More British theater is heading for American cinema screens

Today’s Economist Espresso gives a brief nod to the live streaming of theatrical productions with an announcement that the Almeida Theatre, in London, will transmit a production of Richard III to cinemas in July. You can find the post here, and information from the Almeida here.

Espresso may be correct in asserting that the Metropolitan Opera pioneered this kind of “event cinema” in 2006, but it neglects to report (because Espresso items are always brief) that London’s National Theatre joined the trend in 2009, with the transmission of a Phèdre production that featured Helen Mirren, and has offered a few shows a year since then, running a gamut from Greek classics through early English drama (Everyman) to modern British and American plays. Shakespeare has been well represented, as Shakespeare tends to be in the English-speaking theater (this is why I, in my iconoclastic way, am a little less than wholly excited by the upcoming Almeida broadcast). Benedict Cumberbatch’s highly popular performance as Hamlet last fall, mentioned in the Espresso post, was one of the National’s presentations. This year’s NT Live transmissions are listed here, and the Wikipedia entry includes a tantalizing summary of previous offerings, which have included some work by other companies.

Some NT Live shows end up being repeated. I particularly recommend its version of Frankenstein, first shown in 2011, which was adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel by Nick Dear, directed by Danny Boyle, and featured Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating, from one performance to the next, in the roles of the doctor and the creature. The National’s Frankenstein is vividly theatrical but also sensibly cinematic and even respectably literary, honoring the novel far more than any film version I’m aware of. It’s due to return in October.


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