Beckett Double Bill
Two-thirds of Trevor Nunn’s masterful Beckett triple bill at London’s Jermyn Street theatre in early 2020 has been made available online. Hugging his tape recorder and munching bananas, James Hayes unspools melancholic memories in the classic Krapp’s Last Tape, which is accompanied by a rarity in The Old Tune, where Niall Buggy’s Mr Gorman and David Threlfall’s Mr Cream shoot the breeze on a park bench. Available from Digital Theatre until 31 December.
A vital network created in lockdown by actor and writer Danusia Samal, Virtual Collaborators paired up 50 creatives so that they could work remotely while unable to return to rehearsal rooms. The result was a series of rapid-response short films about how our lives have been changed by Covid-19, from the toll on intensive care workers to couples separated by quarantine, the effects of self-isolation and how offices have adapted to Zoom meetings. The next phase of the project is a digital festival, presented with Part of the Main productions, that runs from 17-31 August and aims to make up for the loss of the Edinburgh fringe this summer.
Arinzé Kene’s poetic 2017 play good dog posed unanswered questions about the UK’s summer riots of 2011. Revived for a tour last year, it has now been adapted as a superb 20-minute film, directed by Andrew Gillman and Natalie Ibu for Tiata Fahodzi. Anton Cross stars as a man looking back on his youth, his neighbours and his community. The film was commissioned by The Space and supported by BBC and Arts Council England.
How I Hacked My Way into Space
In July, a group of Yorkshire theatre companies – organised by the brilliant Tutti Frutti – came together for a citywide outdoor children’s festival, Live Little Stories for Leeds. Unlimited Theatre’s production How I Hacked My Way Into Space, performed by Jon Spooner, is now available to watch online until 27 August. In his intergalactic shed, Spooner tells how he accidentally set up a space agency. The result is a funny and warmly inspiring space oddity for families. Funded by Leeds 2023.
Edinburgh international festival
Edinburgh’s streets are quieter this August, the majority of its venues closed. But EIF has programmed a busy month of digital activity including archive performances and two new short films shot in the Festival theatre. Directed by Hope Dickson Leach, Ghost Light brings together performers from a string of National Theatre of Scotland hits including Rona Munro’s The James Plays and Frances Poet’s Adam, as well as showcasing future projects. In Scottish Ballet’s Catalyst, choreographed by Nicholas Shoesmith, masked dancers flood the festival stage to the sound of Ben Chatwin’s hypnotic music. Online until 28 August.
Fringe of Colour
Jess Brough founded Fringe of Colour in response to the “overwhelming whiteness” of the Edinburgh fringe. Having promoted the work of artists across the festival and collaborated with venues on ticket schemes to enable more diverse audiences, the platform has become a dynamic community. Its latest phase is a new online arts festival that runs until 31 August, with a fresh collection of films – including documentaries, works in progress and poems – made available every week.
For Quality Purposes
The ever-enterprising company Stan’s Cafe have put together a season of lockdown work including a version of their 2013 show The Anatomy of Melancholy, re-conceived as 35 short split-screen films. They also have a new 25-minute production, For Quality Purposes, which is set in a call centre, directed by James Yarker and devised by the company specifically to be performed online. It promises humour and pathos as it explores the dynamic between call-centre worker and customer. Available until 11 February. Read the full review.
Edinburgh’s Zoo venues are a home for dance and physical theatre that often packs a punch. This summer it has a streaming service featuring new and archive performances, with a programme that also includes music, poetry and live art. Belgian fringe favourites Ontroerend Goed present Loopstation, a “large-scale homage to humanity’s habits and routines”, and Bristol’s Wardrobe Ensemble have a family show, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Plus works from National Dance Company of Wales, Scottish Dance Theatre, Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, 2Faced Dance and many more. Zoo TV runs from 17-28 August and is free, with donations encouraged to each performing company or artist.
Charlotte Holmes: Adventure Box
This year, lockdown restrictions and cancelled travel plans have narrowed horizons for little adventurers. So this “seven-day theatrical experience” for families is both a delight and a relief. Created by Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley theatre, The Dukes in Lancaster and theatre producers The Big Tiny, it’s a series of mysteries encountered by Charlotte, a young girl evacuated to Yorkshire during the second world war. You solve the puzzles by watching jaunty online videos and opening up the envelopes and parcels inside an adventure box sent to you in the post when you book. Read the full review.
