I went to see a West End theatre production recently. But I didn’t have to travel to London or pay a small fortune for my ticket; it was at Thornden Hall and the ticket was only £15.
This was one of the National Theatre Live productions – live theatre beamed to cinemas around the country.
If you’ve not tried this format of watching live theatre before, and are maybe worried that it somehow “won’t be as good”, let me reassure you. OK, it isn’t exactly the same as live theatre, but it is a very close substitute. It really is as if you were there in person.
The production quality of the broadcast can’t be faulted. We’re not talking about a couple of stagehands in the front seats with camcorders; this is a properly planned and properly directed event. The size of the projection is large so the actors are pretty much full-size; there are wide shots so we can see the whole stage, and close-ups to focus on particular speeches or action.
During the interval, you can watch short interviews or commentaries on the production, to help you understand more about it (and give you blagging ammunition when talking about “The Arts” to friends). For example, in the production I saw (St. Joan) I leaned that the permanently revolving stage wasn’t merely a device to ensure all members of the audience had an equal view of the action.
You can go to see these productions in large multiplex cinemas. But a great advantage that Thornden Hall has over a multiplex cinema is that it is a proper performance venue with a proper foyer and bar. Just like a ‘real theatre’ you can pre-order drinks for the interval -and probably at far lower cost too!
Another advantage that Thornden Hall has over the National Theatre is that it isn’t an ugly building!
Just one dilemma to cope with at the end of the performance – to applaud or not to applaud? It’s a live performance, so you feel that applause is required. But it’s also a cinema screening and the actors aren’t there to hear you, so you also feel that applause would be superfluous. On this occasion the audience decided not to applaud – but I understand that this isn’t the case with all audiences or at all venues.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable event, and I would heartily recommend anyone who hasn’t taken the plunge to try one of the broadcast theatre productions to give it a go.
Forthcoming Live Theatre Screenings at Thornden Hall include
30 March – Royal Opera House presents ‘Madame Butterfly’
10 April – National Theatre Live presents ‘Twelfth Night’
11 April – Royal Opera House presents ‘Jewels’
20 April – National Theatre Live presents ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’
11 May – National Theatre Live presents ‘Obsession’
7 June – Royal Opera House presents ‘The Dream, Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand’
10 June – National Theatre Live presents ‘Peter Pan’
3 July – Royal Opera House presents ‘Otello’
4 July – National Theatre Live presents ‘Salome’
24 July – National Theatre Live presents ‘Angels in America Part 1’
27 July – National Theatre Live presents ‘Angels in America Part 2’
31 August – National Theatre Live presents ‘Yerma’
Full details of these productions can be found on the Thornden Hall website.