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Duchess of Sussex makes first official visit to the National Theatre

Eleni Cashell

By Eleni Cashell Published 31 January 2019

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has made her first official visit to the National Theatre, since becoming its Royal Patron in January this year.

The Duchess certainly had a busy day at the theatre, where she got to see first-hand some of the work the National Theatre is doing with schools and communities across the UK. She also learnt all about the backstage training opportunities provided by the theatre.

And not one to just stand by and watch, the Duchess also got involved in a workshop with members of the Public Acts company led by its Director Emily Lim. The Duchess also met with Percy, Sharon and Blessing from the Public Acts company who told her about their experiences of being part of Public Acts and performing in Pericles last summer on the theatre’s Olivier stage.

Then it was time to meet current and former apprentices, who now work as theatre technicians across various departments and specialities, including carpentry, metalwork and painting. This was an important part of the Duchess’s visit, as the National Theatre launched its apprenticeship and trainee programme in 2011. This scheme provides students with an opportunity to study level 2/3 qualifications while also getting practical work experience at the same time, all guided by industry experts.

The Duchess of Sussex also heard about the impact of the National Theatre’s work with schools, meeting with Jenna Omeltschenko, the Touring Partnerships Manager. Jenna recently worked with over 60 schools across the UK on a schools’ tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which was performed to nearly 13,000 students.

The Duchess ended her visit by watching a performance inspired by War Horse by primary school children from Edith Neville Primary School from Camden which was created to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.

The Duchess was given this exclusive look around the theatre by the National Theatre’s Director, Rufus Norris, Executive Director Lisa Burger and Chair Sir Damon Buffini.

Rufus said: “It has been a pleasure to welcome The Duchess of Sussex to the National Theatre today for her first official visit as our Royal Patron. The Duchess shares our belief that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life so it has been wonderful to introduce her to members of the Public Acts company today.

“The Duchess also heard more about our work outside of London across the country as we continue to build on our national work through our tours and learning programmes. We very much look forward to working closely with Her Royal Highness in the years to come and sharing more of our work with her”.

The Royal Patron title was previously held by Her Majesty The Queen, but after 45 years, decided to pass on the Patronage to the Duchess. Megan has a background in the arts industry, including holding theatre qualifications and treading the boards as an actress on stage and screen. She’d also previously volunteered at an after-school performing arts programme for underprivileged children.

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