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Live from the National Theatre: 50 Years on Stage

Sat Nov 2, 9-11.15pm, BBC2

Though there are still some sensitive souls in mourning for the passing of ‘Play for Today’, the fact is that there are a lot of very sensible reasons why you don’t see plays on the telly any more. But if you’re going to make an exception, it should be for this: a fiftieth-birthday bash for our nation’s flagship theatre that almost laughably out-glitzes any other British cultural event you’d care to name.

A cast of more than 100 – mostly very famous – actors, including James Corden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Lester, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith will be taking part in a sort of megamix of the NT’s ‘greatest hits’, broadcast live from its Olivier Theatre. So we’ll have Dench singing ‘Send in the Clowns’, Corden going back to ‘The History Boys’, Cumberbatch reprising ‘Frankenstein’ and so on and so forth.

It’s difficult to imagine that a revue of decontextualised play excerpts is really going to be the single most powerful thing ever to grace the Olivier stage, but it should be a slick and awesome spectacle paying appropriate tribute to the theatre’s monolithic half century.