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The National Theatre, Located In The Centre Of Lagos – Surulere


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Brigitte Brockman



Welcome to the National Theatre, a cultural landmark located in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. Known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant performing arts scene, the National Theatre has become an iconic symbol of artistic expression in the country.


Since its establishment in 1976, the National Theatre has played a pivotal role in promoting the arts and preserving the cultural heritage of Nigeria. It serves as a platform for local and international artists to showcase their talent and creativity, fostering a sense of pride and unity within the community.


Visiting the National Theatre is a truly immersive experience. The grandeur of the building, combined with the wide range of cultural and entertainment events hosted within its premises, creates an atmosphere that is both awe-inspiring and captivating.


Whether you’re a lover of dance, music, theater, or visual arts, the National Theatre offers something for everyone. From extravagant international festivals to intimate local performances, there is always something happening here that will leave you inspired and entertained.


Beyond its artistic significance, the National Theatre is also a symbol of architectural brilliance. Designed by Ove Arup & Partners and constructed by Ahadu Auction Company, the building is a true testament to modern design and engineering prowess.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of the National Theatre, explore its impressive architecture and facilities, discover the wide array of cultural events held there, and understand the lasting impact it has had on the arts and culture scene in Nigeria.


So, join us on this journey as we dive into the world of the National Theatre, uncover its stories, and appreciate its undeniable contributions to the arts and culture of Nigeria.


History of the National Theatre

The National Theatre of Nigeria holds a prominent place in the country’s cultural history. Its construction was commissioned by the Nigerian government in the 1970s as part of a larger initiative to promote and develop the arts in the nation. The project was undertaken to commemorate the hosting of the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.


The National Theatre was designed by a consortium led by architects Fola Alade and Segun Olusanya, and construction began in 1973. The architectural team was inspired by the traditional Nigerian culture and aimed to create a structure that would reflect the country’s heritage while meeting modern design standards.


The construction of the National Theatre was a massive undertaking, with over 500 Nigerian craftsmen and artisans collaborating on the project. It took three years to complete, and the Theatre was officially opened on September 30, 1976, by General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then-Head of State of Nigeria.


With a seating capacity of over 5,000, the National Theatre quickly became a gathering place for artists and performers from all over Nigeria and beyond. Its grandeur and cultural significance made it a symbol of national pride and creativity.


Over the years, the National Theatre has hosted numerous significant events, including the FESTAC ’77, which brought together artists, writers, musicians, and dancers from around the world. This global gathering showcased the diversity and richness of African arts and culture and cemented the National Theatre’s reputation as a hub for creativity and cultural exchange.


However, like many iconic landmarks, the National Theatre faced its fair share of challenges. Neglect and lack of maintenance led to a period of decline in the early 2000s. However, in recent years, there have been renewed efforts to revitalize and restore the Theatre to its former glory.


Today, the National Theatre stands as a testament to Nigeria’s vibrant arts scene and remains a significant cultural institution in the country. It continues to attract artists, performers, and visitors who are captivated by its history, architecture, and the artistic experiences it offers.


Next, let’s take a closer look at the remarkable architecture and design of the National Theatre.


Architecture and Design of the National Theatre

The National Theatre is a masterpiece of architectural design, blending traditional Nigerian elements with modern functionality. Designed by a team led by Nigerian architects Fola Alade and Segun Olusanya, the building showcases a unique blend of contemporary and indigenous architectural styles.


The iconic structure of the National Theatre is inspired by the ancient Nigerian Nok terracotta sculptures, featuring intricate geometric patterns and motifs. The façade of the building is adorned with sculptures and reliefs that depict scenes of Nigerian culture, history, and traditions.


The main building of the National Theatre is constructed in an angular shape, resembling a hexagon when viewed from above. The external walls are clad in white Carrara marble, adding to its majestic appearance and giving it a pristine, almost ethereal, quality.


