SIR LAURENCE OLIVIER was the first director of the National Theatre Company, which was launched 30 years ago at the Old Vic Theatre less than an arrow's flight from its present site on the South Bank of the Thames. The first detailed scheme for a National Theatre had been put forward almost 60 years earlier. In 1949 the British Parliament voted to fund the establishment of such a company, and in 1963 it became a reality.
The complex embraces three theaters seating 2,500 people in all, and it's a social center for people who love the performing arts. The spacious lobbies are open six days a week and offer live music, exhibitions, bookshops, guided tours, and performances out on the river terraces.
The company tries to give audiences a choice of at least six different productions at any one time, with prices geared to be accessible to all.
Each year the National presents more than 1,400 performances to some 900,000 people in London and on tour throughout the world.
* The Royal National Theatre's 1993 US tour itinerary: Sept. 11-25: Stamford, Conn. (The Rich Forum); Sept. 28-Oct. 10: New York (Brooklyn Academy of Music); Oct. 12-31: Baltimore (Morris A. Mechanic Theatre); and Nov. 2-14: Boston (Colonial Theatre).