How to watch the best of British theatre from your living room
It’s been a long time since we’ve felt the excitement of spending a night at the theatre. From the orchestra tuning their instruments, stars singing in the spotlight and the final curtain call, there’s nothing quite like watching a mesmerising performance on stage. But, even with theatres shut for the foreseeable future, there’s still plenty of opportunity to satisfy your craving for plays, musicals and even more entertainment.
We’ll be keeping this page updated with the latest ways to stay in touch with the best of British theatre, podcasts and series. There’s guaranteed to be at least something that you’ve never seen before, so make it an occasion to grab front-row seats to the opening and closing night of a production in your living room.
We hope this is a quick fix, and a temporary solution before we can all experience the rush of seeing a live performance. But for now, here’s the ways we’ll be watching all the newest shows.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Before Stratford-upon-Avon welcomes theatregoers back in December, tune into livestreamed events direct from the spiritual home of Shakespeare. On 5 December, David Walliams reads excerpts of The Boy in the Dress, which made its world premiere in the Midlands last year. Cast members will also perform hit songs, ahead of the soundtrack's release. Or, if you're looking for an epic drama, check out Troy Story; the entire Trojan War is recounted in five hours. As Christmas creeps up on us, there's also Festive Tales to look forward to, complete with carols and readings.
English National Ballet
English National Ballet’s ‘ENB at HOME’ programme continues to provide free access to full-length ballets and online content. English National Ballet invites audiences around the world to enjoy never before seen full-length recordings. They've also released two new services: Ballet On Demand and BalletActive, allowing users to take part in ballet-based classes. Five original films have been confirmed:
23 November: Take Five Blues
30 November: Senseless Kindness
7 December: Laid in Earth
14 December: Echoes
21 December: Jolly Folly
Amazon Prime Video have teamed up with Soho Theatre to produce three series of high-quality comedies! The first season will be available on 3 Dec. 2020, featuring 11 shows previously filmed at the off-West End venue. The line-up for two forthcoming seasons are to be confirmed.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, thanks to Sandi Toksvig. Look forward to the online performance of Christmas at the Snow(Globe), following a child who discovers the magic of the season. To help share the Christmas cheer with as many people as possible, the Globe are offering all UK care homes and children's hospitals Christmas at the (Snow) Globe for free. It's available to watch from 21 December to 5 Jan. 2021.
Sadler's Wells' Digital Stage Programme
Sadler's Wells has introduced Digital Stage, its free online dance programme. Performances are screened live every Friday at 7.30pm via Sadler’s Wells’ Facebook page, and are then available to watch on demand on its Facebook or YouTube channels for one week thereafter. Upcoming productions include:
- Sadler's Wells' Zoonation x Kate Prince Company - 19-30 October
- Arielle Smith's Jolly Folly - 19-21 November
- Overflow - 27-28 November
The broadcaster has now made their arts channel free to watch without a subscription. From 18 September, you'll be able to tune in to the channel's original programming, including a Danny Dyer documentary about Harold Pinter. Sky Arts will exclusively air a brand-new drama from Theatre Royal Stratford East. Titled 'No Masks', the show will follow key workers in East London during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Harry Potter Online Reading by Daniel Radcliffe, Noma Dumezweni, Eddie Redmayne and more
The Harry Potter novels have captured the imagination, with people young and old spellbound by the Hogwarts magic. Now, famous faces will be contributing to an online reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first book in the series, over the coming weeks.
The series has kicked off with Daniel Radcliffe reading the first chapter of the book, with guest readers taking on parts of the original novel from the seven-part Harry Potter series. Other readers involved include Noma Dumezweni (who originated the role of Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Eddie Redmayne (who led the cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Stephen Fry (who read the audiobooks for all seven Harry Potters), Claudia Kim (who played Nagini in The Crimes of Grindelwald), Dakota Fanning, David Beckham and even more to be revealed.
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have released Sonnets in Solitude, a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets self-recorded by RSC actors while in lockdown. Many of the actors were working with the RSC at the time of the theatre’s temporary closure on 17th March and have been unable to perform or rehearse since. RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran said: “The sonnets are so intimate, confidential and direct, and watching them being performed in this way captures that immediately. Perhaps after 400 years, the form has finally found its ideal format”. The RSC will release 90 of the 154 sonnets over the coming weeks which will be available to view via the RSC's YouTube channel. Miles Jupp, Alexandra Gilbreath, Antony Sher, Emma Fielding and Rosie Sheehy are just some of the actors involved.
The Old Vic
Andrew Scott recently starred in a brand new one-man play, Three Kings at the esteemed London theatre. In a review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, Suzy Evans said: " As performed by the acting master Andrew Scott, all of the characters come alive separately through a facial tick or a simple gesture or a sneaking glance, that it hardly seems like a play performed by one man. And Scott seems to be peering into the viewer’s soul as he delivers this relatable tale of patriarchal estrangement and familial missed connections."
A Monster Calls, first seen on stage in 2018 was available to watch until 7pm on June 11. With heartfelt thanks to the generosity of all the casts, creatives and companies involved, a selection of full length Old Vic archive recordings of selected productions since Matthew Warchus became Artistic Director in 2015 will be hosted for free on The Old Vic’s YouTube channel. This will give audiences the chance to revisit loved productions, or watch for the first time.
National Theatre at Home
In March, the National Theatre announced the launch of a new initiative. Titled 'National Theatre at Home', audiences around the world could stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube, and students and teachers had access to the National Theatre Collection at home, delivered in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing. Every Thursday, a different production was screened as part of National Theatre Live that was available to watch online for one week via the NT's Youtube channel. Although the initiative has ended, here's a list of all the shows that were screened.
One Man, Two Guvnors (2011), starring James Corden
Jane Eyre (2017)
Treasure Island (2014)
Twelfth Night (2017), starring Tamsin Greig
Frankenstein (2011), starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Antony and Cleopatra (2018), starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo
Barber Shop Chronicles (2017)
A Streetcar Named Desire (2014), starring Gillian Anderson
This House (2013)
Coriolanus (2013), starring Tom Hiddleston
The Madness of George III (2018), starring Mark Gatiss
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Deep Blue Sea