At the very heart of London’s South Bank – famous for its striking Brutalist concrete architecture – you will find our Bookshop of the Month for July, the National Theatre Bookshop. Embedded within the capital’s thriving hub of artistic and cultural life, we cannot think of a better location for a bookshop! Just take a stroll along the Thames east for a few minutes and you’ll find Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe, whilst immediately west sits the British Film Institute and Royal Festival Hall.
The shop itself boasts a vast collection of books, playtexts and gifts that perfectly accompany the performances at The National Theatre, and knowledgeable staff are on call to assist with specific queries. The shop also offers book recommendations as well as selling exclusive limited edition signed copies of some texts. We recently spoke to Tom from the National Theatre Bookshop about what the unique store has to offer!
It is finally beginning to feel like Summer! Can you choose two or three of your favourite books this season?
A new National Theatre title called Concrete Reality: Denys Lasdun and the National Theatre by Patrick Dillon is a gorgeous and highly readable account of the building of the NT, and might surprise a lot of readers with how beautiful the concrete architecture of this famously divisive building actually can be.
The NT Bookshop doesn’t just sell plays, we have a carefully curated selection of childrens’ books, bespoke gifts, merchandise, plus current fiction and non-fiction. Yale’s The Literary Churchill by Jonathan Rose is on my bedside table; a good example of a fascinating topic, well written, that’s selling well.
This one’s a bit cheeky because it’s a series of three plays called Platform, produced by Nick Hern Books and Tonic Theatre, designed for women-only casts. Written by Joel Horwood, Silva Semerciyan & Jemma Kennedy they have been hugely popular and represent an important step in the equal representation of women on stage.
Is there a book that you keep going back to re-read over and over again?
Damon Albarn’s wonder.land, a new musical based on Alice in Wonderland, is coming to the National Theatre in October, so it’s the perfect excuse to re-read. Vintage have published a gorgeous illustrated edition, designed by Vivienne Westwood.
You are closely linked with The National Theatre. How does the bookshop support performances?
The Bookshop is part of the National Theatre and all our sales support the work of the theatre.
We reflect the productions on the theatre’s four stages, not only through selling current playtexts and programmes, but also through regularly changing displays with a curated range of books & gifts relating to the themes of the productions. We like to be as creative and unique as possible, so if we can go and raid the Props department all the better!
We have an unrivalled selection of performing arts texts and a massive play wall with everything from the classics to current fringe shows. And to reflect the nature of the building being an open public space from 9.30am to curtain down, we are open until 10.45pm, for some late night/post-show browsing.
You are located in South Bank, in a vibrant cultural hub of London! What are the benefits of being there?
There are so many! There’s always some sort of activity along the riverside, as well as within the National Theatre, from exhibitions to outdoor summer events. We get a wide variety of visitors as well, from actors and regular theatre-goers, to day-trippers and tourists who’ve made a special journey to visit the NT. Being able to finish work and then have a drink or meal by the river at one the theatre’s bars or restaurants does make it a very special place.
So if you are visiting the theatre for any of their unique performances this summer – including Everyman with Carol Ann Duffy and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and wonder.land, a new musical inspired by Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland by Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini – be sure to pop by the National Theatre bookshop.
Further reading for theatre-goers: