From the stage to the screen


by Ari Weinberg

I’ve never been a huge moviegoer. Live theatre has always been my preferred entertainment medium. However, I’ve recently become addicted to a new experience that combines movie-going and theatre- it’s called The National Theatre Live. 

According to their website (,“National Theatre Live is the National Theatre’s groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and across the world.” The initiative started in 2009 and has broadcast over 20 productions since then. 

I’ve attended their screenings of Fela, The Magistrate, King Lear, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, One Man Two G’uvnors, Medea and Frankenstein.

Going to a National Theatre Live screening is a pretty terrific theatre-going experience. They usually start with a short documentary that introduces the creative team and key players in the piece about to be screened. If the play has two acts there is an interval with a clock that counts down on the screen and there is usually a brief interview with someone involved in the production before the second act begins. Basically, the screenings provide a taste of the creative process and what goes on backstage while getting to view the production. Sometimes the National Theatre will also broadcast the works of other companies; they recently produced the screenings of the Young Vic’s modern dress production of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Gillian Anderson and the Broadway production of Of Mice And Men starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. 

The National Theatre isn’t the only company with broadcast initiatives. The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Metropolitan Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet also screen their productions in cinemas across the globe. These broadcasts provide incredible opportunities for arts enthusiasts to see critically acclaimed work from companies around the world in the comfort of their local movie theatre. 

Last winter, while working in Winnipeg, I caught the screening of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II starring David Tennant.  As a Shakespeare lover, the experience provided me an affordable way to catch this stellar production and served as a great introduction to the work of the RSC. I’ve visited their website ( to add future screenings into my calendar. 

Closer to home, the Stratford Festival recently announced that they will be broadcasting several of their productions every year with the hopes of eventually showing the entire Shakespearean cannon. This season, they filmed King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra and King John and will show them in theatres in 2015. 

For musical theatre lovers, there have been a handful of broadcasts. Last year, the Menier Chocolate Factory screened its lauded production of Merrily We Roll Along. Recently, the London production of Billy Elliot was screened in theatres across the UK with North American dates to be announced shortly. One can only hope that this will start a trend of other musical broadcasts to follow. For limited engagement productions or productions that won’t tour, it would be a wonderful way to share the experience with audiences abroad. 

The best way to find out about up and coming theatre, opera and dance screening is by visiting the Cineplex website.

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