National Theatre at Home
The National Theatre at Home initiative has reached a huge global audience, with productions streamed for free online on Thursdays at 7pm and then available for seven days. Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Yaël Farber and starring Sheila Atim, Danny Sapani and Gary Beadle, is available until 9 July. Then there’s The Deep Blue Sea, Terence Rattigan’s portrait of emotional turmoil in postwar Britain, staged by Carrie Cracknell and starring Helen McCrory (9-16 July); and Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, directed by Michael Longhurst, with Lucian Msamati as Salieri and on-stage orchestral accompaniment by Southbank Sinfonia (16-23 July).
“I am hella sad but I smile, smile, smile, smile all of the time,” reflects Koko Brown in Grey, the middle instalment of her incisive Colour trilogy exploring depression and black women’s mental health through spoken word, looping and song. Directed by Nicholai La Barrie and also starring Sapphire Joy, this 75-minute show is fully British Sign Language-integrated and available until 9 July. Part of Brixton House’s House to House lockdown programme.
Slam poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Yorkshire. The locations are combined in her vivid 2016 monologue, in which Lladel Bryant plays Ishmael, a young gay Zimbabwean who flees homophobic violence in his home country and seeks asylum in the UK where he is dispersed to Leeds. Alex Chisholm’s hour-long production, available on YouTube, was recorded at the Arcola theatre in London.
Some of the most bracing lockdown theatre projects are being made with young people. Created during the pandemic, National Youth Theatre’s production Tiny Dancers, written by Isley Lynn with the Playing Up company and directed by Milli Bhatia, is billed as “a funny and heartfelt look at how it feels to be together and apart”. On YouTube, 23-31 July, with a Q&A on 23 July.
Charlie Ward at Home
Close the curtains, lie down in a quiet space and give 20 minutes of your day to this theatrical installation from Sound & Fury. It’s an online version of a piece that was first performed for audiences of 10 in a makeshift hospital tent, as part of the 14-18 NOW cultural programme, and mixes footage from Charlie Chaplin’s short comedy By the Sea with the story of an injured soldier in the first world war. Free to book a ticket but donations to support freelancers during the pandemic are welcome. Runs until 20 July.
Dancing at Dusk – A Moment with Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring
Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring is usually danced on a bed of peat, its scent rising on muck-spattered bodies as Stravinsky’s music escalates. One of the most eagerly anticipated events of the 2020 dance calendar was a major international co-production of the Rite devised by the choreographer’s son, Salomon, and Germaine Acogny, known as the “mother of African contemporary dance”. Lockdown meant the initial dates were scrapped but a film of their final run-through, captured on a Senegalese beach at sunset, with a stage of sand instead of soil, is available to rent on the Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage until 31 July.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
The all-male theatre company, known for touring open-air Shakespeare productions around the UK, has postponed its Macbeth until next year but shared two past productions online: The Tempest, staged in 2018, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented last year to mark the company’s 15th birthday. They encourage you to recreate the spirit of their productions at home – “whether it is on a picnic blanket in your living room or under the stars wrapped up warm” – and share the results on social media.
In our new normal of lockdown theatre performed on platforms like Zoom, casts no longer need to assemble in the same room. Actors from different continents can appear in a live lockdown show. That’s the case with Ashputtel, presented by Bark at a Crow and MXB Studios. It’s an interactive, 45-minute version of the Cinderella story, based on a Grimm fairytale, and invites the audience to assist Ashputtel in completing her chores, partying at the palace and dealing with her sneaky stepsisters. Runs 16-18 July.
Quite simply one of 2019’s most celebrated and momentous stagings of Shakespeare. Adjoa Andoh stars as Richard and co-directs, with Lynette Linton, a superb cast entirely comprising women of colour including Shobna Gulati and Ayesha Dharker. An English history play vividly staged for today in the Globe’s candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, perfect for a play full of plotting. Available to watch on YouTube.
Directed by Jennifer Tang and Anthony Lau, this series of 10 short dramas by Moongate Productions and Omnibus theatre explores the pandemic of racism exacerbated by Covid-19 and enacted against Britain’s east and south-east Asian communities. With pieces by writers including Oladipo Agboluaje, Nemo Martin and Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, it amounts to two hours of theatre on film that incorporates animation, poetry, music and dance. Available on YouTube. Read the full review.
