/ Theatre at the Cinema
I don't know how long I've been blissfully unaware of this, but once in a while apparently the Royal Shakespeare Company links up with cinemas to broadcast its productions. The next one is Macbeth, with Christopher Ecclestone in the lead, which is being broadcast on 11 April to quite a lot of places around the country.
I've booked for my wife and I to see it in some anonymous multiplex in south Bristol, but a quick nose around showed that it was being shown in town halls and the like elsewhere. Worth a look, if a spot of Shakespeare grooves your truffles but you can't get to Stratford-upon-Avon.
Blimey, never knew that either. I have, as ever, so much to learn.
Thanks for sharing. I'll skip the Julius Caesar as I saw a (sadly rather disappointing) production of it in Bristol last summer, but I'll keep an eye on what's coming up.
I've seen some very bad productions simulbroadcast in this way. Not very keen to see any more.
Bad as in bad even if you'd been in the theatre, bad as in good production, dreadful broadcast, or bad as in all of the above?
It's reasonable, I think, to expect a certain standard from an RSC production, so hopefully we'll avoid the first; and I wonder about the second, but there's only one way to find out. The third well, I'll vote with my feet.
> Bad as in bad even if you'd been in the theatre, bad as in good production, dreadful broadcast, or bad as in all of the above?
Bad as in all the above. These were National Theatre productions. The worst was 'Man and Superman' with Ralph Fiennes by Bernard Shaw, because there were technical problems with the transmission too. The production was atrocious: all the actors gabbled their lines at high speed as if they didn't understand the words and/or were slightly embarrassed by the play. Just one unchanging, cheap looking set that was brightly lit throughout (no creative lighting whatever.) King Lear with Simon Russell Beale in the title role. As bad a Lear as I've ever seen; surprising, as it was directed by Sam Mendes. After the storm scene etc. Beale was looking well-fed and glowing with well-being as if he'd just had a particularly good meal. Hamlet – again a very lacklustre production with a very poor set. But Rory Kinnear in the title role was absolutely superb.
Have seen some half decent operas, e.g. Magic Flute and Cosi fan Tutti I think. Oh, and Tosca from New York, which was very good but had a very strange set which was very complicated, broke up into bits on a revolving stage, all changed around, and then ended up looking not much different from how it had been before.
Much to consider there, Gordon. I'll cross my fingers that the RSC's standards are higher than those of the National and report back.
I do like a good Macbeth and if it's good enough to make me want to see it in the flesh, as it were, then I'll go to Stratford and watch; but if it's as bad as you fear, it'll probably put me off such transmissions for good.
Like any theatrical or operatic experience, I guess: good, bad and indifferent. Apart from bringing London productions to us hicks in the sticks, has the advantage of closer view than from poor seats in 'real' theatre, with some effective cinematographic features like zoom-in on key speeches or soliloquies.
One deeply unappealing element (can't remember which piece) was an interval discussion with the key actors, a nauseatingly complacent love-in by high-profile luvvies that contributed nothing to understanding of the play. Quite put me off some hitherto respected 'stars'.
Aside from the technical issue you mention re: the transmission of the Shaw play, surely everything you say (based upon what I can read in your post) applies to simply "going to see a play" and has little to do with the broadcasts.
I've seen good and I've seen dull, from NT Live.
Their Amadeus was superb, so so much better than the 1984 film adaptation and highly recommended.
Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch was uninvolving.
King Lear with Kevin McNally was very good. The Tempest with Simon Russell Beale was passable. A View From the Bridge with Mark Strong was excellent, as was the more recent Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Thanks for this. I have an awareness of the NT Live broadcasts but the RSC ones sometimes slip my notice.
> One deeply unappealing element (can't remember which piece) was an interval discussion with the key actors, a nauseatingly complacent love-in by high-profile luvvies that contributed nothing to understanding of the play. Quite put me off some hitherto respected 'stars'.
Oh sure. I suppose we hung in there in hopes of stimulus and enlightenment from actors of vast experience rather than a session of intense mutual self-congratulation.
And I entirely agree with you about Cumberbatch as Hamlet.
> Aside from the technical issue you mention re: the transmission of the Shaw play, surely everything you say (based upon what I can read in your post) applies to simply "going to see a play" and has little to do with the broadcasts.
Well, partly true. I am quite keen on the theatre, when done extremely well (there being almost no entertainment more excruciating than bad theatre, IMHO), but I'm fanatically keen on the cinema –the full art of it. I don't like seeing a flat, un-cinematic two-dimensional broadcast of a theatrical production on a cinema screen. As far as I'm concerned, a cinema is for movies.
Such a shame that a bad production can ruin a play in your mind for years (mine was twelfth night).
Saw an absolutely fantastic production of Julius Ceasar at the Sheffield Crucible last year. Totally griping, scary and current - probably the best play I have ever seen on the stage.
And having seen this tonight, I thoroughly enjoyed it. No, it's not the same as being in the audience at the theatre and yes, as a consequence you do lose a little. But otherwise, a very creditable job, I thought. About the only thing that struck a wrong note was Christopher Ecclestone's pronunciation of 'Hecate', but I'll have to go back to the script to see how it's written plus, of course, it may be me that has that wrong.
Thanks for the review. I missed it tonight as I was out seeing a band (Girl Ray, brilliant). I saw it in the cinema listings for this week and thought "d'oh!", but in fairness, productions of Macbeth will always be around, and Girl Ray won't....
> brightly lit throughout (no creative lighting whatever.)
I dare say the brightly lit was a creative choice that would have been discussed at length and ultimately been to the wishes of the Director. It would have had a point in the Director's overall creative vision - whether that point was appreciated by the audience is a different matter. But I'd still call that creative.
No, I think it just meant leaving all the lights turned on without any one having to do anything. There was nothing creative about it; indeed, it had the dullness of 'house lights', i.e. there was nothing theatrical about it at all. It certainly didn't help the play. It was the kind of thing you'd expect to see if there was some kind of technicians' strike.
I give you, for starters. Bertolt Brecht.
Oh my god, yes. Was up to my eyeballs with Herr Brecht at film school.
These can be a great experience, but as others have said they don't replace the live theatre experience.
My concern is that ever reducing funding for the arts and the requirement from Arts Council England (one of the major funders for most of the big theatres) on 'digital' means that this becomes a rrplacemrep for touring.
Cinema screenings can be a great entry point for people into theatre but i am concerned that there are no accessible live performances to progress on to.
I don't mean to dismiss the cinematic experience and if people want to only go to those that's great, but they should not become a replacement for touring.
> but they should not become a replacement for touring.
To be honest, I think that ship's sailed. Major theatre productions are now something you travel to see rather than waiting for them to come to you. There are always welcome exceptions, of course, but they do rather prove the rule.
And in that sense what I saw on Wednesday, and the production of Hamlet broadcast by the BBC a few weeks back, are to be welcomed. Not everyone can, or would wish to, travel to Stratford-on-Avon or to London to see a theatre production but extending the opportunity across the nation to see it through cinema or TV broadcast brings a little more culture to many more people.
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