Culture

Into the Stream

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There’s been a recent trend in broadcasting theatre, either live or recorded, on the internet or in cinemas. But people have been debating about whether this encourages people and shows, or discourages them and just allows them to stay at home. Jasmine Freeman tells us both sides of the story.

The latest trend of streaming live theatre is breaking down the barriers between the masses and the theatre. Popular shows like Coriolanus and War Horse have made their way into Cardiff cinemas allowing theatre addicts to watch incredible performances in an ideal atmosphere, while sparing them the expense of theatre tickets and sometimes even travel. The Welsh National Theatre took this ground-breaking idea one step further by streaming their award-winning production The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning for free, on the internet. during its run. This mean that anyone could access a piece of incredibly important, politically motivated, and emotionally charged theatre in the comfort of their own home at no expense.

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Justifiably, some theatre lovers are unhappy about this recent trend. Executive director of Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre Stephen Wood recently accused National Theatre Live, the National Theatre’s response to the livestreaming phenomenon, of substituting actual theatregoing for broadcasts. Livestreaming theatre will arguably interfere with a tradition of theatre that has spanned centuries.

However, there are numerous arguments against these concerns. It’s obvious that not everyone has access to live theatre, either for financial or locational reasons. Live theatre offers the opportunity for everyone to access theatre which in the modern age surely should be a right. Companies can put on productions that smaller, regional theatre companies could never attempt, for example the National Theatre’s second live show All’s Well that End’s Well, Shakespeare’s notorious problem play.

In addition, it may be time to forget outdated arguments that live streaming will somehow damage real life theatre attendance. There is still something innately attractive about attending a live production to those who are genuinely interested in the theatre. The experience of the theatre will never be matched by a livestreamed show. In fact, early Nesta research about National Theatre Live found that it was more likely, not less likely, to to make people go to the theatre.

When approaching this new trend, it’s important that we do not for a second think that theatres are abandoning the way the theatre has been delivered throughout history. Instead, we should focus on seeing the new artistic and creative possibilities these new digital platforms offer, as well as the chance this offers new audiences to access theatre as they never could before. Finally, theatre is now open to everyone.

If you want to jump into the stream and experience incredible theatre without the sometimes student-deterring ticket prices, you can still watch War Horse in Cardiff Cineworld and in Chapter Arts Centre over the next few months. They will also be streaming King Lear and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in later this year. Check out their website for further details: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

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