Anansi the Spider Re-Spun
The Guardian has partnered with the Unicorn to present a digital theatre series inspired by its 2019 production Anansi the Spider. Three tales about the mischievous folkloric webspinner, for audiences aged three to eight, are available until 27 July. They reunite the original cast of the production, Afia Abusham, Juliet Okotie and Sapphire Joy, who filmed themselves performing at home. Watch the first, second and third episodes.
Scenes for Survival
The National Theatre of Scotland was among the first theatres to announce a lockdown programme of work responding to the pandemic. Its growing collection of short films is designed to offer audiences “hope and joy”. There’s Brian Cox as Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh detective John Rebus, Two Doors Down’s Jonathan Watson as a shipyard electrician suppering from exposure to asbestos and Kate Dickie as brilliant as ever in a monologue by Jenni Fagan. The lineup of Scottish talent is extraordinary – Tam Dean Burn, Rona Munro and Douglas Henshall all contribute – and don’t miss Janey Godley’s two-hander with her adorable sausage dog. Read the full review.
No Milk for the Foxes
Mark and Spaxx are two security guards on the night shift who bicker, banter and beatbox over a compelling hour in this urgent 2015 show. Presented by Beats & Elements and Camden People’s theatre, it’s described by co-creator Conrad Murray as “a hip-hop tragicomedy about class and the inequalities in society”. This archive recording is available on YouTube until 14 July.
Dancers have finally returned to the Royal Opera House stage even if the auditorium is almost empty. A series of programmes of dance and music are being streamed in the series Live from Covent Garden. The opening programme, which includes a Wayne McGregor duet performed by Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales, is online for free. The Royal Ballet are also streaming past productions, including McGregor’s stunning Woolf Works, made in response to the novels Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves. It will be online until 9 July and features a sublime performance from Alessandra Ferri and a magnetic score by Max Richter. Romeo and Juliet will be online on 10 July and The Sleeping Beauty will be online on 24 July, each available for 14 days.
For Quality Purposes
The ever-enterprising company Stan’s Cafe have put together a season of lockdown work including a version of their 2013 show The Anatomy of Melancholy, re-conceived as 35 short split-screen films. They also have a new production, For Quality Purposes, which is set in a call centre, directed by James Yarker and devised by the company specifically to be performed online. It promises humour and pathos as it explores the dynamic between call-centre worker and customer. Online from 11 August.
Locked Down. Locked In. But Living
This is a site-specific triple bill with world premieres from three superb dance companies – making it one of autumn’s hottest online shows. Studio Wayne McGregor, Northern Ballet and Gary Clarke Company unveil pieces about isolation, choreographed by Jordan James Bridge, Daniel De Andrade and Gary Clarke respectively, and performed around the Lawrence Batley theatre’s Grade II listed building in Huddersfield. Available to watch from 28 September to 18 October; tickets cost £12.
Flute Theatre’s new interactive version of Shakespeare’s late romance is specifically designed for audiences with autism and each performance is adapted to suit individuals viewers’ needs. It is based around the concept of rides in a fairground, with each one giving a different sensory experience. Until 18 July.
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes from Home
One of the major dance productions cut short by the coronavirus crisis was Matthew Bourne’s tour of The Red Shoes, his rapturously received version of the Powell and Pressburger film. But Bourne’s company New Adventures has unveiled a charming 12-minute film version, performed by the cast from home – among children’s toys in their living rooms, on tables, in gardens and backyards, and in the kitchen. The costumes include football kits and, in one case, a couple of towels.
Antoinette Nwandu’s blistering, Beckettian play about police brutality was filmed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theatre by Spike Lee for this 75-minute version, which crackles with humour, tension and tragedy. Lee skilfully weaves the audience, and the world outside the theatre, into a work that our critic Arifa Akbar gives five stars. Available on Amazon Prime. Read the full review.
