With the close of all public events and entertainment venues, the much loved world of live theater was well and truly put on ice for the foreseeable future. To help bridge the gap, the National Theatre is offering access to a range of breathtaking theater productions on YouTube for free over the coming months, allowing every theater lover to get their cultural fix from the comfort of their own home!
As part of their new initiative ‘National Theatre at Home’, every Thursday night from the 2nd April onwards, the National Theatre will be making a new production available for viewing at zero cost to the viewer. People can tune in from all over the world and stream the productions for free, while students and teachers will also have access to the National Collection Theatre at home.
The first production to be released will be Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors which features a Tony Award-winning performance from James Corden, best known in the US for presenting The Late Late Show. Each production will be available to watch on demand for seven days. Further releases include Sally Cookson’s stage adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island Shakespeare’s classic comedy Twelfth Night featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia. And for those who are interested in finding out a little more, there will be a host of additional content available including cast Q&As and post-stream talks.
In a bid to assist with home education, The National Theatre Collection is also being made available as an online resource for schools, universities, libraries and the wider education sector. This will be available for the entire period that schools are closed and includes 24 productions. There are also exclusive productions from the National Theatre’s archive which have not previously been released. Organized through Bloomsbury Publishing, schools and academic institutions can request login details which can then be shared with pupils at home. The free offer will be available until the end of May and can be accessed by anyone in the global education community.
It is hoped that during this time, many people who have not been to live theater productions before may gain a new love for it and want to see more once the theaters reopen. There are many reasons why people don’t visit the theater, from costs to distance to simply never experiencing it previously so not knowing what to expect. It provides the perfect opportunity to experience some of the best productions in the industry and to do it from the comfort of your own home.
For students, it can help them to proceed with core aspects of their coursework or studies and teachers will be able to shape virtual lesson plans around the productions in order to maximise the educational aspects associated with watching the production.
For young people, it provides the perfect opportunity to expand their cultural awareness and appreciation whilst also forming the basis for educational activities and tasks. Older children can be encouraged to watch a play and write a detailed review about it. Or you may be able to find a series of questions which they can answer based on the production that they watched, critiquing the plot or the execution of the story, how close it was to the original text, what the importance of the adaptations were and how this enhanced the story when performed live.
For much younger children, small sections of the play can be watched and then discussed afterwards. They could perhaps write a short explanation of what they saw, or draw a picture of one of their favourite characters. If the segment includes a strong storyline or plot, you can ask them to predict what might happen next and then continue watching to see if they guessed correctly.
Or perhaps it could be a welcomed distraction for adults after a hectic time trying to work from home or educating the children. It could even form part of a ‘date night’ with a partner, as they settle down to watch it and imagine they were enjoying it at the theater for real. And for older people, it could provide a couple of hours of escapism and allow them to fully immerse themselves in the world of theater, despite not being able to leave their homes.
Whatever the motivation, there is no doubt that this offering by the National Theatre is nothing but positive and will help many people to pass the time over the coming months as social distancing continues to keep our much loved leisure outlets closed. It could also mark a pivotal moment in how live theater is consumed by the masses in the future, as many organizations begin to fully realize the potential that the digital world has to offer.