One of the most striking features of the National Theatre is its massive open-air amphitheater, which has a seating capacity of over 7,000. The amphitheater is designed with a partially covered stage and a towering backdrop, providing an impressive setting for theatrical performances, concerts, and cultural events.


Inside the theatre, the main auditorium boasts a stunning interior characterized by a voluminous space, with grand chandeliers and a vibrant color scheme. The architectural design ensures excellent acoustics, allowing for optimal sound projection and enhancing the audience’s experience.


Adjacent to the main auditorium, there are several smaller performance spaces, including exhibition halls, a cinema complex, art galleries, and rehearsal rooms. These spaces cater to various art forms and support the vibrant cultural scene within the National Theatre.


The landscape design surrounding the National Theatre is just as captivating. Lush gardens, scenic walkways, and water fountains create a tranquil and visually appealing environment. These outdoor areas offer visitors a place to relax, appreciate the beauty of the surroundings, and immerse themselves in the arts.


Overall, the architecture and design of the National Theatre embody the essence of Nigerian culture and celebrate the country’s rich artistic heritage. It serves as a visual representation of Nigeria’s commitment to promoting and preserving the arts.


Now that we have explored the architectural marvel of the National Theatre, let’s uncover the diverse facilities and amenities it offers to artists and visitors alike.


Facilities and Amenities

The National Theatre provides a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities and amenities to facilitate a vibrant and enriching experience for artists, performers, and visitors. These facilities are designed to accommodate various art forms and ensure the smooth execution of cultural events.


One of the main features of the National Theatre is its main auditorium, with a seating capacity of over 5,000. Equipped with advanced lighting and sound systems, the auditorium is the perfect venue for large-scale productions, including theater performances, music concerts, and dance recitals.


In addition to the main auditorium, the National Theatre boasts several smaller performance spaces. These include exhibition halls, galleries, and rehearsal rooms, providing versatile spaces for artists to showcase their work and rehearse their performances.


The complex also houses a cinema complex, featuring multiple screens that screen a mix of local and international films. This offers both filmmakers and movie enthusiasts a platform to appreciate and promote the world of cinema.


The National Theatre also prioritizes the comfort and convenience of its visitors. The complex offers ample parking facilities for guests, ensuring easy access to the premises. Inside the building, there are spacious areas for lounging and socializing, as well as food and beverage outlets where visitors can grab a snack or enjoy a meal.


For the artists and performers utilizing the National Theatre’s facilities, there are dedicated dressing rooms, makeup and costume rooms, and technical support to assist in their preparations and performances. These amenities contribute to a seamless and professional environment for creativity to thrive.


In recent years, efforts have been made to revamp and upgrade the facilities of the National Theatre. This includes improving the infrastructure, modernizing equipment, and enhancing accessibility to cater to the evolving needs of artists and visitors alike.


Overall, the National Theatre’s facilities and amenities are carefully designed to meet the requirements of various art forms and provide an exceptional experience for both artists and audiences. Whether you are a performer or a cultural enthusiast, the National Theatre ensures that you have access to top-notch resources for artistic expression and enjoyment.


Now that we have explored the facilities and amenities, let’s delve into the vibrant world of cultural and performing arts events that take place at the National Theatre.


Cultural and Performing Arts Events

The National Theatre is a hub of cultural and performing arts events, hosting a diverse range of shows and exhibitions that showcase the talent and creativity of artists from Nigeria and around the world. From theater performances to musical concerts, dance festivals to art exhibitions, the National Theatre offers a vibrant and dynamic calendar of events throughout the year.


One of the highlights of the National Theatre’s event lineup is its theatrical productions. Local theater groups and renowned international companies alike grace the stage, bringing captivating stories to life through their performances. From classic dramas to contemporary plays, these productions offer a diverse array of performances that appeal to a wide audience.


Music lovers are also in for a treat at the National Theatre. The complex hosts concerts by both established and emerging artists, spanning various genres such as Afrobeat, jazz, highlife, and traditional Nigerian music. These performances create an intimate and immersive musical experience, captivating audiences and showcasing the rich musical heritage of Nigeria.


