Recently I have been to my first National Theatre Live showing, I shall be going again tonight to see the second part of Angels in America. Here are a few of my thoughts on why I think the scheme is a good idea.
- The price difference between going to see one of the live broadcasts and going to see the actual play is astounding. This is a major plus point for me, being a student I don’t have a lot of extra income to spend. Most of what I do have to spend goes on going to the theatre and the cinema anyway so this is the perfect combination of events. As with everything in the world and particularly London average ticket prices for the theatre are increasing, According to SOLT, the average price paid for a West End ticket was £42.99 in 2015 and it will have only increased by now. Compare that to the £16.49 I paid for a student ticket for Angels in America there is a big difference. Now you may not get the full theatrical experience from going to a see a NTLive performance but it allows a good enough experience for the price.
- You are able to see it from anywhere in the country, being able to see a performance while at home over summer break has been a saving grace. Living about 300 miles away from London it is a bit too far to go for a singular theatre trip. Had NTLive been around while I was a bit younger and before I started studying in the capital I would have seen many more pieces of theatre. However I can appreciate what it means for drama enthusiasts all over the country to be able to go see a piece of theatre that would not usually be available to them. It also brings more theatre to people in areas where the arts are not so widely available.
- It opens up theatre to a whole new audience. Many people still discount going to see plays and musicals as something for the middle class people who live in or near a city. By bringing carefully selected pieces of theatre to rural and arts deprived areas it allows new audiences to test the waters without having to spend very much money. It also opens up the doors to younger theatre viewers who cannot make a journey to the capital but still want to experience the culture and art it has to offer. I was particularly surprised by the amount of people in the viewing I attended as my area is not known for its support of the arts.
- It gives you a clear view of all the action on the stage. This is debatably a good thing, there are no restricted views when going to see an NTLive showing. Every piece of action on stage is captured by cameras and the shots are carefully chosen so that you have a clear view of what is going on. Sometimes this view is better than that you could ever get in a theatre, close up shots of actors faces show their emotive acting better than you would ever be able to see from the gallery. However this does limit the audience in what they can view, if the cameras are focussed on one actor the reactions of another can be easily overlooked. Personally I really enjoy viewing the stage as a whole and seeing how certain events look as part of the larger stage or seeing how other characters are acting during a monologue. There has to be compromise with events like this and an audience cannot demand too much from a viewing of a play.
- They are able to show things again long after their run on stage has finished. Recently it has been announced that Hamlet featuring Benedict Cumberbatch will be reshown by NTLive despite its run finishing over 2 years ago. As someone who did not have the means to go see the original play or go to an original viewing this is exciting. But one could also question why they are not filming more current theatre and broadcasting that around the country. The balance lies in trying to make theatre exclusive enough that people still go the see it live and making it available to the masses that would never be able to go and see it live. As of now there is a viewing available in cinemas at least once a month which in my opinion is just enough to create an interest and build a returning audience for the NTLive events.
I would certainly urge anyone who can to use the facilities and go see a NTLive showing, but I can agree they will never replace the undeniable atmosphere of going to see a piece of theatre in the flesh.