Shedinburgh fringe festival
Edinburgh fringe has been cancelled but here’s a three-week online alternative: comedy, theatre and music performed by a lineup of fringe stars, streaming live from sheds. There’s one built at Edinburgh’s mighty Traverse, one at Soho theatre, and some performers will be squeezing into their own garden sheds. The “shed-ule” includes Gary McNair, Casey Jay Andrews, Yolanda Mercy, Tim Crouch and many more. There’s even room for duos: Sara Pascoe and Steen Raskopoulos, Rosie Jones and Helen Bauer, and Michael Patrick and Oisín Kearney, creators of My Left Nut.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal, Pulitzer prize-winning musical about the “10-dollar founding father without a father” was filmed over three nights in New York in 2016 with the original Broadway cast. Slated for a 2021 cinema release, it has been fast-tracked on to the Disney+ streaming service. It’s directed by Thomas Kail, who staged the musical, and according to Miranda gives “everyone the best seat in the house”. Watch it once and, to quote Jonathan Groff’s frothing King George III, You’ll Be Back. Read the full, five-star review.
Laura Lindow’s new play explores experiences of the universal credit system, drawing on a study focusing on its impact in Gateshead and Newcastle that suggested it has increased depression, anxiety and suicide risk. A rehearsed reading of Credit, recorded at Newcastle’s Alphabetti theatre, will be streamed on 16 September, followed by two panel events featuring the Guardian’s social policy editor Patrick Butler.
Now in its sixth year, the festival goes online this summer with a series of performances by artists based in the south west of England. There are dramas about artificial intelligence, dystopias and failed relationships; a poetic short film that asked black people what freedom means to them; an acrobatic take on lockdown life; and a comedy showcase. Performances are streamed “as live” and available to watch again on YouTube until the end of August.
In his Heroides, the Roman poet Ovid wrote a series of amusing, melancholic and passionate letters from Greek and Roman heroines to the men they love. Jermyn Street theatre and Digital Theatre are presenting 15 short plays inspired by the collection, retold by female and non-binary playwrights. The plays will be divided into three sets, entitled The War, The Desert and The Labyrinth, and the writers include April De Angelis, Juliet Gilkes Romero, Natalie Haynes and Sabrina Mahfouz. Performed at and streamed from the empty Jermyn Street theatre from 9 to 14 November.
Shades of Tay: A Love Letter to Scotland
Pitlochry Festival theatre’s series of audio dramas, podcasts and short films brings together more than 20 British playwrights and poets, including Timberlake Wertenbaker, Peter Arnott, Jo Clifford, Hannah Khalili and Chinonyerem Odimba. Released weekly on Saturdays until 21 November, these new pieces are inspired by the River Tay and its surrounding landscape. Each is performed by one of PFT’s 2020 summer season cast, who will stage them together in a festival when the theatre reopens.
Dadderrs: The Lockdown Telly Show
In 2019, the married couple Frauke Requardt and Daniel Oliver toured a performance called Dadderrs, which featured audience interaction and participation. Now, in a collaboration with film-maker Susanne Dietz, the piece has been reimagined, filmed during lockdown. Expect songs, balloons and a double-headed pantomime llama. Available until 21 August. Read the full review.
One year on from his award-winning run in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, Andrew Scott returns to the Old Vic in London to perform a new livestreamed play. Three Kings was written for the Sherlock and Fleabag star by Stephen Beresford as part of the In Camera series. Scott will perform to an empty auditorium for the performances, which have been delayed as he undergoes a minor operation. Dates TBC.
In the internet age, “we’re surrounded by things we can never erase,” says teenager Kemi. But does that lead to a failure to commit? Matthew Morrison’s new play, Dance, is told through a series of vlogs and follows the relationship between the bullied Kemi and her dad, exploring the impact of social media on mental health. Directed by Charlotte Peters and starring Shonagh Marie and Tim Treloar, it’s released by the Soho Poly.
