My wife and I, often accompanied by our son and his girlfriend, have seen a number of these
NT Live productions - in fact, since going to watch Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard over a year ago now, I think we may have seen everything on offer. It's an incredibly straightforward way of getting to see some of the best theatre around - and all for the cost of a cinema seat! However, it is not only a matter of expense but one of convenience too. We live thirty odd miles from central London and West-end theatre visits mean for us a car and train journey, a rushed supper (usually from a sandwich carton) and the often fairly grim late night journey home again which never bodes well for work next morning.
Here's the list of plays seen and enjoyed so far:
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean (Hugely successful on Broadway, also showing in an encore version this Autumn)
The Kitchen by Arnold Wesker
Collaborators by John Hodge
Travelling Light by Nicholas Wright
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith
I've heard a few critics complain that theatre should only be viewed 'live' and others voice the concern that this concentrated focus on a few of the most celebrated Theatre, Opera and Ballet companies from around the world must inevitably lead to the damage and detriment of humbler venues who are unable to present on such a lavish scale. I personally think this is nonsense; as far as I am concerned being exposed to quality can only lead to an increased appetite for good stuff. In fact, a great deal of the money spent on these NT Live productions in terms of set design is probably less apparent to the cinema viewer than they are to someone sitting in the actual venue watching the production at the same moment, because we are watching a scene often in a two shot or a close up which they cannot. It is the actual theatre goer who is probably at greater risk of being distracted than those who are watching in a cinema seat. And surely, anything that encourages people to see plays new and old must only be a good thing?
I would be the first to agree that it should never become a substitute for live theatre visits - but this bi-product of digital technology is, I have to say, a wonderfully enjoyable theatrical hybrid! Within minutes you completely forget you are watching on a screen. However I have to say that at curtain call time, being unable to join in and show your appreciation for the performance does feel slightly odd.
Here are some of the plays being offered in the new season starting in the Autumn:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time from the book by Mark Haddon adapted by
The Last of the Haussmans by Stephen Beresford
Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
NT Live productions are screened right around the world. Check out what's happening here: