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The world's best theatres bring productions to you

These theatres around the world stream plays for you to enjoy a bit of culture from your sofa

Théâtre et canapé (Shows in your living room)
Photograph: Odéon Théatre Théâtre et canapé (Shows in your living room)

Future generations will talk of the pandemic that closed theatres around the world, and the time we spent without seeing any productions live and in person. Fans of the theatre will also remember how we managed to seek out plays when no venues were open. We'll agree that watching plays that were filmed was no substitute for the real thing. But we'll also remember being thankful that we'd never had so many options to enjoy the best local and international theatre productions for free right from our computer and television screens. Here you'll find our favourites of what's available now.

The best theatres offering productions online

Jane Eyre, National Theatre
Photograph: Manuel Harlan

National Theatre (London)

The National Theatre has got one of the best archives of cinema-quality filmed theatre productions, thanks to its excellent programme NT Live. Locals in Barcelona have even enjoyed these presentations in cinemas around town. Starting from April 2, the National Theatre is streaming a play every Thursday, along with extra content such as auditions, interviews and discussions. The first up are 'One Man, Two Guvnors' (April 2) by Richard Bean and starring James Corden, and 'Jane Eyre' (April 9) adapted by Sally Cookson. No news on the horizon so far of other biggies from the archives such as ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Frankenstein’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch or Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus’ starring Tom Hiddleston.

Consult the NT Live website.

‘Hamlet’ at the Schaubühne
Photograph: Arno Declair

Schaubühne (Berlin)

Welcome to one of most audacious and charismatic places on the planet. Many of the Schaubühne’s productions and some of its directors have really shone onstage –Thomas Ostermeier, Peter Stein and Katie Mitchell among them. Now the landmark Berlin theatre opens a bit of its archive every day at 6.30pm, and they don’t fall short when it comes to programming big hits from all eras, including Ostermeier’s modern takes on Shakespeare and other classic works.

Consult the Schaubühne website.

‘L’Ecole des femmes’, by Molière, directed by Stéphane Braunschweig
Photograph: Simon Gosselin

Odéon (Paris)

Cancellations of all theatre programming in France has meant the show couldn’t go on in the case of director Ivo van Hove’s production of Tennessee Williams’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’, just one of the quality productions in one of the most important theatres in Europe. But take heart, because during this confinement period, Paris’s Odéon is making some of its works available via streaming. You’ll be able to see pieces by Molière from Odéon director Stéphane Braunschweig, for example, in addition to other content such as free access to readings and podcasts.

Consult the Odéon website.

‘Hamlet’ at the Globe
Photograph: Globe Player

Shakespeare’s Globe (London)

If you can’t get enough of the works of William Shakespeare, you’re in luck, as you can see a free play every fortnight from this iconic London theatre that’s a replica of the Elizabethan original. But wait, there’s more: starting April 6, the theatre’s streaming platform, Globe Player, which normally charges per performance, offers free access for a limited time. It’s a great opportunity to see not only plays produced by the Globe itself but also some from international companies that have visited the ‘wooden O’.

Consult the Globe website.

‘El temps que estiguem junts’ at the Teatre Lliure
Photograph: Ros Ribas

Teatre Lliure (Barcelona)

Right here at home, Barcelona’s Teatre Lliure leads the way through its #showmustgoon campaign, which has enjoyed successes with such works as Pau Carrió’s ‘Hamlet’ starring Pol López, which had an impressive 10,000 views. The next piece that’s up, if you fancy practising your Catalan skills, is ‘El temps que estiguem junts’, by Pablo Messiez and the latest from the Kompaniya Lliure, which you can catch from Thursday April 2 to Saturday April 4 at 8pm, and Sunday April 5 at 6pm.

Consult the Teatre Lliure website. 

Teatro Cervantes (Buenos Aires)
Photograph: Timbre 4

Teatro Cervantes (Buenos Aires)

Keep your Spanish up as well, with productions from countries such as Argentina, which is also joining the ranks of offering productions online. The Teatro Cervantes, which enjoys its status at the national theatre, regularly uploads recordings of plays. Other venues in the 'off' scene in Buenos Aires, such as Timbre 4, are uploading works as well, in exchange for a bit of a donation. Times are tight for everyone, so if you’re at able to pitch in at all, of course it’s appreciated.

Consult the Teatro Cervantes and Timbre 4 websites.

Also find opera, ballet and more online

The Metropolitan Opera Tannhäuser
Photograph: Courtesy Marty Sohl / The Metropolitan Opera

The worlds of opera and ballet have a great advantage over the theatre in terms of ambitious stage productions that are later shown in cinemas and even streaming platforms for fans of the genre. Big culture houses host performances these days, such as New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, the Royal Opera House in London, the Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna and Barcelona’s own Gran Teatre del Liceu, which regularly broadcasts some of its productions through the My Opera Player platform.

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