As Waters Rise
Ben Weatherill’s play is set in the year 2025 when a flood has left Britain in a state of emergency. Originally planned for a stage production, it is now a three-part audio drama directed by Alex Brown and featuring teenage actors from the Almeida Young Company, who recorded their parts in isolation during lockdown. Released as part of Shifting Tides, the Almeida’s digital festival about the climate emergency, aimed at and created with 14-25-year-olds. Read the full review.
Miriam Margolyes stars in this short play by Louise Coulthard, exploring dementia in lockdown. It is based on Coulthard’s debut drama, Cockamamy, an award-winner at the Edinburgh fringe in 2017. The playwright also co-stars, along with Amit Shah, and the film is directed by Michael Fentiman. Available until 30 September, it’s free to view but donations are encouraged in support of Dementia UK.
A tale of love at first sight set against the tragedy of the first world war and the deaths of 60,000 Indian soldiers who served in the British army. Conceived by Mira Kaushik, the former director of south Asian dance organisation Akademi, and choreographed by Gary Clarke, this hourlong production features sensational solos by the BBC Young Dancer finalist Vidya Patel, who soars in a tender duet, About the Elephant, also online. The Troth is available until 7 September. Read the full review.
Culture in Quarantine
The Way Out, a single-take, 40-minute variety film, invites viewers to follow Omid Djalili through the mysterious, majestic and mundane corners of the phoenix-like Battersea Arts Centre. The film is part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine programme on iPlayer, which includes Mike Bartlett’s Albion; Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s five-star show Revisor; Michael Clark’s deliriously thrilling to a simple, rock’n’roll … song; Corey Baker’s mini Swan Lake, performed in dancers’ baths; a selection of Shakespeare from the RSC and the Globe; Northern Ballet’s Dracula; and physical theatre company Gecko’s debut feature film Institute (until 18 August), about what it means to care.
First, Do No Harm
Sharon D Clarke has portrayed a long line of memorable characters but this is something else. In a new short play by Bernardine Evaristo, directed by Adrian Lester, Clarke speaks for the National Health Service and those who work for it, reflecting on the NHS’s past and future. As she proudly says: “I am one of the best things that has ever happened.” First, Do No Harm is part of a series celebrating the NHS entitled The Greatest Wealth, curated for the Old Vic by Lolita Chakrabarti. The Old Vic is also pioneering socially distanced live performances and rehearsed readings as well as archive recordings of past productions.
Slam poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Yorkshire. The locations are combined in her vivid 2016 monologue, in which Lladel Bryant plays Ishmael, a young gay Zimbabwean who flees homophobic violence in his home country and seeks asylum in the UK where he is dispersed to Leeds. Alex Chisholm’s hour-long production, available on YouTube, was recorded at the Arcola theatre in London.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
The all-male theatre company, known for touring open-air Shakespeare productions around the UK, has postponed its Macbeth until next year but shared two past productions online: The Tempest, staged in 2018, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented last year to mark the company’s 15th birthday. They encourage you to recreate the spirit of their productions at home – “whether it is on a picnic blanket in your living room or under the stars wrapped up warm” – and share the results on social media.
Quite simply one of 2019’s most celebrated and momentous stagings of Shakespeare. Adjoa Andoh stars as Richard and co-directs, with Lynette Linton, a superb cast entirely comprising women of colour including Shobna Gulati and Ayesha Dharker. An English history play vividly staged for today in the Globe’s candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, perfect for a play full of plotting. Available to watch on YouTube.
Directed by Jennifer Tang and Anthony Lau, this series of 10 short dramas by Moongate Productions and Omnibus theatre explores the pandemic of racism exacerbated by Covid-19 and enacted against Britain’s east and south-east Asian communities. With pieces by writers including Oladipo Agboluaje, Nemo Martin and Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, it amounts to two hours of theatre on film that incorporates animation, poetry, music and dance. Available on YouTube. Read the full review.
Scenes for Survival
The National Theatre of Scotland was among the first theatres to announce a lockdown programme of work responding to the pandemic. Its growing collection of short films is designed to offer audiences “hope and joy”. There’s Brian Cox as Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh detective John Rebus, Two Doors Down’s Jonathan Watson as a shipyard electrician suppering from exposure to asbestos and Kate Dickie as brilliant as ever in a monologue by Jenni Fagan. The lineup of Scottish talent is extraordinary – Tam Dean Burn, Rona Munro and Douglas Henshall all contribute – and don’t miss Janey Godley’s two-hander with her adorable sausage dog. Read the full review.