It’s not often that a play comes with its own recipe card. But that’s what audiences get with this new online adaptation of Nigel Slater’s food-filled memoir, available as an audio drama and an animated film online until 31 July. Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield reunites the West End cast of the play, with Giles Cooper as the popular cook and columnist. Read the full review.
Stopgap Dance Company’s disabled and non-disabled dancers create a mood of quiet suspension in an abandoned shopping centre in this 30-minute piece, directed by Sophie Fiennes and available from The Space. Read the full review.
The Old Vic
The Old Vic is pioneering socially distanced live performances and rehearsed readings as well as archive recordings of past productions including, from 8-14 July, Joe Penhall’s play Mood Music directed by Roger Michell and starring Seana Kerslake and Ben Chaplin.
How’s this for a lineup? The cast includes Gemma Arterton, Katherine Parkinson, Paterson Joseph and Denise Gough. The writers include James Graham, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Prasanna Puwanarajah and April De Angelis. And Ned Bennett, Blanche McIntyre, Ola Ince and Tinuke Craig are among the directors. Headlong and Century Films have assembled an extraordinarily talented gang for their 14 short films about lockdown life. On BBC iPlayer. Read the review.
Twelfth Night – Live!
St Albans’ Maltings theatre relocates Shakespeare’s play to a luxury cruise liner in the roaring 20s, with Zoom as their stage and bangers from Rihanna and Britney Spears on the soundtrack. Originally staged at the Maltings and the Rose Playhouse in London, this reconfigured interactive version is performed by 10 actors and lasts 75 minutes. On 10 July.
Reasons to Be Cheerful
The fantastic Graeae Theatre Company’s programme of digital shorts, Crips Without Constraints, has already provided plenty of reasons to be cheerful during lockdown. Now the disabled-led organisation is sharing a 2017 recording of their riotous musical tribute to Ian Dury and the Blockheads, staged at Theatre Royal Stratford East and directed by Jenny Sealey. The production blends British Sign Language and creative captioning. A separate audio-described version will also be available. Online until 3 August.
I Want My Hat Back trilogy
The Little Angel theatre has presented charming versions of three Jon Klassen picture books, directed and performed by Ian Nicholson, with characterful puppets made by Sam Wilde. I Want My Hat Back finds an otherwise polite bear taking revenge on a bad bunny who has pinched his pointy red hat. It’s eight and a half minutes of pure joy. The sequel, This Is Not My Hat, also staged on a wooden dresser and told with music by Jim Whitcher, is a kind of Grand Theft Aqua in which a tiddler has stolen a handsome green bowler from a much bigger fish. We Found a Hat completes a triumphant trilogy. All three films are online until September. The Little Angel’s digital season also includes Toby Olié’s puppet version of the Ross Collins book What Does an Anteater Eat? (online until 1 September).
“She had us, both of us, absolutely round her finger …” From that first line, Andrew Scott will have you hooked in this half-hour monologue by Simon Stephens that captures truths about family life, art, nature and much else besides. Scott performed the play at the Bush in 2008 and it was a hot ticket when he reprised it at the Old Vic 10 years later. This version was shot in a single take in 2011. Directed by Stephens and Andrew Porter, it is available to rent online. Brace yourself.
I Wish I Was a Mountain
With wonder, wit and sophisticated storytelling, performance poet Toby Thompson creates a beautiful show for over-sevens. Thompson steps in and out of his version of Hermann Hesse’s fairytale Faldum, riffing with the young audience and spinning a handful of jazz LPs. I Wish I Was a Mountain embraces big questions about time and contentment. This is a short but profound show, directed by Lee Lyford, hatched by the Egg theatre’s Incubator development programme and cleverly designed by Anisha Fields. Read the full review.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal, Pulitzer prize-winning musical about the “10-dollar founding father without a father” was filmed in New York back in 2016 with the original Broadway cast. It was slated for a 2021 cinema release but has now been fast-tracked for release on the Disney+ streaming service. It’s directed by Thomas Kail, who staged the musical, and according to Miranda gives “everyone the best seat in the house” for a show that has been one of the most wanted on both sides of the Atlantic. Read the full review.
