Following on from the instant success of the first National Theatre At Home streaming event on Thursday night (Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden), it’s got me thinking about all the other wonderful NT Live screenings that I’d love to come to the small screen as part of this series. Over the next few weeks we will be treated to Jane Eyre, Treasure Island, and Twelfth Night – but what should come after that?
There have been so many brilliant National Theatre productions beamed to cinemas over the years – and they have also incorporated shows from other theatres & companies, of course – that we could be here for quite some time… So I have narrowed it down to my top 10.
10. King Lear (2014)
There’s been a lot of talk about this particular Shakespeare play recently, from those seeking inspiration and others reminding you that it’s not mandatory to be creative at this time – as apparently the Bard made use of the theatres being closed down by the plague to write King Lear. Whether he did or not, it has made me think about some of the brilliant productions of the play that there have been; my favourite has to be Chichester’s 2017 version starring Ian McKellen (the West End run, with some cast changes, was an NT Live broadcast), but I’d really like to revisit the first one I ever saw. Simon Russell Beale was brilliant in the title role, as was Adrian Scarborough as the Fool and Sam Troughton as Edmund (a.k.a. the best character in the play).
9. The Hard Problem (2015)
When I moved to London in autumn 2014, I was in the middle of studying for an MSc in Science Communication; I had the taught modules under my belt, but was now looking for a research project to sink my teeth into. While I was actively attempting to get this done, my brain inevitably landed on the science in plays arena – I was in the best place for theatre and there seemed to be a bit of a thing for science-related plays, so could see as many productions as possible. One of these was a new Tom Stoppard play that linked into altruism and Darwinian concepts, as well as aspects of psychology – a bit of a brain-melter, but one I’d definitely like to revisit.
8. Frankenstein (2011)
One of my favourite novels of all-time, I hadn’t quite reached the theatregoing period of my life when this was on at the NT so I never got to see it in a theatre; I did manage to see a couple of NT Live encores, but unfortunately the second time they didn’t advertise which of Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller was playing The Creature and Victor Frankenstein, so I’ve seen Cumberbatch as The Creature twice. Being something of a completist, I’d obviously like to see Miller as The Creature – and now is as good a time as any for this story in which the feeling of isolation is a constant.
7. Of Mice and Men – Longacre Theatre, NYC (2015)
The bane of my life from around 2002-2004, as soon as I’d finished studying Of Mice and Men and read it ‘properly’ I realised just how good it was. As part of our GCSE studies a group of us had gone to see the production starring Matthew Kelly (where he didn’t play Lennie as sensitively as we’d been taught he should, but ended up winning an Olivier anyway), but I would have definitely loved to have seen the screening of the Broadway version starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd having come through the studying process with a true appreciation for the story.
6. Present Laughter – Old Vic (2019)
Any theatre appearance by Andrew Scott is vital viewing; he is undoubtedly one of the best stage actors out there, with proven range and an incredibly ability to connect with his audience. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance in Present Laughter (and the show itself made it to my list of favourites for 2019), and it’s not hard to see why – his comic timing was bang on (as was Sophie Thompson’s in her supporting role), and the whole thing was simply a delight. It would be the perfect way to brighten up a Thursday evening.
5. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Old Vic (2017)
I’d become a bit of a Stoppard fan, and was desperate to see this particular play as it also crosses over with Shakespeare (another favourite). But as the star casting was announced before the show went on sale, I found myself going into battle with the full force of the Potterheads – yes, this is the Daniel Radcliffe production. I just wanted to see the play, I didn’t care who was in it! I am quite particular about where I sit in the Old Vic (as a lot of the sightlines are really not great) which probably didn’t help my chances, but still… This theatre shutdown would be an excellent opportunity to right this particular wrong.
4. Hangmen (2016)
I saw this fairly early on in its run at the Royal Court in 2015 and was completely blown away by the whole thing; it became an instant favourite. The production then transferred to the West End, but I dithered quite a lot before finally getting round to seeing it – and the upshot of that was that I managed to time my trip with Johnny Flynn’s absence for the birth of his second child… His understudy, Josef Davies, was absolutely brilliant (you know I’m a big understudy cheerleader) but I would love to see Flynn’s thrilling portrayal of Mooney again.
3. The Beaux’ Stratagem (2015)
I had never seen a Restoration comedy before, but as soon as I’d seen this one I knew I wanted to seek out more. But not before I returned to see this production on the night of its NT Live performance… The central partnership of Samuel Barnett and Geoffrey Streatfeild was an absolute dream, especially as the play descended further into farce, and they engaged superbly with the audience. What I will always remember, however, is “a trifle” – it truly has to be seen to be believed!
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Bridge Theatre (2019)
Last summer ended up being the summer of Dreams, and during my Shakespeare challenge week I went to see a selection of them. By far my favourite was Nicholas Hytner’s production at the Bridge Theatre, the second promenade Shakespeare production since the building opened in 2017. For me this version of the play is up there with Emma Rice’s hallowed production at the Globe from her opening season, which should speak volumes; I was crying with laughter (particularly as Oberon & Titania had switched roles, so it was the former madly in lust with Bottom) and completely invested in every single incident. A perfect feel-good production.
1. This House (2013)
My friends and I wholeheartedly believe that this particular James Graham play should be running at all times, as it never becomes irrelevant. I saw it when it eventually transferred to the West End in 2016, but would love to see the NT cast in action by way of comparison. As well as being wildly entertaining, it’s surprisingly educational; there are some great “that can’t have actually happened” moments, and it’s a real eye-opener about the cyclical nature of British politics – other than this viral interruption, we have been following a similar trajectory as the late 70s/early 80s recently. So, once we’ve seen it on screen and the theatres are reopened, let’s get it back onto a London stage again.