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes from Home
One of the major dance productions cut short by the coronavirus crisis was Matthew Bourne’s tour of The Red Shoes, his rapturously received version of the Powell and Pressburger film. But Bourne’s company New Adventures has unveiled a charming 12-minute film version, performed by the cast from home – among children’s toys in their living rooms, on tables, in gardens and backyards, and in the kitchen. The costumes include football kits and, in one case, a couple of towels.
Locked Down. Locked In. But Living
This is a site-specific triple bill with world premieres from three superb dance companies – making it one of autumn’s hottest online shows. Studio Wayne McGregor, Northern Ballet and Gary Clarke Company unveil pieces about isolation, choreographed by Jordan James Bridge, Daniel De Andrade and Gary Clarke respectively, and performed around the Lawrence Batley theatre’s Grade II listed building in Huddersfield. Available to watch from 28 September to 18 October; tickets cost £12.
Antoinette Nwandu’s blistering, Beckettian play about police brutality was filmed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theatre by Spike Lee for this 75-minute version, which crackles with humour, tension and tragedy. Lee skilfully weaves the audience, and the world outside the theatre, into a work that our critic Arifa Akbar gives five stars. Available on Amazon Prime. Read the full review.
Noah and the Peacock
Jeff James, who adapted and directed an irreverent version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion at Manchester’s Royal Exchange in 2017, has created a fun hourlong lockdown show for over-fours. Actors perform live over Zoom from their homes and kids are invited to gather a few household objects to create their own sound effects and to dress up as animals for the production. Masks are downloadable from the Nottingham Playhouse website (along with an activity pack). It runs 12-23 August. Read the full review.
How’s this for a lineup? The cast includes Katherine Parkinson, Paterson Joseph and Denise Gough. The writers include James Graham, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Prasanna Puwanarajah and April De Angelis. And Ned Bennett, Blanche McIntyre, Ola Ince and Tinuke Craig are among the directors. Headlong and Century Films have assembled an extraordinarily talented gang for their 14 short films about lockdown life. On BBC iPlayer. Read the review.
Itching to get back into that wooden O on the South Bank? Happily, the Globe Player has heaps of full productions to rent, including international productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe festival such as a Lithuanian Hamlet, a Turkish Antony and Cleopatra, a Japanese Coriolanus and an Armenian King John. There is also the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’s opening production, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton.
I Want My Hat Back trilogy
The Little Angel theatre has presented charming versions of three Jon Klassen picture books, directed and performed by Ian Nicholson, with characterful puppets made by Sam Wilde. I Want My Hat Back finds an otherwise polite bear taking revenge on a bad bunny who has pinched his pointy red hat. It’s eight and a half minutes of pure joy. The sequel, This Is Not My Hat, also staged on a wooden dresser and told with music by Jim Whitcher, is a kind of Grand Theft Aqua in which a tiddler has stolen a handsome green bowler from a much bigger fish. We Found a Hat completes a triumphant trilogy. All three films are online until September. The Little Angel’s digital season also includes Toby Olié’s puppet version of the Ross Collins book What Does an Anteater Eat? (online until 1 September).
“She had us, both of us, absolutely round her finger …” From that first line, Andrew Scott will have you hooked in this half-hour monologue by Simon Stephens that captures truths about family life, art, nature and much else besides. Scott performed the play at the Bush in 2008 and it was a hot ticket when he reprised it at the Old Vic 10 years later. This version was shot in a single take in 2011. Directed by Stephens and Andrew Porter, it is available to rent online. Brace yourself.
I Wish I Was a Mountain
With wonder, wit and sophisticated storytelling, performance poet Toby Thompson creates a beautiful show for over-sevens. Thompson steps in and out of his version of Hermann Hesse’s fairytale Faldum, riffing with the young audience and spinning a handful of jazz LPs. I Wish I Was a Mountain embraces big questions about time and contentment. This is a short but profound show, directed by Lee Lyford, hatched by the Egg theatre’s Incubator development programme and cleverly designed by Anisha Fields. Read the full review.
