit either side, with the stage in between. Steeldeck worked closely with the NT Production Team to help realise this creative vision which required a complete transformation of the Lyttelton stage and auditorium installing a tiered seating bank onstage mirrored with a similar seating tier in the auditorium.

Eight months prior to the installation, we met with the NT production team for some initial planning, a site visit of the theatre and to set out the parameters of the build. We generated preliminary concept designs for the intended seating arrangements, followed by a comprehensive site survey to gain a more profound understanding of the technical requirements. A crucial part of our work was to determine the precise location of the structural supports under the existing auditorium and take into account structural calculations for both the auditorium and stage. We provided technical drawings designing bespoke audience access landings, ramps, and treads alongside our upholstered tip up seating. Working with the NT’s drawing office we finalised our structural surveys and designs in collaboration with the NT’s structural engineers as well as our own to develop a safe solution whilst ensuring the design aligned with the unique requirements of both the creative and health and safety teams.

The final designs planned for two separate and distinct seating arrangements; one constructed above the permanent Lyttelton stalls seating, and the other to be situated on stage over the Lyttelton main stage lift and revolve truck. Each of these layouts posed unique technical challenges, including considerations like point loads, audience capacity requirements, exit routes, technical control positions, access ramps, landings, and finishing touches.

The seating installation was carried out over three days and our installation completely transformed the usual look and feel of The Lyttelton Theatre which aligned brilliantly with the production design and staging. With an installation of this size, we carried out scheduled follow up inspections and general maintenance sessions throughout the hire period to ensure the ongoing high standard of installation expected from Steeldeck Rentals.

We are proud to have worked alongside the NT to deliver a tiered seating hire solution for this unique and successful production.