18 concerts, plays and West End shows you can stream for free
- Credit: PA
Theatre-going is currently out-of-bounds, but thanks to NT-Live plenty of contemporary shows are awaiting in the digital archives to be shared online. Here’s a round up of some of the special treats currently on offer
National Theatre Live – or NT Live as it has become affectionately known – has been one of the great theatrical innovations of the last 10 years. Pioneered by the National Theatre (hence the name) and The Royal Opera House (who should feel a little hard done by), NT Live is the live transmission of a performance from a theatre straight into cinemas dotted around the world.
The real triumph is the skillful way that these broadcasts are handled, giving audiences a genuine theatrical experience rather than simulating a television broadcast or a film screening. Before the curtain even rises you find yourself among other murmuring expectant audience members at the host theatre, looking up at the stage or glancing around at the boxes, balconies and grand circle, just as you would as if you were there.
You see the stage set up, you are left in no doubt that you are in a theatre and you enter into a pact. Suspend your disbelief and in return you become part of the experience rather than just an observer.
The cameras, situated in the auditorium, replicate the views you would get from different vantage points around the theatre. Never do the cameras interfere with the action or take you away from the fact that you are watching a live performance on stage.
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The beauty of NT-Live is that it manages to capture that ‘live’ feeling and manages to create a convincing illusion that you are there too.
NT-Live, along with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Globe and various West End companies, are making their archives available to people who maybe suffering theatre withdrawal symptoms and to those who fancy catching up on West End productions they missed or couldn’t afford before.
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Let’s face it, West End theatre may be great but it isn’t cheap, and one of the benefits of NT-Live and other live broadcasts is that it makes this great British art form available to everyone.
These shows will be available free for a limited time and will change over the coming weeks, so be sure to check back for our weekly updated listing of what is going to be available.
The National Theatre have announced that they will be streaming select productions for free on YouTube.
The first play will be Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors featuring an award-winning performance from James Corden. After a successful run on the South Bank, the production transferred into the West End and then went to Broadway. This will be released on April 2.
The second production will be Sally Cookson’s Jane Eyre. Described as “Theatre at its most imaginative” this innovative re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece was a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. This will be released on April 9.
All streamed productions will be free and screened live every Thursday at 7pm and will then be available on demand for seven days on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.
Royal Shakespeare Company:
The RSC have announced that they will be teaming up with the BBC to help bolster the nation’s spirits. Six of the RSC’s recent productions will be broadcast on BBC Four and will be made available on BBC iPlayer – including: Macbeth with Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack; Othello with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago; Romeo and Juliet with Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet; The Merchant of Venice with Makram J Khoury as Shylock; Much Ado About Nothing with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice and Hamlet with Paapa Essiedu in the title role.
The Wind in the Willows:
This critically acclaimed West End production, is being made available for free but the theatre company are asking for you to make a small donation which will be distributed to a variety of theatrical charities.
The musical, opened in June 2017, starred Rufus Hound as Toad, Simon Lipkin as Ratty, Craig Mather as Mole, Neil McDermott as Chief Weisel, Denise Welch as Mrs Otter and Gary Wilmot as Badger.
Based on the classic children’s story by Kenneth Grahame, the musical was adapted for the stage by Julian Fellowes, with music and lyrics by award-winning British composers Stiles and Drewe and directed by Rachel Kavanaugh.
Gecko Physical Theatre:
The Ipswich-based international touring company, which unveiled their latest production A Little Space, at the New Wolsey Theatre just before the Coronavirus lockdown, have put some their back catalogue of shows, including The Overcoat and The Race, on their YouTube channel as well as their BBC commission The Time of Your Life which opened a night of live performances from BBC Television Centre. You can access Gecko’s live shows here.
Shakespeare’s Globe will release 40 productions on its Globe Player service for free, to help combat boredom during the Coronavirus lockdown.
The shows are Hamlet starring artistic director Michelle Terry (2018), Romeo and Juliet with Ellie Kendrick and Adetomiwa Edun (2009), A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Michelle Terry (2013), The Winter’s Tale with Annette Badland (2018), The Two Noble Kinsmen with Brian Dick (2018) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019) with Bryony Hannah. Each show presented for two weeks on a rolling cycle from April 6.
The theatre will release all 34 of the “Globe to Globe” performances for free on the Globe Player, while other artists contributing include Sandi Toksvig, Kathryn Hunter and Jenifer Toksvig, with new resources available to help those teaching children from home. You can access The Globe Player here.
BBC: Culture in Quarantine:
The BBC have launched a new Culture in Quarantine service which will make archive performances available on BBC i-player as well as providing links to cultural programmes on BBC 4 and Radio 4. Among the first programmes to be made available are: Sondheim’s 80th Birthday Celebration – a concert at the Royal Albert Hall from 2010 featuring excerpts from hit shows A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods performed by a starry cast of leading figures of the opera and theatre worlds with Bryn Terfel, Maria Friedman and Simon Russell Beale.
Also being made available on i-player is the John Williams Film Prom from 2017 in which The BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor Keith Lockhart perform some of the best-loved music in cinema history, including movie magic from Star Wars, Harry Potter, ET and Indiana Jones as well as lesser-known gems from John Williams’s extraordinary back catalogue.