Last of free UK theatre streamings

A promotional image for William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the production was filmed live from the Bridge Theatre in London. Stream it free on YouTube from June 25 to July 2.

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BY BILLY SUTER

ALL good things, sadly, must come to an end – the weekly, free Youtube streamings of quality British theatre from National Theatre Live archives, available every Thursday during much of lockdown, will soon end. But not before a few more diverse productions are made available globally.

The current free-stream production from National Theatre At Home is The Madness of George III. It started streaming on June 11 and is free to watch on Youtube until 8pm (South African time) om Thursday, June 18.

Written by one of Britain’s best-loved playwrights, Alan Bennett (The History Boys, The Lady in the Van), this epic play was also adapted into a Bafta Award-winning film following its premiere on stage in 1991.

The cast of this new production includes Olivier Award-winners Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Wolf Hall, NT Live Coriolanus) in the title role, and Adrian Scarborough (Gavin and Stacey, Upstairs Downstairs, After the Dance).

The setting is 1786, when King George III is the most powerful man in the world. But his behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic as he succumbs to fits of lunacy. With the king’s mind unravelling at a dramatic pace, ambitious politicians and the scheming Prince of Wales threaten to undermine the power of the Crown, and expose the fine line between a king and a man.

From 8pm on June 18 (SA time), National Theatre at Home will offer free streaming of Small Island, a well-received play adapted by Helen Edmundson from the Orange Prize-winning novel by Andrea Levy. It runs for almost three hours, including a short interval.

A scene from Small Island, featured on the National Theatre Live website. Awarded five stars by The Observer, the play was filmed live during its sold-out run in 2019 and features a company of 40 actors. Picture by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

The drama, available to stream until June 25, takes a journey from Jamaica to Britain, from the Second World War to 1948 – the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as Small Island traces the tangled history between Jamaica and the UK, as its characters dream of a better world.

Hortense yearns for a new life away from rural Jamaica, Gilbert dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Queenie longs to escape her Lincolnshire roots, in three intricately connected stories.

Awarded five stars by The Observer, the play was filmed live during its sold-out run in 2019 and features a company of 40 actors, including Leah Harvey, Gershwyn Eustache Jr and Aisling Loftus.

A truly remarkable and clever production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream is the National Theatre at Home choice for free streaming from 8pm (SA time) on Thursday, June 25. It will be available until July 2.

The Bard’s tale is of a feuding fairy King and Queen of the forest, who cross paths with four runaway lovers and a troupe of actors trying to rehearse a play. As their dispute grows, the magical royal couple meddle with mortal lives leading to love triangles, mistaken identities and transformations… with hilarious, but dark consequences.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the production was filmed live from the Bridge Theatre in London. It features Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), Oliver Chris (Green Wing, One Man, Two Guvnors, Twelfth Night), David Moorst and Hammed Animashaun (Barber Shop Chronicles, Master Harold… and the Boys).

This lively production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream saw the Bridge Theatre become a forest – a dream world of flying fairies, contagious fogs and moonlight revels, surrounded by a roving audience following the action on foot.

The final production available for free streaming will be Les Blancs, filmed in 2016. It’s a drama by Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun), adapted by Robert Nemiroff, and directed by Yael Farber. Catch it free from 8pm (SSA time) in Thursday July 2, until July 9.

Said to be a brave, illuminating and powerful work that confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution, the play tells of an African country teetering on the edge of civil war. A society prepares to drive out its colonial present and claim an independent future. Tshembe, returned home from England for his father’s funeral, finds himself in the eye of the storm.


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