The Royal Court, like all UK theatres, is closed due to the lockdown. But you can visit it virtually in this intriguing installation by Hester Chillingworth. The stage is still set for EV Crowe’s play Shoe Lady, as seen from Chillingworth’s static camera in the balcony. Occasionally it is cloaked in darkness and occasionally we hear messages of hope. Principally, the installation becomes a space to savour the importance of theatregoing until the Court invites audiences back to sit on those comfy leather chairs again.
Lyric Theatre in Belfast
Belfast’s Lyric had to cancel its co-production of 1984 with Bruiser Theatre Company but instead launched the initiative New Speak: Re-imagined, in which Northern Irish talents including Amadan Ensemble, Dominic Montague and Katie Richardson respond to the lockdown crisis. They are being released in episodes on YouTube. The Lyric has also collaborated on a series of five-minute drama commissions for the series Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, available on BBC iPlayer.
Mountview Live – Giles Terera Meets …
This isn’t live drama, but should be essential viewing for theatre lovers and students as the Olivier award-winning actor Giles Terera talks to top names from the industry. The hour-long conversations on YouTube include questions from Mountview Academy of Theatre students. Guests include the fabulous Noma Dumezweni, who is a Mountview honorary doctorate, Judi Dench and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Expect some nuanced questions for that last one: Terera is best known for his knockout performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.
The London theatre has launched a Southwark Stayhouse streaming programme, available free until it reopens its doors. Offerings include the “fantastically witty” Wasted, a rock musical about the Brontës, directed by Adam Lenson with music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller. There’s also a Twelfth Night relocated to a music festival, directed by Anna Girvan, and Jesse Briton’s Bound, about a maritime tragedy.
English National Ballet
Tamara Rojo’s brilliant company have a schedule of weekly streams from their archive on Wednesdays, available free for 48 hours afterwards. These are never-before-seen full-length recordings of company performances. On 8 July, it’s Christopher Wheeldon’s spectacular in-the-round version of Cinderella, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Our revels have temporarily ended in theatres but you can watch a groundbreaking effects-laden version of The Tempest, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, with a subscription (or 14-day free trial) to the online service Marquee TV. Antony and Cleopatra with Josette Simon and Richard II with David Tennant are two of the other gems in the selection of Royal Shakespeare Company plays available. But there are also six RSC productions available to watch free on BBC iPlayer: Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu, Macbeth with Christopher Eccleston, Much Ado About Nothing with Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry, Othello with Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati, Romeo and Juliet with Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick, and The Merchant of Venice with Makram J Khoury.
The tiny west London powerhouse is streaming past productions for free but welcomes donations as “we fall between the cracks of government and local authority support”. Its 2019 production of Jane Clegg, written by St John Ervine during the votes for women campaign, was the first London production of the play for 75 years and is available until 5 August. It Is Easy to Be Dead, the Finborough’s Olivier award-nominated tribute to the first world war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, received a five-star review in the Guardian. It’s available until 7 July. Debut playwright Gerry Moynihan’s 2017 modern-day production Continuity, starring Paul Kennedy as a dissident Irish Republican, is online until the end of the year. Read our review of Continuity.
The Abbey, Ireland’s national theatre, assembled an extraordinary lineup of 50 actors and 50 writers for this series of rapid-response monologues about the coronavirus crisis, self-taped by the performers from isolation. The writers include Frank McGuinness, Iseult Golden, Stacey Gregg, Sarah Hanly, Nancy Harris, Enda Walsh and David Ireland; the cast includes Nicola Coughlan, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Denise Gough, Bríd Ní Neachtain and Brendan Gleeson.
to a simple, rock’n’roll … song
It may hail the alligator and watusi dance crazes of the 60s but music from Patti Smith’s blistering 1975 album, Horses, drives some of Michael Clark’s most deliriously thrilling modern choreography in the first act of this 2017 Barbican production now on BBC iPlayer. These moves are as arresting as any guitar riff, matching Smith’s cantering repetition and a blizzard of trippy visuals from Charles Atlas. The second act celebrates Erik Satie and the third pays tribute to David Bowie.
