Free theatre highlights now heading online

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

As the period of lockdown that we’re all living through is formally extended, more and more theatres and theatre companies are dusting off video recordings of their back catalogue and presenting work online, much of it for free. For some, it is a chance to celebrate their greatest hits recorded to a high standard. For others, recordings may have been made for archive purposes and may not be of the best quality for viewers, but producers nevertheless want to make sure they’re not forgotten while venues are closed.

On Thursday 2 April, when the National Theatre released the NT Live recording of One Man Two Guvnors starring James Corden, the company attracted over £50,000 in donations in one evening and people around the world watched the show either on that evening or in the week that followed on YouTube. The subsequent line-up on offer includes Arthur Darvill in Treasure Island, and Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Greig.

These NT recordings will serve their casts and creative teams well. Filmed with multiple cameras and edited for cinema release, the experience of watching an NT Live show at home is not far removed from watching a TV show or a film, but in the barrage of theatre shows being offered online they are in the minority. However, maybe that is a good thing. The last thing we want is for audiences to enjoy watching a free show at home but to blur that with all their other TV or Netflix viewing as just another sofa-bound experience. These live streamed shows need to be seen as trailers for the real thing – test it online, enjoy the experience, and then come along when we’re up and running again to see how much more exciting the real thing is.

I have picked out a selection of the shows that are currently streaming online or coming soon – check them out, but watch them as tasters and then join me in heading out and filling our theatres again once the lights go back on.

On 22 April, Pilot Theatre’s adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s Crongton Knights was due to open at Theatre Peckham, so instead that’s the day the show will appear online for free. Available to watch for the duration of what would have been the run in Peckham, the show mixes music and beatboxing with storytelling as it follows six youngsters who head out on a crusade across a nearby estate.

One of a series of shows being streamed by Hampstead Theatre, Tiger Country by Nina Raine and starring Indira Varma will stream from 20-26 April and follows a group of doctors at a London hospital during a period of high pressure (though it may not quite hit the heights of pressure that the NHS are battling today!).

Streaming until 27 April, the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond is offering a production of Amsterdam, Maya Arad Yasur’s audacious thriller about an Israeli violinist who one day receives a mysterious unpaid gas bill from 1944.

Available until the end of April, Breach Theatre have released the BBC4 filmed version of It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, telling the story of the trial of Agostino Tassi, the pope’s favourite artist, who was accused of raping the 15-year-old Gentileschi.

Finally, for anyone who missed Clown Funeral’s Things We Chose To Save when it played at the Greenwich Theatre studio as part of Greenwich Performs in 2018, the show is now available online. Set in a future where memories can be recorded and edited this is a thoughtful and funny exploration of how we remember, what we remember, and why.








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