The Royal Court, like all UK theatres, is closed due to the lockdown. But you can visit it virtually in this intriguing installation by Hester Chillingworth. The stage is still set for EV Crowe’s play Shoe Lady, as seen from Chillingworth’s static camera in the balcony. Occasionally it is cloaked in darkness and occasionally we hear messages of hope. Principally, the installation becomes a space to savour the importance of theatregoing until the Court invites audiences back to sit on those comfy leather chairs again.
Lyric Theatre in Belfast
Belfast’s Lyric had to cancel its co-production of 1984 with Bruiser Theatre Company but instead launched the initiative New Speak: Re-imagined, in which Northern Irish talents including Amadan Ensemble, Dominic Montague and Katie Richardson respond to the lockdown crisis. They are being released in episodes on YouTube. The Lyric has also collaborated on a series of five-minute drama commissions for the series Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, available on BBC iPlayer.
The London theatre has launched a Southwark Stayhouse streaming programme, available free until it reopens its doors. Offerings include the “fantastically witty” Wasted, a rock musical about the Brontës, directed by Adam Lenson with music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller. There’s also a Twelfth Night relocated to a music festival, directed by Anna Girvan, and Jesse Briton’s Bound, about a maritime tragedy.
Mountview Live – Giles Terera Meets …
This isn’t live drama, but still essential viewing for theatre lovers and students as the Olivier award-winning actor Giles Terera talks to top names from the industry. The hour-long conversations on YouTube include questions from Mountview Academy of Theatre students. Guests include the fabulous Noma Dumezweni, who is a Mountview honorary doctorate, Judi Dench and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Expect some nuanced questions for that last one: Terera is best known for his knockout performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.
Stopgap Dance Company’s disabled and non-disabled dancers create a mood of quiet suspension in an abandoned shopping centre in this 30-minute piece, directed by Sophie Fiennes and available from The Space. Read the full review.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Our revels have temporarily ended in theatres but you can watch a groundbreaking effects-laden version of The Tempest, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, with a subscription (or 14-day free trial) to the online service Marquee TV. Antony and Cleopatra with Josette Simon and Richard II with David Tennant are two of the other gems in the selection of Royal Shakespeare Company plays available. But there are also six RSC productions available to watch free on BBC iPlayer: Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu, Macbeth with Christopher Eccleston, Much Ado About Nothing with Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry, Othello with Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati, Romeo and Juliet with Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick, and The Merchant of Venice with Makram J Khoury.
The tiny west London powerhouse is streaming past productions for free but welcomes donations as “we fall between the cracks of government and local authority support”. Scrounger, written and performed by Athena Stevens, is available from 9am until midnight on 31 August. Debut playwright Gerry Moynihan’s 2017 modern-day production Continuity, starring Paul Kennedy as a dissident Irish Republican, is online until the end of the year. Read our review of Continuity.
The Abbey, Ireland’s national theatre, assembled an extraordinary lineup of 50 actors and 50 writers for this series of rapid-response monologues about the coronavirus crisis, self-taped by the performers from isolation. The writers include Frank McGuinness, Iseult Golden, Stacey Gregg, Sarah Hanly, Nancy Harris, Enda Walsh and David Ireland; the cast includes Nicola Coughlan, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Denise Gough, Bríd Ní Neachtain and Brendan Gleeson.
What Once Was Ours
A co-production by Zest Theatre and Half Moon, the two-hander What Once Was Ours follows the relationship between a pair of half-siblings and draws on real conversations with Britain’s young people in the wake of the Brexit vote. Their voices can be heard amid the conversations between Callum (Jaz Hutchins) and Katie (Pippa Beckwith). Available free online. Read the full review.
Five works by the Swedish choreographer are on Marquee TV, including a new work for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Eskapist, which gets a five-star review from Lyndsey Winship. On a vast stage, “Ekman offers a bombardment of fantastical images, realised with the help of Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov, who does a Mad Hatter’s couture party of eccentrically structured silhouettes.” Ekman’s other works to rent include Swan Lake and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Read the full review.
Little Red Riding Hood
The big bad wolf is soppy rather than scary in Northern Ballet’s sweet retelling of the fairytale. He wouldn’t dream of eating gran and ends up invited to a jolly tea party instead. A spring tour of the production has been cancelled but there is a version adapted for CBeebies online. An attractive introduction to ballet’s magic. Read the full review.
