The government-subsidized powerhouse people simply call The National is the country’s, and possibly the world’s, most noted showpiece for top-flight drama and classical acting. Laurence Olivier was its first director, and the tradition of world-class performances has been unerring: Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins, Maggie Smith, and Benedict Cumberbatch have been regulars. The National always mounts a diverse repertoire of British works on its three permanent (and one temporary) theaters spanning Shakespeare to classic musicals (the Oklahoma! that made Hugh Jackman a star) to emotional spectacles (War Horse began here) to world premieres of well-made plays by the world’s best playwrights. The 2017 season includes a banner revival of Angels in America starring Andrew Garfield and Denish Gough, and Ralph Fiennes does Antony and Cleopatra in early 2018. A recent renovation made the brutalist riverside complex a pleasure to spend time in, having added several places to eat, caffeinate, or tipple, and the fascinating and free Sherling High-Level Walkway allows anyone off the street to watch the activity backstage; there’s even a periscope so kids can peer over railings into the scene shops. To find that, head down the eastern side road toward the Dorfman, go inside, and take the lift to the second level. As the people’s theater, the National’s pricing is populist. Some 100,000 tickets a year are discounted to £15 for the Travelex season ([tel] 020/7452-3000). Catch one of the 75-minute tours (£9–£13) showing off the inner workings or costume department, or shop in the lobby bookstore, a performing arts nirvana.