The celebrated Berlin theatre, run by Thomas Ostermeier, is streaming a selection of archive productions, many with English subtitles, and often for one night only. It’s a rare opportunity for UK audiences to see works directed by Luc Bondy, Peter Falk and Ostermeier himself. This month’s lineup.
What Once Was Ours
A co-production by Zest Theatre and Half Moon, the two-hander What Once Was Ours follows the relationship between a pair of half-siblings and draws on real conversations with Britain’s young people in the wake of the Brexit vote. Their voices can be heard amid the conversations between Callum (Jaz Hutchins) and Katie (Pippa Beckwith). Available free online. Read the full review.
The Way Out, a single-take, 40-minute variety film, invites viewers to follow Omid Djalili through the mysterious, majestic and mundane corners of the phoenix-like Battersea Arts Centre. There are performances en route from Lucy McCormick, Le Gateau Chocolat and the hula-hooping Amazí from The Cocoa Butter Club. The film is part of the BBC’s Performance Live strand on iPlayer which includes Clowns by Hofesh Shechter; Winged Bull in the Elephant Case, in which dancers take over the National Gallery; Alexander Zeldin’s devastating Love, about Christmas in temporary accommodation; a poetry night hosted by Kate Tempest; Eggs Collective’s raucous Get a Round; and I Told My Mum I Was Going on an RE Trip, based on real stories about abortion. Full lineup for Performance Live. Read our review of The Way Out.
Five works by the Swedish choreographer are on Marquee TV, including a new work for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Eskapist, which gets a five-star review from Lyndsey Winship. On a vast stage, “Ekman offers a bombardment of fantastical images, realised with the help of Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov, who does a Mad Hatter’s couture party of eccentrically structured silhouettes.” Ekman’s other works to rent include Swan Lake and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Read the full review.
Told By an Idiot
The questing British theatre have, as they put it, been “creating the unexpected” since they launched in 1993. As their current tour of The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel has been cut short, they are sharing shows from their vast archive which is stuffed with gems. Each is available for a week only – keep an eye on their site to see what’s currently on offer.
Little Red Riding Hood
The big bad wolf is soppy rather than scary in Northern Ballet’s sweet retelling of the fairytale. He wouldn’t dream of eating gran and ends up invited to a jolly tea party instead. A spring tour of the production has been cancelled but there is a version adapted for CBeebies online. An attractive introduction to ballet’s magic. Read the full review.
What the Butler Saw
Joe Orton’s final farce, completed in the summer of 1967 just before the playwright’s death, is a subversive satire about an irrational world, set in a psychiatrist’s consulting room. Rufus Hound dons the white coat as the philandering Dr Prentice in Nikolai Foster’s 2017 production for Leicester Curve and Theatre Royal Bath. The cast includes Dakota Blue Richards and Jasper Britton. Curve’s productions of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual and The Importance of Being Earnest are also online.
The Phantom of the Opera
Obsession! Haunting ballads! A shattered chandelier! And musical theatre’s most famous mask … Enjoy one of the world’s most successful shows, presented at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The film is available to rent on Amazon. It was also streamed as part of The Shows Must Go On, a series offering a different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical each week.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new director Carlos Acosta has reworked The Dying Swan (originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova), and BRB principal dancer Céline Gittens performs the piece from her living room to yours. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux, is performed by pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais. “This is a dance of promises,” says Acosta.
You’ve watched both TV series. You’ve read the scripts. Maybe you’ve even seen the stage show more than once. But you’ll probably still be streaming Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of her wildly successful monologue, recorded at Wyndham’s theatre in London where it sold out last summer. Fleabag is available to stream on Soho theatre’s On Demand site and on Amazon Prime. All proceeds will go towards charities including the National Emergencies Trust, NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others, which provides support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Itching to get back into that wooden O on the South Bank? Happily, the Globe Player has heaps of full productions to rent, including international productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe festival such as a Lithuanian Hamlet, a Turkish Antony and Cleopatra, a Japanese Coriolanus and an Armenian King John. There is also the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’s opening production, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton. There are also free streams on the Globe’s YouTube channel.
