Earlier this month the Duchess was announced as Patron of the National Theatre, one of two patronages passed on by the Queen. The Times reported the Duchess joined Her Majesty for tea at Buckingham Palace to discuss potential options and the theatre seemed a perfect fit. Ahead of the announcement, Meghan enjoyed a private meeting with director Rufus Norris and they discussed plans for the role. Meghan will work with Norris as he strives to attract a young, diverse audience in the years ahead.
Founded by Laurence Olivier, the National Theatre is one of the leading arts venues in the UK. Their mission is to make world class theatre that’s entertaining and inspiring - and to make it accessible for everyone. It hopes to reach the widest possible audience and to be as inclusive, diverse and national as possible with a broad range of productions that play in London, on tour around the UK, on Broadway and across the globe.
The theatre's policies are very much in line with Meghan's beliefs and I imagine played a significant part in the selection process. A 2017 report shows a gender pay gap at the theatre close to zero. In fact it marginally favours woman, a figure far ahead of the UK average. Following a year of shocking allegations in the entertainment industry, the National Theatre has long implemented a stringent sexual harassment policy. They are also deeply committed to environmental sustainability and have set annual carbon reduction targets.
Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre said: “I would like to thank The Queen for Her Majesty’s long and unwavering support and service to the National Theatre. We were honoured 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 was patron for 45 years.
Ahead of today's visit the Palace said: "The Duchess 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. Whilst Her Royal Highness spent ten years working in television, her training is in theatre. As well as a double major in theatre and international relations from Northwestern University, the Duchess volunteered at a performing arts after school programme for children in underprivileged school districts in Los Angeles."
Meghan joined a workshop with members of the Pericles company, which was the National Theatre’s first Public Acts production in 2018.
Public Acts, which launched last year, creates extraordinary acts of theatre and community. Pericles brought over 200 people of all ages from across London together with six professional actors to breathe new life into the Shakespeare classic in a musical version.
Applause for the talented group.
Meghan was delighted to meet 13-year-old Blessing who is passionate about inspiring others through storytelling. She told the Duchess being part of Pericles allowed her to "discover more about what she could do" and improved her confidence.
Meghan enjoyed a performance of War Horse by children from Edith Neville primary school.
It turns out it wasn't the first time she had seen the young performers...
Lizzie Robinson revealed Meghan said she saw the group perform privately in December: "I snuck in and watched. I didn’t want to leave. It was fantastic. You guys did an amazing job when I saw you perform right before Christmas. So this will be like a take two."
The Mail Online reports:
'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!'
Meghan discussed the programme with staff and the importance of encouraging young people.
In 2017/18 the National Theatre staged 19 productions at the South Bank, 10 across the UK, three in the West End and six internationally. Its extensive UK-wide learning and participation programme supports young people’s creative education through performance and writing programmes like Connections, New Views and Let’s Play. The National Theatre extends its reach through digital programmes including NT Live, which broadcasts some of the best of British theatre to over 2,500 venues in 65 countries, and the free streaming service On Demand In Schools, used by nearly 60 per cent of UK state secondary schools.
Director Norris revealed Meghan was particularly interested in the heroes of Greek tragedies, which she studied at university. He then said: "the Duchess has her own production to be getting on with at the moment".
The Duchess met apprentices who are working as technicians in various departments including carpentry, metalwork and painting. Meghan told them: "From all diverse technical backgrounds, you are all coming together to make one thing. It’s so wonderful."
Omid Scobie reports:
'Artistic Director Rufus Norris first met Meghan during a private visit last December. Her partnership with the theater is a “perfect match,” he told BAZAAR.com in a roundtable interview, adding that Wednesday’s varied engagement itinerary was “absolutely led by the passion of the duchess.”
He added, “She was very clear about the areas of our work that she wanted to get an insight into. Any member of the public can come and see the shows that we do, but the other work is obviously less visible to most … and she’s been very clear that it’s that work—the community work, the national work, and the educational work—and the representation that she’s very passionate about.”
Meghan selected a soft blush pink Brandon Maxwell ensemble for the visit; the outfit is based on a look from the Spring/Summer 2019 Collection.
Meghan's dress is a modified version of the V-Neck Mini Dress (with thanks to Perth Fashion). The sleeveless dress features a relaxed silhouette and fluttering hem.
Meghan also wore the tailored Shawl Collar Blazer.
Meghan wore her Aquazzura Matilde pumps. They are described as: "Crafted in Italy from beige suede, they have a pointed toe and slim shoestring straps that wrap across the front and tie behind the ankle."
And completed the look with a pair of earrings by Canadian eco-brand Ecksand. The $575 Tresses Bar Stud earrings are described as: "These bar stud earrings are created to fit all types of ears. Handcrafted in our Canadian atelier with exclusively sustainable recycled gold, they are the perfect minimalist-chic touch to your everyday look."
A closer look at Meghan's elegant updo.