Dance enthusiasts can enjoy mesmerizing performances at the National Theatre as well. The complex hosts dance festivals and showcases that bring together traditional and contemporary dance styles from different regions of Nigeria and beyond. These showcases provide a platform for both established dance troupes and emerging talents to display their skills and celebrate the art of movement.


The National Theatre is not limited to just theater, music, and dance. It also serves as a venue for art exhibitions, providing a space for visual artists to display their works in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media. These exhibitions often explore themes related to Nigerian culture, history, and contemporary social issues, fostering dialogue and appreciation for visual arts.


Beyond these regular events, the National Theatre also hosts special cultural festivals and celebrations. These include festivals that commemorate Nigeria’s independence, cultural heritage, and significant historical events, allowing visitors to engage with the diverse traditions and customs of the country.


Attending these cultural and performing arts events at the National Theatre offers a unique opportunity to witness the creativity and artistic talent of Nigeria. Whether you are a fan of theater, music, dance, or visual arts, the National Theatre provides a platform to experience the rich cultural fabric of the nation.


Now that we have explored the vibrant events that take place at the National Theatre, let’s examine the impact and significance it holds within the arts and culture scene of Nigeria.


Impact and Significance

The National Theatre holds immense significance within the arts and culture scene of Nigeria. Its impact extends beyond its architectural beauty and serves as a catalyst for artistic expression, cultural preservation, and community engagement.


First and foremost, the National Theatre plays a vital role in promoting and preserving Nigerian culture. It serves as a platform for local artists and performers to showcase their talent and express their cultural identity. By providing a space for these artists to share their stories, the National Theatre contributes to the preservation and promotion of Nigerian heritage.


Furthermore, the National Theatre acts as a hub for cultural exchange. International artists and cultural groups from around the world come together at the National Theatre to share their art forms, creating a melting pot of diverse artistic expressions. This promotes cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, fostering unity and collaboration among artists from different backgrounds.


The National Theatre has also made a significant economic impact on the local and national level. It attracts tourists, both domestic and international, who visit to experience the vibrant arts and culture scene. This contributes to the growth of the tourism industry, creating employment opportunities and boosting the economy.


Moreover, the National Theatre serves as an educational resource for aspiring artists and the general public. The workshops, exhibitions, and performances hosted at the complex offer opportunities for learning and skill development. Students of performing arts and visual arts can witness professionals in action and gain inspiration for their own artistic journeys. Additionally, the public can engage with the arts through attending performances, exhibitions, and workshops, fostering a deeper appreciation for the artistic endeavors of Nigeria.


Furthermore, the National Theatre has played a crucial role in fostering national pride and identity. It has become an iconic symbol of Nigeria’s cultural heritage, attracting visitors from all over the country to celebrate and experience the arts. The National Theatre stands as a testament to the country’s commitment to the arts and culture and enhances the national identity on a global scale.


Lastly, the National Theatre has the power to inspire and uplift individuals. Through its diverse range of artistic events, it provides a platform for emotional connection and reflection. For audience members, attending performances at the National Theatre can be a transformative experience, allowing them to be transported, entertained, and challenged by the stories and artistry on display.


Overall, the National Theatre’s impact and significance resonate throughout Nigeria’s arts and culture landscape. It serves as a beacon of creativity, a platform for expression, and a symbol of national pride. The National Theatre continues to shape the artistic narrative of Nigeria and contribute to the cultural enrichment of its people.


As we conclude our journey through the world of the National Theatre, let’s explore some nearby attractions and landmarks that visitors can explore while visiting this cultural haven.


Nearby Attractions and Landmarks

The National Theatre is located in the bustling district of Surulere in Lagos, offering visitors the opportunity to explore a variety of nearby attractions and landmarks that further enrich their experience in the area.