Mushy: Lyrically Speaking
Musharaf Asghar became a reality TV star in 2013 when the schoolboy appeared on Educating Yorkshire, which documented how a teacher helped him with his lifelong speech impediment. Asghar’s tale is now the subject of a new British musical, co-produced by Rifco theatre company and Watford Palace theatre and staged last year. It’s online and free to view for the entire isolation period. Read the full review.
Imitating the Dog
The groundbreaking theatre company Imitating the Dog were midway through touring Night of the Living Dead – Remix when theatres shut down. Now, they are streaming this ambitious show in which a cast of actors remake George Romero’s classic horror film shot by shot in real time. The company have also opened up their archive to stream a selection of creations from the last 20 years. Works will be released every fortnight and are available to watch on a pay-what-you-like basis.
The Beast Will Rise
Philip Ridley’s new play The Beast of Blue Yonder was due to open at the Southwark Playhouse in London in April. It has now been postponed but a series of new monologues by Ridley responding to the current crisis have been performed online by members of the cast, starting with Gators, starring Rachel Bright. Read the full review.
Belarus Free Theatre
The internet has been vital to the success of Belarus Free Theatre, one of Europe’s most essential theatre companies, which is forced to operate underground in its restrictive home country after the government banned it on political grounds. The company – which turns 15 this year – has been streaming archive shows and stories. A School for Fools, its adaptation of Sasha Sokolov’s experimental novella, is performed live on Thursdays until 9 July. Read the full review.
Now I’m Fine
What better time is there to watch a “grand-scale experimental pop opera about keeping it together”? Ahamefule J Oluo’s innovative show, staged at Seattle’s Moore theatre in 2014, mixes standup-style routines with a mesmerising musical accompaniment and explores his experience of a rare autoimmune disease. It is one of many films, including Americana Kamikaze, that are available to stream from On the Boards. Read the full review.
Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist
With the help of a carrot, a sponge, the Miracles and some game audience members, Sam is going to tell you about five hook-ups he had through the casual encounters section of online classified-ads board Craigslist. Filmed at the Push festival in Home, Manchester, YESYESNONO’s production is an open, affecting and troubling look at searching for intimacy and connection. This hour will leave you reencountering your own life.
The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this spellbinding film of Tim Crouch’s monologue. Read the full review.
Alonzo King Lines Ballet
A handful of productions by San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King and his marvellous company Lines Ballet are available to rent on Marquee.tv. Dust and Light, Triangle of the Squinches and Scheherazade, all filmed in 2012, showcase the elegant nature of his work, which pushes beyond classical ballet. Read the full review.
The Cure’s Robert Smith tried to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies, because – all together now – boys don’t cry. A powerful piece of rhyme-packed storytelling for the over-eights, Boys Don’t is delivered by four compelling performers and based on real-life experiences of the expectations placed on “little men” throughout the generations before they even get to the playground. Presented by Half Moon theatre, it’s a Papertale production in association with Apples and Snakes, staged at Brighton festival in 2018.
Showtunes don’t get much more defiant or rousing than Don’t Rain on My Parade. Sheridan Smith wards off the clouds with a gritty rendition as Fanny Bryce in this production of the classic musical at Manchester’s Palace theatre in 2017. It’s one of the many productions available from Digital Theatre, whose offerings also include The Crucible starring Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in London, and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.
Fragments (Beckett by Brook)
Is there a more fitting playwright for our current moment of isolation, uncertainty and endurance than Beckett? In this production, filmed at the marvellously atmospheric Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2015, Peter Brook directs five Beckett shorts with a cast of three (Jos Houben, Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter). The production comprises Rough for Theatre I, Rockaby, Neither, Come and Go and Act Without Words II. Feel the rising panic and despair in Rockaby as the solitary, wide-eyed Hunter recounts a descent through long, lonely days.
Even by Pina Bausch’s standards it’s an arresting opening: a huge wall collapses on stage and across the rubble comes Julie Shanahan, in high heels and a floral frock. After desperately commanding hugs from two suitors, she takes a seat and is pelted with rotten tomatoes. And so begins an epic patchwork of masochistic rituals, nightmares and games, blending the quotidian with the phenomenal, all inspired by the choreographer’s trip to Sicily. A rare chance to watch one of Bausch’s creations in full and for free online.
