In this month’s theatre column, Getintothis’ Ally Goodman takes a look at how you can experience performances in the comfort of your own home.
If live theatre is among your favourite pastimes, whether it be as an avid audience member or dedicated amateur thesp, this lockdown will have freed up many an evening and matinee for you.
But despite your calendars now looking as quiet as a ‘Clap for Boris’ street party, there is good news to be had.
Venues both local and national have been embracing the ever-growing number of methods to stream entertainment directly into your homes and have organised a whole host of performances and interactive activities to keep yourself and the family from climbing up the walls in frustration.
From pantos and Shakespeare to dance classes and storytelling, this may not be the kind of theatre column I was expecting to write when I was planning my highlights of the year, but it’s certainly one that retains the spirit and variety of live theatre.
Stay safe, stay home and enjoy.
Ally Goodman, Theatre Columnist.
Rapunzel – St Helens Theatre Royal
Streaming on Facebook and Instagram
Until April 18
I’ve assured my editors there will be as little reference to the lockdown as possible in this column so I’d like it acknowledged how difficult it was to start the column with RAPUNZEL.
Anyway…this uniquely filmed production of a panto classic will star a host of the regular stars that appear at St Helens Theatre Royal. Olivia Sloyan will play Rapunzel, James Lacey as the Witch, Lewis Devine as Daft Dave, Samantha Palin as the Queen, Warren Donnelly as the King, Andrew Geater as the Prince, Abby Middleton as Fairy Anna(logue) and Jenna Sian O’Hara as Pixel The Pixie.
For this special production, each cast member has recorded their own section of the pantomime at home and, through careful editing, the story is brought together to create a unique online pantomime that the whole family will enjoy. The pantomime is written and directed by James Lacey and choreographed by Sarah Walker.
Producer and Director at Regal Entertainments, Chantelle Nolan says: “We wanted to reward and entertain families for being responsible and isolating. So many of our customers were disappointed not to be able to come and see our Easter pantomime in St Helens, so we thought that, this year, we would bring the panto to them.
“We have an incredibly talented cast, who are more than up to the challenge of creating a unique, new show and we’re going to put on a fantastic online show that all ages can enjoy.”
Treasure Island & Twelfth Night – National Theatre Live
Streaming on YouTube
April 16 – 23 & April 23 – 30
Getintothis had the pleasure of experiencing a show at the National Theatre live for the first time last year when we traveled down to the big smoke to watch the incredible Peter Gynt.
We’d of course known of the quality of their output for many years but the set-up and atmosphere in the wonderfully modern venue can’t be overstated, so to be able to watch some of their most successful productions for free over the next few weeks is a real treat.
Up first is Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous story of murder, money and mutiny. Filmed live on-stage, you’ll be able to watch Olivier Award-winner Patsy Ferran (Summer and Smoke) play Jim and Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) play Long John Silver in what is sure to be a rip-roaring adventure for the whole family.
Then to round off April we have the Bard’s Twelfth Night, where music is the food of love, and nobody is quite what they seem. Featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia, anything will prove possible in Shakespeare’s classic comedy.
FREE Online Classes – Majestic Academy of Performing Arts, Chester
Streaming via YouTube, Zoom and Google Meet
This one will allow run-ragged parents to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
The newly-formed Majestic Academy of Performing Arts in Chester is offering budding young performers the opportunity to enjoy virtual drama, dance and singing lessons as a way of helping to keep children active.
Housed in the former Tarvin Road Methodist Church, the Academy has breathed new life into the historic building and has welcomed a whole host of students signing up to classes.
The team lead by principle Joanne Saunders and featuring choreographer Chloe Waggett have turned to Zoom and Google Meet, in order to be able to continue to provide classes for their students and have introduced free 15 minute taster sessions too.
Joanne said: “For those interested in musical theatre and classical singing, we are able to prepare children and adults for LCM musical theatre and classical singing exams, local festivals, touring West End Shows and opera production auditions.
You can check out our free online dance classes for both children and adults via YouTube by subscribing to Majestic Academy or by following us on Facebook.”
Elizabeth and Essex
BBC Radio 3 / BBC iPlayer
Until May 12
Elizabeth and Essex is a new play by Robin Brooks, based on the writings of Lytton Strachey, about Elizabeth I and her young favourite, the Earl of Essex.
It was recorded live at the Alexandra Palace Theatre, with music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, drawn from his classic score which Korngold originally composed for the 1939 movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, starring Bette Davis as Elizabeth and Errol Flynn as Essex. Korngold’s music is played by the BBC Concert Orchestra and conducted by Robert Ziegler.
The play stars Simon Russell Beale as both Strachey, leading light of the Bloomsbury Group, and Elizabeth I. It explores the way in which Strachey gradually became absorbed in a rich fantasy life inspired by intrigue at the Tudor court, into which he drew the young man who was then the object of his affections.
The two stories, of the Virgin Queen and the ageing writer, play out in parallel, with assistance from other Bloomsbury-group members, Lady Ottoline Morrell and John Maynard Keynes.
Storytimes, Quarantine Karaoke, Cinema Screenings
via Storyhouse’s website
We’re big fans of Storyhouse here at Getintothis and the Chester venue have gone above and beyond in providing entertainment for audiences of all ages during this unprecedented time.
First up there’s Quarantine Karaoke every Wednesday with audiences encouraged to get on their webcam and sing (or lip-sync, no pressure) along to a wide variety of songs from all eras. Song lists and lyric sheets are released in advance and the sessions are led by Storyhouse’s own George West.
If that all sounds far too involved and energetic, you could instead relax at 6pm every day when familiar faces from Storyhouse, including actors, librarians and team members will read stories and excerpts chosen by the venue’s audience.
Alex Clifton, Artistic Director said, “Since 2010, our professionals, volunteers and audiences have been making work at the parks, in the churches, up the walls, along the streets of Chester; now we will simply carry on online. We work together to tackle shared challenges.”
Shakespeare’s Globe – Live Streams
It’s on every thespian and theatre lover’s bucket list, but if you’ve never managed to get to see a show at Shakespeare’s Globe in London then you can at least catch one of the iconic venue’s back catalogue from home during the lockdown.
Via their YouTube channel, you’ll be able see some of their much-loved productions from Shakespeare’s most famous stage.
Hamlet (2018), Romeo and Juliet (2009), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013) and The Two Noble Kinsmen (2018), plus two previously unreleased titles The Winter’s Tale (2018) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019), will all be available for free, one on rotation every two weeks.
Plus, from 6.00pm each release day, folks from the venue will be discussing the plays, sharing facts about Shakespeare, and revealing insights from behind the productions.
As well as this impressive back catalogue selection, The Globe have also announced plans to stream over thirty productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival, which welcomed artists from across the world to perform Shakespeare’s works in their own language, as well as all 37 films from The Complete Walk; the series of 10-minute short films set in the locations Shakespeare imagined, and featuring an all-star cast including James Norton, Gemma Arterton, Meera Syal and Simon Russell Beale.