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National marks 50th today with royal visit

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will have a backstage tour and watch a performance of ''Guys and Dolls''

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Happy birthday to the Royal National Theatre, which is marking 50 years since its first production - Hamlet starring Peter O'Toole - today.

To mark the occasion, the South Bank venue is receiving a lunchtime visit today from the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, who will have a backstage tour hosted by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner.

The royal couple will watch rehearsals for the forthcoming production of Emil and the Detectives, meet staff in the prop-making workshop and view a performance of a song from the musical Guys and Dolls.

The visit will conclude with the Queen unveiling a plaque to commemorate the theatre's 50th anniversary.

In its 50-year existence the National, which started life at the Old Vic before moving to its current home in 1976, has staged 800 productions.

A special 50th anniversary gala on 2 November will feature performances by some of the National's biggest stars over the years.

For more on the NT 50th celebrations, visit 50.nationaltheatre.org.uk