I’m writing this at a time when I would normally be sitting down to watch the National Theatre’s At Home stream. That’s “normally” as in “new normally” but after sixteen weeks this glorious project has reached its final curtain. So, I just wanted to pay tribute to what has been a marvellous season that has encompassed four Shakespeare plays, four novel adaptations and some of the NT’s biggest hits of the last ten years or so. Nor have we been confined to the National itself as there have also been streams from the Donmar, the Young Vic and the Bridge Theatre; once we even got outside London to the Nottingham Playhouse. According to figures just released they have had 15 million views in 9 million households in 173 countries.
I count myself as a regular theatregoer but I’d actually only seen two of the productions on stage – coincidentally the first and the last. So I count myself lucky that I have been able to catch up with so much quality work. On Thursday evenings it’s like I’ve been back in an audience – even if I couldn’t see or hear any of the other participants. And I know that it’s still not the same as the live experience but I can little imagine what life would have been like for the last four months without it. I do hope that there are plans afoot which will continue to give us all further access – a paid for scheme would be fine with me and I suspect many others. Quite apart from helping to keep theatre buffs sane (and that’s around the world not just the UK) it has led the charge for other theatres and companies to home stream plays and helped them to think about other ways of promoting their art. I imagine it has also been a boon to those who can’t usually get to the theatre for health, economic or family reasons or simply because they don’t live in London.
Highlights? Well, it was great seeing One Man Two Guvnors and Amadeus again, particularly the latter which has confirmed it as a work of genius. I really enjoyed James Graham’s This House, Alan Bennett’s Madness Of George III with a memorable lead performance by Mark Gatiss and Andrea Levy’s Small World was a revelation. Sure, I didn’t totally enjoy everything but to find out which they were you’ll have to read the reviews – and I did cover all sixteen shows.
So, bravo National Theatre. Others may have joined in the home streaming trend but nobody else did it bigger or better! Time to look for yet another new normal for Thursday evenings…..