One of the noteworthy landmarks in close proximity to the National Theatre is the National Museum Lagos. This museum houses an extensive collection of Nigerian art, history, and archaeology, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the country’s cultural heritage.


For those seeking outdoor recreation, the Teslim Balogun Stadium is a great option. Located nearby, this multipurpose stadium hosts various sports events and provides facilities for track and field, soccer, and other athletic activities.


The Surulere National Stadium, also known as “The Stadium of Champions,” is another prominent landmark in the area. This stadium has a rich history, having hosted major sporting events and international matches.


If you’re interested in exploring vibrant markets, the Ojuelegba Market and Tejuosho Market are popular choices. These bustling markets offer a wide range of goods, from fresh produce and clothing to artwork and traditional crafts, giving visitors a glimpse into local trade and daily life.


Just a short drive from the National Theatre is the Tafawa Balewa Square, a historic public square named after Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. This square has been the venue for significant national ceremonies, political rallies, and cultural events throughout the country’s history.


For nature enthusiasts, the Lekki Conservation Centre is a must-visit destination. It is a serene nature reserve with an elevated canopy walkway that allows visitors to observe various wildlife species and immerse themselves in the beauty of Nigeria’s natural environment.


If you’re looking to relax and enjoy some leisurely activities, nearby beaches such as Elegushi Beach and Tarkwa Bay Beach offer stunning coastlines, warm sands, and opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and enjoying water sports.


Lastly, the vibrant entertainment scene of Lagos can be experienced in nearby neighborhoods like Victoria Island and Ikoyi. These areas are known for their upscale restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, providing a lively nightlife experience for those seeking entertainment after exploring the cultural wonders of the National Theatre.


With its convenient location in Surulere, the National Theatre allows visitors to discover the diverse attractions and landmarks that reflect the rich cultural fabric of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole.


As we conclude our journey through the National Theatre and its surrounding area, we hope you are inspired to immerse yourself in the arts, culture, and beauty that Lagos has to offer.



The National Theatre in Surulere, Lagos, is more than just a building; it is a cultural and artistic haven that represents the vibrancy and creativity of Nigeria. With its rich history, remarkable architecture, and diverse range of cultural events, the National Theatre has become a symbol of artistic expression and a platform for showcasing Nigeria’s cultural heritage.


From its inception, the National Theatre has played a significant role in promoting the arts and preserving Nigerian culture. Through theatrical productions, musical concerts, dance festivals, and art exhibitions, it has provided a space for artists to express themselves and engage with audiences from various backgrounds. It has also fostered cultural exchange, both within Nigeria and on an international level, showcasing the diversity and richness of African arts and culture.


The National Theatre’s impact extends beyond the artistic realm and into the economic and educational spheres. It attracts tourists, stimulating the tourism industry and boosting the local economy. It also serves as an educational resource, inspiring aspiring artists and offering opportunities for learning and skill development.


As a symbol of national pride, the National Theatre holds significant value in shaping Nigeria’s identity. It has become an iconic landmark that represents the country’s commitment to the arts and culture, and it fosters a sense of unity and pride among Nigerians.


Visiting the National Theatre is a truly immersive experience that allows visitors to appreciate the architectural beauty, immerse themselves in the arts, and engage with Nigerian culture. From the grandeur of the main auditorium to the serene landscapes surrounding the complex, every aspect of the National Theatre contributes to a captivating and enriching experience.


So, whether you are a lover of theater, music, dance, or visual arts, the National Theatre offers a space for you to indulge in your passion and explore the depth of Nigeria’s artistic scene. It is a place where creativity thrives, stories are shared, and cultural connections are made.


As you step into the National Theatre, prepare to be transported into a world of artistic wonders, where the stage comes alive with performances that ignite the senses and leave a lasting impression. Immerse yourself in the beauty, creativity, and spirit of the National Theatre, and let it inspire you to embrace the arts and indulge in the cultural richness of Nigeria.


Start your journey today and experience the magic of the National Theatre – a true gem in the heart of Lagos.