Theatre on the Big Screen

National Theatre Live is just one of the companies capturing theatre on film and making it accessible for thousands around the world. Broadcasting to over 700 venues in the UK alone, NT Live streams a variety of stage shows, from Shakespeare to musicals, and most recently the stage version of Phoebe Waller Bridge’s brilliant work Fleabag.

It is very difficult for me to critique the work of NT Live. It’s a simple yet genius idea, broadcasting theatre onto big screens across the world to enable more people to experience the magic of theatre. My hometown is over double the distance that Norwich is from London and although I’m lucky enough to have seen a few West End shows on tour, seeing a London show in London was pretty much impossible until university. I love that NT Live can bring theatre to those who, even if they can afford the steep London prices, can’t travel to London or the other venues that NT Live utilises. It can make dreams a reality and for a reasonable price, the last time I checked, seeing NT Live broadcasts at Norwich Vue cost under £20 per person. The ability to save recordings and hold encore performances gives even more people the chance to get involved.

There is only one thing I can fault with theatre live screening, but it’s tricky as it can also be an advantage. The shots are tailored to the theatre and the production, which allows viewers to get the best close up views of performers in wonderful clarity. However, the cuts between camera angles can slightly pull the viewers out of the performance. The main thing that is lost, which is wonderful in live theatre, is the ability to look wherever you please and focus on the aspect of the performance which interests you. I really love looking at the sets of plays and this is something that’s difficult to do when your eyes are being controlled by someone else.

However, this is really a minor thing and the benefits of NT Live far outweigh this small compromise. I really have nothing bad to say about the broadcasts and look forward to this idea catching on more, or being used more frequently. Making theatre accessible to more people will hopefully increase its demand, and allow more productions to be brought to life.

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Ellie Robson

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November 2021
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