How to watch West End shows from your sofa
Theatreland may have closed its doors but the show is going on for online audiences with plenty of the best plays and musicals released on streaming services.
Whether you want to see a classic Shakespeare performance, a West End smash hit or sing along to one of your favourite musicals, then look online – and a lot of them are free.
National Theatre at Home
Cinemagoers have become used to watching live screenings of plays from the National Theatre with its NT Live shows. Now going to the cinema is merely a wistful memory, the National Theatre is making some of these shows available for free on its YouTube channel, releasing one a week for the next month.
The first production to be broadcast came out on April 2, Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors featuring a Tony Award-winning performance from Gavin and Stacey’s James Corden, which is still available tonight (Wednesday).
Fired from his skiffle band, One Man Two Guvnors follows Francis Henshall as he becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hood. But Roscoe is really his sister, Rachel, posing as her own dead brother, who has been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.
Each production is screened on Thursdays at 7pm and will then be available on demand for seven days.
Other productions to be streamed include:
- Jane Eyre by Sally Cookson, Thursday, April 9
- Treasure Island by Bryony Lavery, Thursday, April 16
- Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Thursday, April 23
More titles will be announced for May. Watch here.
Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals
Musicals maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber is releasing a selection of his shows on a new YouTube channel to give audiences a West End experience from their living rooms.
The channel, called The Show Must Go On, will feature shows for 48 hours after they are released on Fridays at 10am.
The next release, on Friday, April 10, will be a modern staging of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, Chris Moyles and Spice Girl Mel C. More titles are yet to be announced but some of the other hits which could be in the pipeline include The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita and Starlight Express.
The channel will also feature behind-the-scenes footage and is taking donations for a number of charities, including Acting for Others, Broadway Cares and Actors Benevolent Fund.
The Wind in the Willows
The West End production of this musical starring Rufus Hound will be streaming online for free, but the team is asking for a small donation to give to theatre charities.
The musical is based on the children’s book by Kenneth Graham, with tales of Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad and the riverside creatures. The show, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, is about Mr Toad’s love of cars and his need for speed.
The musical starred Rufus as Toad, Simon Lipkin as Ratty, Craig Mather as Mole, Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel, Denise Welch as Mrs Otter and Gary Wilmot as Badger.
To watch the show online, visit willowsmusical.com.
Culture in Quarantine on the BBC
The BBC has announced a huge schedule of plays and performances to be screened over the coming months as part of its Culture in Quarantine season.
It will include productions from the best of the dance and theatre scene’s recent output, including new work from the Balletboyz on BBC Four and Shakespeare with the RSC – this will be part of an education initiative for BBC Four featuring stars like Christopher Eccleston and Hugh Quarshie. It will include educational tools online for children learning Shakespeare on the school syllabus.
BBC iPlayer and BBC Four will create a theatre in rep for the nation, with filmed live theatre and dance available on demand from the BBC archive, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Northern Ballet, Sadler’s Wells and in collaboration with The Space, new filmed recordings of Mike Bartlett’s Albion, Emma Rice’s Wise Children and Battersea Arts Centre’s Frankenstein.
More titles will be made available online over the coming weeks.
BBC Four and BBC iPlayer
BalletBoyz were forced to cancel the remaining performances in their 20th anniversary UK spring tour, so will be sharing the production with audiences watching from home.
Deluxe features two new works choreographed by an all-female team.
The first is Ripple, the UK debut of renowned Shanghai-based choreographer Xie Xin, with music by electronic composer Jiang Shaofeng.
The other is Bradley 4:18 by Punchdrunk choreographer Maxine Doyle in a collaboration with Mercury Prize-nominated jazz musician Cassie Kinoshi, and inspired by the Kate Tempest track Pictures on a Screen.
The Royal Shakespeare Company
BBC Four and BBC iPlayer
The six productions chosen by the RSC for Culture in Quarantine are all part of the UK education syllabus.
- Hamlet (2016) directed by Simon Godwin, with Paapa Essiedu in the title role
- Macbeth (2018) directed by Polly Findlay, with Christopher Eccleston in the title role and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth
- Much Ado About Nothing (2014) directed by Christopher Luscombe, with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as Beatrice
- Othello (2015) directed by Iqbal Khan with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago
- Romeo and Juliet (2018) directed by Erica Whyman, RSC deputy artistic director, with Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet
- The Merchant of Venice (2015) directed by Polly Findlay, with Makram J Khoury as Shylock
Alongside these productions, RSC Education is creating activities to support students as they watch the plays in their homes.
In addition to these productions there will also be repeats of the BBC programmes, Russell T Davies’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, originally broadcast as part of the Shakespeare Season in 2016, and Anthony Hopkins’ King Lear.
Royal Opera House
Fancy trying out an opera? A number of productions are being screened for free and on demand through the Royal Opera House’s Facebook and YouTube channels. This includes:
- Così fan tutte, The Royal Opera, 2010 on April 10 at 7pm
- The Metamorphosis, The Royal Ballet, 2013 on April 17 at 7pm