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The Crucible, Digital Theatre, Richard Armitage
Photograph: Johan Persson

Home stage: five ways you can still watch plays while our theatres are shut

The closure of all London theatres is sad news, but at least in the digital age there are other ways to see plays

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

1. National Theatre at Home

The country expected and the National Theatre answered: the Southbank institution has the world’s greatest treasure trove of live theatre recordings from the last ten or so years, filmed at a high enough quality to be screened in cinemas as part of its NT Live programme. Now, one will be released per week to stream for free on its YouTube channel, kicking off at 7pm GMT on April 2 with ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ starring James Corden. See the current schedule here.

2. Digital players

A lot of what you find on the internet won’t be of first-rate quality, especially as many shows that are recorded aren’t done so for broadcast. However, there are a couple of top-notch providers of ‘properly’ filmed stuff. Digital Theatre has a large archive of shows, many featuring household names such as Maxine Peake (in ‘Hamlet’) and Richard Armitage (in ‘The Crucible’). It’s available as a £9.99 a month subscription or you can pay £7.99 per show. Fans of The Bard should be particularly well set for styling out this horror: Shakespeare’s Globe has its own platform, Globe Player, with a good portion of the Man from Stratford’s works available.

3. The internet, baby!

Since London was locked down, a heartening and huge array of performers and companies have put recordings online for free, and many more seem likely to follow. We’ll be trying to make sense of it all online, but it’s A Lot, from artists opening up their archives and popping pre-existing recordings on to Vimeo or YouTube – check out Dead Centre’s magnificent head trip ‘Lippy’ – to companies that are filming their latest show in lieu of cancelled performances. We’re soon going to start trying to round them up below.

4. Live streams

It’s very easy to broadcast a stream of somebody singing or reading, and there’s a lot of very talented actors knocking around without shows to be in at the moment. Hence, there’s a lot of innovative combining of the two: initiatives like Leave a Light On and West End Acoustic: The Quarantine Sessions will feature West End stars performing live-streamed concerts. Wackier projects include The Show Must Go Online, which features the complete works of Shakespeare (him again – he’s out of copyright) being read out live.

5. The BBC

Remember when everyone used to moan about the BBC? Auntie has really stepped up to the plate in this crisis, and part of that is its ‘virtual festival of the arts’, Culture in Quarantine, which will include – among other things – screenings of Mike Bartlett’s Almeida hit ‘Albion’ and Emma Rice’s brilliant Angela Carter adaptation, ‘Wise Children’.

Jeremy Abrahams

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