Earlier this month it was announced that the Queen would be handing over one of her most important royal patronages – National Theatre in London – to Meghan. Following the exciting news, Meghan today made her first public visit to the National Theatre.
With a degree in theater and international relations from Northwestern University, Meghan is passionate about everything that has anything to do with the stage. Before she married Harry, Meghan volunteered at a performing-arts after-school program for children in Los Angeles, and Kensington Palace said that Meghan “is a strong believer in using the arts to bring people from different backgrounds and communities together, and this first official visit to The National Theatre will explore the work they do, as well as meeting some of the talented teams and apprentices working behind the scenes,”
A video from Meghan’s arrival
The Queen was patron for 45 years before handing it down to Meghan. Director of the National Theatre said Rufus Norris: “I would like to thank The Queen for Her Majesty’s long and unwavering support and service to the National Theatre. We were honored when The Queen became our Patron in 1974 and have celebrated many moments together including, in recent years, the Diamond Jubilee and the marking of our 50th anniversary. It is a privilege to welcome The Duchess of Sussex as our new Patron. The Duchess shares our deeply held conviction that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life. I very much look forward to working closely with Her Royal Highness in the years to come”.
The Queen and Prince Philip have attended several National Theatre productions over the years and have a particular affection for War Horse. Joey the puppet horse has performed for The Queen a number of times, notably at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 and on her 90th birthday in 2017. The Queen last visited the theatre during our 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2013.
The National Theatre is one of the biggest producing theatres in the UK and houses some of the world’s most exciting works and creatives throughout the year. Their mission is to produce world-class theatre that’s entertaining and inspiring while making it accessible for everyone. In 2017, over three million tickets were sold for productions at the venue’s three theatres and live broadcasts. The theatre was founded in 1963 after more than a century of campaigning the parliament for a national venue to represent the best of British theatre. The current building has stood on its site since 1977 and includes three separate theatres: the Olivier, the Lyttelton, and the Dorfman.
Meghan was greeted by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lambeth upon arrival
Meghan began her visit at the National Theatre by joining a workshop with members of the Pericles company, which was the National Theatre’s first Public Acts production – uniting people from the community in London with professional actors to create a new musical version of the Shakespeare play.
Meghan looked thrilled as some of the group did one of their warm-ups and then watched as individual cast members recited their lines.
She then met some of the cast, including 13-year-old Blessing, who was in a wheelchair. During their conversation, Meghan asked her about the company’s next performance. Told it was another Shakespeare – As You Like It – Meghan exclaimed: ‘Oh that’s so exciting.’
Meghan then met current and former apprentices who are working as technicians in various departments, including carpentry, metalwork, and painting. Talking to 19-year-old Sophie Naylor and 22-year-old Camille Walter-Wright, Meghan told them how she’d studied theatre design and scenery.
Complimenting them on their crafts, she said: ‘From all diverse technical backgrounds, you are all coming together to make one thing. It’s so wonderful.’ And talking about her own acting experiences, she said: ‘that whole sense of self comes out on stage.’
Meghan then caught a performance inspired by the play War Horse by primary school children, who are working with the theater’s elementary school program.
The DailyMail reported:
‘Talking about her own acting experience today, Meghan said: ‘It’s unbelievable to be out on stage, that whole sense of self that comes out…just so wonderful.’
The pupils then performed a short five-minute performance of their take on War Horse – with them recreating the WW1 trenches, historic Christmas Day football match and the end of the war. Kroni Pacolli, 10, chatted to Meghan afterwards and told her he never expected to perform for royalty. She laughed and went over to shake his hand. Kroni said: ‘We didn’t know who was coming, just that it was a VIP.
I thought maybe it was the Duke of Edinburgh or George Ezra. But then when they said it was a female VIP I thought ‘Yes! Rita Ora! I never thought I’d perform in front of the Royal Family and meet a royal! I’ve only ever seen her on TV. I’m speechless. She came and shook my hand and I’m never going to wash this hand again!’
Talking about today, the director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris said: ‘It is incredible. The duchess is a very dynamic, new member of the Royal Family so there’s a lot of interest around her. But particularly because this relationship makes absolute sense for us and for her. The Duchess obviously with her background is a very natural fit for the organization but also in the areas she is very passionate about, in terms of the education work we do, the participatory work, and the nationwide work we do. She is passionate about the impact that the arts can have – such as community building. So, we talked a lot about that, the infectious nature of people getting involved in the arts. It is absolutely related to her career.”
He continued: We had a very, very good relationship with Her Majesty the Queen and are massively grateful of the work she has put in to support this organization since she became our royal patron in 1974, but I think time moves on and if a change is going to happen, we couldn’t be more delighted in the way that it’s gone.’
Rufus was also asked when Meghan would be visiting the theatre again and he replied: ‘Absolutely a matter for Kensington Palace’ before joking ‘obviously she’s got her own production coming up.’
When peaking about the youths Meghan met, Rufus said: “She was very encouraging to them and asked them what it was like to revisit the piece of work, whether it was easy to remember their lines, and how it was to work together. That certainly is something at the forefront of the Public Act participatory project, but it is also at the forefront of what she sees the value in the arts as being – as an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together in the shared endeavor of making theatre.
We are completely delighted to have the duchess as our patron and look forward enormously to working with her and to seeing her as often as she’s got time for.’
The executive director of the National theatre Lisa Burger added: ‘Certainly the Duchess’s profile will mean that people who wouldn’t otherwise be aware of the National’s mission to make excellent theater for everyone will be made apparent to a lot more people.’
And the chairman of the National Theatre, Sir Damon Buffini described Meghan as “delightful” adding that “The children got a lot of confidence from her being in the room and listening,”
A nice video from the visit:
Our Duchess has got a few favorite labels, and right up there with Givenchy and Roland Mouret is Brandon Maxwell that she tuned up wearing today. This is the third time she has turned to the American designer; do you remember that bright yellow pencil number she wore? And the khaki shirt dress whilst on tour in Australia?
But today, the look was much more muted wearing a nude sleeveless dress from the Spring/Summer ’19 collection, over which she layered this chic shawl collar blazer.
Finally – she accessorized with the Ecksand “Tresses” Gold Bar Earrings.