What the Butler Saw
Joe Orton’s final farce, completed in the summer of 1967 just before the playwright’s death, is a subversive satire about an irrational world, set in a psychiatrist’s consulting room. Rufus Hound dons the white coat as the philandering Dr Prentice in Nikolai Foster’s 2017 production for Leicester Curve and Theatre Royal Bath. The cast includes Dakota Blue Richards and Jasper Britton. Curve’s productions of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual and The Importance of Being Earnest are also online.
The Phantom of the Opera
Obsession! Haunting ballads! A shattered chandelier! And musical theatre’s most famous mask … Enjoy one of the world’s most successful shows, presented at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The film is available to rent on Amazon. It was also streamed as part of The Shows Must Go On, a series offering a different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical each week.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new director Carlos Acosta has reworked The Dying Swan (originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova), and BRB principal dancer Céline Gittens performs the piece from her living room to yours. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux, is performed by pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais. “This is a dance of promises,” says Acosta.
Mushy: Lyrically Speaking
Musharaf Asghar became a reality TV star in 2013 when the schoolboy appeared on Educating Yorkshire, which documented how a teacher helped him with his lifelong speech impediment. Asghar’s tale is now the subject of a new British musical, co-produced by Rifco theatre company and Watford Palace theatre and staged last year. It’s online and free to view for the entire isolation period. Read the full review.
Imitating the Dog
The groundbreaking theatre company Imitating the Dog were midway through touring Night of the Living Dead – Remix when theatres shut down. Now, they are streaming this ambitious show in which a cast of actors remake George Romero’s classic horror film shot by shot in real time. The company have also opened up their archive to stream a selection of creations from the last 20 years. Works will be released every fortnight and are available to watch on a pay-what-you-like basis.
The Beast Will Rise
Philip Ridley’s new play The Beast of Blue Yonder was due to open at the Southwark Playhouse in London in April. It has now been postponed but a series of new monologues by Ridley responding to the current crisis have been performed online by members of the cast, starting with Gators, starring Rachel Bright. Read the full review.
Now I’m Fine
What better time is there to watch a “grand-scale experimental pop opera about keeping it together”? Ahamefule J Oluo’s innovative show, staged at Seattle’s Moore theatre in 2014, mixes standup-style routines with a mesmerising musical accompaniment and explores his experience of a rare autoimmune disease. It is one of many films, including Americana Kamikaze, that are available to stream from On the Boards. Read the full review.
Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist
With the help of a carrot, a sponge, the Miracles and some game audience members, Sam is going to tell you about five hook-ups he had through the casual encounters section of online classified-ads board Craigslist. Filmed at the Push festival in Home, Manchester, YESYESNONO’s production is an open, affecting and troubling look at searching for intimacy and connection. This hour will leave you reencountering your own life.
The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this spellbinding film of Tim Crouch’s monologue. Read the full review.
Alonzo King Lines Ballet
A handful of productions by San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King and his marvellous company Lines Ballet are available to rent on Marquee.tv. Dust and Light, Triangle of the Squinches and Scheherazade, all filmed in 2012, showcase the elegant nature of his work, which pushes beyond classical ballet. Read the full review.
Showtunes don’t get much more defiant or rousing than Don’t Rain on My Parade. Sheridan Smith wards off the clouds with a gritty rendition as Fanny Bryce in this production of the classic musical at Manchester’s Palace theatre in 2017. It’s one of the many productions available from Digital Theatre, whose offerings also include The Crucible starring Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in London, and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.
The Cure’s Robert Smith tried to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies, because – all together now – boys don’t cry. A powerful piece of rhyme-packed storytelling for the over-eights, Boys Don’t is delivered by four compelling performers and based on real-life experiences of the expectations placed on “little men” throughout the generations before they even get to the playground. Presented by Half Moon theatre, it’s a Papertale production in association with Apples and Snakes, staged at Brighton festival in 2018.
Fragments (Beckett by Brook)
Is there a more fitting playwright for our current moment of isolation, uncertainty and endurance than Beckett? In this production, filmed at the marvellously atmospheric Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2015, Peter Brook directs five Beckett shorts with a cast of three (Jos Houben, Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter). The production comprises Rough for Theatre I, Rockaby, Neither, Come and Go and Act Without Words II. Feel the rising panic and despair in Rockaby as the solitary, wide-eyed Hunter recounts a descent through long, lonely days.
