Earlier this year, Premium tickets to see Dame Helen Mirren in ‘The Audience’ in the West End were the eye-watering price of £126.00. Yes – One Hundred and Twenty Six Pounds. EACH. Now I love the theatre and I think Mirren is an incredible actress, but even their cheaper tickets were steeply priced. Yet I managed to see this wonderful play for a mere £10 with a very good view of the stage – welcome to the world of National Theatre Live which allows you to see selected West End plays for the price of a cinema ticket.
NTLive screenings may lose a little of the atmosphere of being in a theatre, but they make up for it enormously with a mix of camera angles from around the auditorium – even birds-eye-view shots from directly above the stage – and close ups of the actors faces at poignant moments. You even get an interval (and the opportunity to eat ludicrously overpriced ice cream). ‘The Audience’ may have finished its screenings for the time being, but from 31st October is ‘Frankenstein’ by Nick Dear which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller who jointly won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in 2012 after their critically acclaimed performances where the two of them alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature.
I am already booked to see this at my local cinema in Surrey, but screenings are also showing at selected cinemas nationwide and even internationally. Upcoming shows include ‘War Horse’, famous for its breathtaking work by the Handspring Puppet Company. For further details of upcoming screenings and cinemas, go to http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/
Another useful resource is Shakespeare on Screen, live recordings of plays from Shakespeare’s Globe – over the summer I took great pleasure in going to the cinema (Vue at Purley Way, Croydon – again £10 for a cinema ticket) to see Henry V starring Jamie Parker and Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry, both of which I’d seen in 2012, both stunningly good productions. While sitting in a dark cinema will never quite match standing in the Groundling pit at the Globe, it’s still cheaper than purchasing the DVDs which are currently retailing at £19.99 from the Globe Shop. I’m not a skinflint, honest. Here’s a tidbit from Henry V:
But it’s still possible to go cheaper. Digital Theatre. For just £3.99 (yes, three pounds and ninety-nine pence) you can get a 48-hour rental of various shows which have appeared in London’s West End and further afield – I’ve even found a handful of shows available for as little as £2.99! Sign up for a free account at http://www.digitaltheatre.com/ and rented plays will stay in your online library for 30 days – you then have 48 hours from the time you first hit ‘Play’ in which to watch it. Prefer something more permanent? You can buy a play for £8.99 (or £10.99 in HD) and it’s yours to keep and watch offline at your leisure. There’s a great deal of variety on there – productions from Shakespeare’s Globe, operas, ballets, musicals and plays.
Think of the benefits! no need to wolf down dinner at a chain restaurant in order to get to the theatre on time, no worrying about making the train for the long commute home – you don’t even need to be in London in the first place. If you have children, you don’t have to mess about getting a babysitter – OK so we can’t promise you an uninterupted evening of drama or comedy, but you can hit the pause button, just as with anything on Catch Up or DVD. You could watch your download morning, noon or night and quite honestly, if you’ve got a laptop, why not watch it in bed?
So it was on Saturday morning (still in pyjamas and armed with a mountain of toast) that I sat down at my PC to watch ‘Lovesong’, a one-act play by Abi Morgan (most famous for writing BBC’s The Hour and the screenplay for The Iron Lady – she was the only Brit to win anything at this year’s Emmy Awards) produced by Frantic Assembly, a theatre company I briefly studied at university. This play intertwines a couple in their twenties with the same man and woman a lifetime later. Their past and present selves collide in this haunting and beautiful tale of togetherness.” A very moving piece of theatre which cleverly intersperses snippets of contemporary dance with dialogue, giving an honest portrayal of what it is to grow old together. This clip should give you a good idea of the filming quality you can expect:
Once again this has all the advantages of the view from the best seats, the many camera angles and close ups – whilst being able to watch this on your own terms, in your own home – with your own reasonably priced ice cream.