At first sight they could be Pina Bausch’s dancers: a procession of performers wearing smart suits and enigmatic smiles, gliding across a stage filled with apples. Bausch’s company memorably balanced apples on their heads in Palermo Palermo, but as Smashed is created by those juggling supremos Gandini, the fruit is mostly in motion here. Their Bausch homage has the same childlike games, adult fantasy and bruised humour of the German choreographer’s work. Smashed is crisp, fresh and full of flavour. You may never look at an apple in the same way again …
Oscar Wilde season
All four productions in Classic Spring’s starry Oscar Wilde season in the West End can be watched on the online service Marquee TV, which is offering a 14-day free trial. Edward and Freddie Fox play father and son in An Ideal Husband; Eve Best is a memorable Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance; Kathy Burke directs Lady Windermere’s Fan; and Sophie Thompson is horrified by theatre’s most famous handbag in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Original Theatre Company
This touring company had to cut short its productions of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, about WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, and Ali Milles’s The Croft, which intertwines the lives of women over time on a Scottish Highland outpost. Both were filmed on their final performances to empty auditoriums and are available to rent online. Gwen Taylor stars in The Croft and Matthew Kelly is in The Habit of Art.
If you missed its run at Soho’s Boulevard theatre, here’s a chance to savour Dave Malloy’s song cycle, filmed in New York in 2015. Alternately rousing and yearning, this is a gorgeous hymn to barflies, precious memories and the joys of being a ghost, told with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and Thelonious Monk. It’s a glorious get-together of a show, as warming as the whiskey handed out to the audience – but you’ll have to pour your own.
Open Clasp is a women’s theatre company aiming to “change the world, one play at a time”. Key Change, now available to stream online, is a fantastic introduction to their consistently impressive work with women who are on the margins of society; in this case, prisoners at HM Prison Low Newton, who devised the 2015 show with the theatre group over several months in order to break down stigma and enlighten audiences. It was filmed in partnership with The Space.
You have to hunt to find full theatre productions for very young audiences online, so here’s a little treat. To mark World Day of Theatre for Children on 20 March the lovely Egg in Bath released their wintry 40-minute tale for the under-fours.
The Show Must Go Online
The actor Robert Myles has set up a live-streamed reading group for professional and amateur actors to perform Shakespeare’s complete plays in the order they’re believed to have been written. The Guardian’s very own Stephen Moss took on the role of the Duke of Burgundy in Henry VI Part I.
The School for Wives
Travel restrictions needn’t prevent you from enjoying international theatre online. Paris’s esteemed Odéon has released its 2018 production of Molière’s satirical 1662 comedy of manners and cuckoldry. Claude Duparfait stars as the foolish Arnolphe, and Stéphane Braunschweig directs. English subtitles available, évidemment. Read the full review.
Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body Is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK, but, since its livestream is still available online, you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.
The Wind in the Willows
Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe teamed up to deliver a merry new version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, staged at the London Palladium in 2017, with Rufus Hound wearing 50 shades of green as Mr Toad. It’s available to rent online, with the option to donate to help provide financial and emotional support to theatre workers.
Girls Like That
London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.
Le Patin Libre
Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities, but the Canadian troupe, Le Patin Libre, has taken the art form into a new dimension. In their double bill, Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons
Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show, Latin History for Morons, is on Netflix.
LIVR is a subscription service that enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into the headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots. The award-winning Patricia Gets Ready, written by Martha Watson Allpress, is also available from LIVR.
Timpson: The Musical
Two households, both alike in dignity … well, sort of. Our narrator, a talking portrait, lays our scene in Victorian London, and this musical comedy imagines the founding of the popular shoe-repair chain as a union between two companies, the Montashoes and the Keypulets. Watch Gigglemug Theatre’s show on YouTube.
My Left Nut
This is cheating as it’s a TV series, but BBC Three’s superb comedy drama is based on one of the most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s based on Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.
Rosas Danst Rosas
Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair.