The National Theatre Studio (pictured) has reopened following a 15-month, £6 million refurbishment programme. Journalists were today (21 November 2007) given a guided tour around the facilities in the 1950s building at Waterloo, near the National Theatre’s main South Bank complex.

Founded in 1984, the Studio is the National's centre for research and development. The new Studio boasts double the development capabilities with a second large workshop, sound proofing and new dressing room facilities. As part of the modernisation process, disabled access to the Studio has also been added.

As part of the refurbishment, the Studio has been extended to also house the National Theatre’s extensive archive. It’s hoped that this will increase conservation standards and improve public access to the material. The Studio is located next to the Old Vic on The Cut in Waterloo and was originally built as a technical workshop.

The Studio space has always been an area where works for the National’s three stages can be developed. Actor-turned-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah workshopped his debut play, the multi award-winning Elmina’s Kitchen, in the space, and Alan Bennett’s The History Boys was also worked on here prior to its world premiere. The aim of the new, improved Studio is to provide writers, actors and practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds with a dedicated space to experiment away from the pressure of public performance. According to NT artistic director Nicolas Hytner, “the studio is the National Theatre’s engine room ... It keeps us alive”.

The new NT Studio has been dedicated to the memory of Max Rayne who was the National Theatre’s chairman from 1971 to 1988. The refurbishment was entrusted to architects Haworth Tompkins, whose other theatre renovations include the Royal Court and Regent’s Park’s Open Air Theatre. Funding for the project came from a host of sponsors including Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

- by Kate Jackson