Even by Pina Bausch’s standards it’s an arresting opening: a huge wall collapses on stage and across the rubble comes Julie Shanahan, in high heels and a floral frock. After desperately commanding hugs from two suitors, she takes a seat and is pelted with rotten tomatoes. And so begins an epic patchwork of masochistic rituals, nightmares and games, blending the quotidian with the phenomenal, all inspired by the choreographer’s trip to Sicily. A rare chance to watch one of Bausch’s creations in full and for free online.
At first sight they could be Pina Bausch’s dancers: a procession of performers wearing smart suits and enigmatic smiles, gliding across a stage filled with apples. Bausch’s company memorably balanced apples on their heads in Palermo Palermo, but as Smashed is created by those juggling supremos Gandini, the fruit is mostly in motion here. Their Bausch homage has the same childlike games, adult fantasy and bruised humour of the German choreographer’s work. Smashed is crisp, fresh and full of flavour. You may never look at an apple in the same way again …
Oscar Wilde season
All four productions in Classic Spring’s starry Oscar Wilde season in the West End can be watched on the online service Marquee TV, which is offering a 14-day free trial. Edward and Freddie Fox play father and son in An Ideal Husband; Eve Best is a memorable Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance; Kathy Burke directs Lady Windermere’s Fan; and Sophie Thompson is horrified by theatre’s most famous handbag in The Importance of Being Earnest.
If you missed its run at Soho’s Boulevard theatre, here’s a chance to savour Dave Malloy’s song cycle, filmed in New York in 2015. Alternately rousing and yearning, this is a gorgeous hymn to barflies, precious memories and the joys of being a ghost, told with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and Thelonious Monk. It’s a glorious get-together of a show, as warming as the whiskey handed out to the audience – but you’ll have to pour your own.
Open Clasp is a women’s theatre company aiming to “change the world, one play at a time”. Key Change, now available to stream online, is a fantastic introduction to their consistently impressive work with women who are on the margins of society; in this case, prisoners at HM Prison Low Newton, who devised the 2015 show with the theatre group over several months in order to break down stigma and enlighten audiences. It was filmed in partnership with The Space.
Le Patin Libre
Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities, but the Canadian troupe, Le Patin Libre, has taken the art form into a new dimension. In their double bill, Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades.
The Show Must Go Online
The actor Robert Myles has set up a live-streamed reading group for professional and amateur actors to perform Shakespeare’s complete plays in the order they’re believed to have been written. The Guardian’s very own Stephen Moss took on the role of the Duke of Burgundy in Henry VI Part I.
You have to hunt to find full theatre productions for very young audiences online, so here’s a little treat. To mark World Day of Theatre for Children on 20 March the lovely Egg in Bath released their wintry 40-minute tale for the under-fours.
The School for Wives
Travel restrictions needn’t prevent you from enjoying international theatre online. Paris’s esteemed Odéon has released its 2018 production of Molière’s satirical 1662 comedy of manners and cuckoldry. Claude Duparfait stars as the foolish Arnolphe, and Stéphane Braunschweig directs. English subtitles available, évidemment. Read the full review.
Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body Is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK, but, since its livestream is still available online, you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.
The Wind in the Willows
Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe teamed up to deliver a merry new version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, staged at the London Palladium in 2017, with Rufus Hound wearing 50 shades of green as Mr Toad. It’s available to rent online, with the option to donate to help provide financial and emotional support to theatre workers.
Girls Like That
London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons
Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show, Latin History for Morons, is on Netflix.
LIVR is a subscription service that enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into the headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots. The award-winning Patricia Gets Ready, written by Martha Watson Allpress, is also available from LIVR.
Timpson: The Musical
Two households, both alike in dignity … well, sort of. Our narrator, a talking portrait, lays our scene in Victorian London, and this musical comedy imagines the founding of the popular shoe-repair chain as a union between two companies, the Montashoes and the Keypulets. Watch Gigglemug Theatre’s show on YouTube.
My Left Nut
This is cheating as it’s a TV series, but BBC Three’s superb comedy drama is based on one of the most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s based on Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.
Rosas Danst Rosas
Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair.