What a weird time, huh? And I was thinking that these newsletters wouldn’t even be going out – I mean, why would they as all theatres have been closed? But then so many buildings and companies are putting such fantastic works online that I figured, maybe a quick guide on my top tips on those shows you should definitely try to see might be useful.
So, here I am!
The list below is not comprehensive – many organisations are making announcements daily about new work going online – but I wanted to just help with anyone who might want to engage with these works but feels a little overwhelmed with the deluge of news coming at them left, right and centre. Plus, these works have been great and real talking points so join that conversation.
It’ll also be good to see more works come online as, truth be told, the current available productions are quite narrow in the demographics of creatives. More theatre should, hopefully, equal more diversity.
But these are a great start…
Stay safe and stay strong,
One of the most brilliant yet disturbing works I have ever witnessed. David Ireland’s play about a Belfast Loyalist, traumatised and evidently suffering with PTSD (and maybe even psychosis) believing his granddaughter to be Gerry Adams is brilliantly realised in this production from Vicky Featherstone that sees Stephen Rea reach all kind of heights in a totemic performance in the lead role. The plot seems absurd – and there are some gloriously dark moments of gallows humour on display – but this is also a drama with the darkest of moments. It comes with an 18+ age rating for a reason. Powerful as hell. Online until Saturday 26 April.
A much-loved classic novel yet this production from Sally Cookson divided both audiences and critics. It’s a comprehensive whirlwind of an adaptation that covers pretty much every nook, cranny, morsel and titbit in Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. The pace is pretty frenetic at times but there’s some fantastic moments of theatre too in this famous tale of one woman fighting to live a life on her own terms. Online on the NT YouTube channel for one week from April 9.
These are cruel times; I was finally (finally!) due to see this critically-acclaimed award-winning production at the Barbican Theatre this month but – as with many of our best-laid plans this Spring – this opportunity was vanquished. But never fear! For Breach Theatre has placed this extraordinary work free to stream online. Now I too can bear witness to this phenomenal work, base don original court transcripts, that dramatizes the suffering of Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, as she accuses her tutor of rape. Online on the company’s YT channel for 30 days from 31 March.
As I write this list, I am getting more excited that I can finally catch up with shows that I missed. Enter this gem from Beth Steel on how the capitalism vs. coal divide of 1980s Britain exploded into the viciously partisan miners’ strike, brutally exposing the class and geographical divide in our society. As the blurb says, “As the two sides clash, the miners fight for their livelihoods and families, and the government for its vision of a free Britain. Together they change the fabric of the nation forever.” Ain’t that the truth. Online on Hampstead theatre’s website from Monday 6 April until Sunday 12 April. (Note: Hampstead has a great line up for April with Drawing the Line, on the partition of India, and Mike Bartlett’s Wild also showing online.)
Now, this is an interesting one… Maya Arad Yasur is an award-winning Israeli playwright and, in Amsterdam, she crafted a fascinating drama in an original and challenging form. Ostensibly, we follow a pregnant Israeli violinist in contemporary Amsterdam who receives an unpaid gas bill. However, the gas bill dates from 1944 – a practice that became common after the war where unpaid utility bills for Jewish households where the inhabitants had been sent to the camps were, instead, given to the occupiers to pay. Yet Maya’s text is not ascribed to any character – very Sarah Kane, very Caryl Churchill – so from these words, director Matthew Xia, created an impressive meta production that skewers Jewish tropes and inherent otherism in our society. Online on the Orange Tree website until 27 April.
Fantastic to see this award-winning show online – not least because I missed it both at Edinburgh and at VAULT where it was hugely popular and successful. And it certainly sounds like a show for our times as this is a buoyant, effervescent show about grief, loss and changing pronouns. Bittersweet beauty for difficult times. Drawing on their own experiences, the charismatic Teddy Lamb leads us through an affecting monologue that examines who they have become since the deaths of two close friends. There’s the gossip – ANTM and gossipy pop culture – but there’s also the tough stuff – the trials and tribulations that had to be faced alone when the person you need most is no longer at your side. Life lessons and pop culture is my kind of thing; it may be yours too. Go watch. Online on Teddy’s YouTube channel until this whole quarantine thing ends.
Well, I suppose we better get some Shakespeare somewhere on this list, eh? Now, The RSC has signed up to the BBC’s still-being-fully-planned-out Culture in Quarantine “festival” so, when that gets fully rolled out, we will be able to see a fantastic selection of production from its esteemed back-catalogue, including Polly Findlay’s Macbeth with Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet with Paapa Essiedu, and Iqbal Khan’s revolutionary Othello with Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati. Until then, pencil in the NT’s inventive gender-fluid production of Twelfth Night with Tamsin Greig, streaming from 7pm Thursday 23 April until 30 April.
Time for a musical interlude, I feel. Sadly, I can’t find the movie Cats on any free streaming site yet, which is a damn shame as that is surely ripe to become a cult classic. In its place, I give you the iconic Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s the 2012 production complete with Tim Minchin, Melanie C (sadly not doing a backflip in adidas) and Chris Moyles (sorry). But, never fear, Lyn Gardner gave this production a one-star review so, surely, this will be an appropriate holdover until we get Cats online. The show will be available for 48 hours only on ALW’s YT channel from April 10. If you can’t wait until then, I believe you can see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat this weekend. Though why you would want to, I don’t know.
If you want a laugh at something that is intentionally funny, go no further than this legendary production that has already been seen BY OVER ONE MILLION PEOPLE since it went online on Thursday evening. Extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary. But this Richard Bean-directed show deserves all of that attention and more as it is a genuinely perfectly executed farcical comedy that gets all the laughs in the right place. And James Corden is delightful as permanently ravenous Francis Henshall that thinks he could be on to an easy winner by managing two separate bosses; all he has to do is keep them apart. Simple. Online on the NT YouTube channel from April 2 for one week.
I don’t think I have ever missed an opportunity to shout about this production – the greatest contemporary ballet I have ever seen – so I’m sure as hell not going to start now. The ENB has just placed this work of utter magnificence as available to stream on Marquee TV (the dedicated arts streaming service that has 30-day free trial you can use if funds are tight). The queen that is Tamara Rojo plays the betrayed Giselle who not only loses the love of her life on earth but faces the same loss again on the other side. She is magnificent, obvs, but this whole modern production from the mind of the brilliant Akram Khan is breath-taking. Come talk to me about wanting to be a Wili, the Furies of the afterlife, once you’ve seen it. Premieres on Marquee TV this coming Saturday, 4th April, but I’m not sure yet how long it is up for.