Somerset House, one of the UK’s most spectacular examples of 18th-century architecture, launches itself as one of the capital’s newest theatrical venues this week with the London premiere of dreamthinkspeak’s Don't Look Back.

The site-specific piece, which runs Fridays to Mondays from 28 May to 14 June 2004, explores and animates some of the hidden spaces amongst Somerset House’s 1,000 rooms. Don't Look Back, inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, has been specially developed for Somerset House by Tristan Sharps in collaboration with designer Naomi Wilkinson and composer Max Richter.

As part of the performance, audience members – admitted in groups of three at five-minute intervals - are taken through a labyrinth of rooms, many of which have been closed to the public for decades, running through the South Building via Sir William Chambers’ Nelson Stair, progressing along the Salt Stair and the even more secret Lesser Stair and Lesser Lesser Stair and including the space underneath the Courtyard called ‘Dead House’.

Formerly home to the national registry for Births, Marriages and Deaths, Somerset House now houses three major museums - the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, the Gilbert Collection and the Hermitage Rooms – attracting more than two million visitors a year. Every summer a programme of public events takes place in the Courtyard, alongside the fountains, while in the winter the space is turned into an Ice Rink provides for over 100,000 skaters.

- by Terri Paddock