Whoever hit on the idea of beaming live broadcasts from theatre shows to the cinema deserves a medal. I’ve been to some stupendous National Theatre productions at the movies – when I saw Helen Mirren in The Audience at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford the whole audience erupted into spontaneous applause at the end.
And now the Royal Shakespeare Company is following suit. Last night saw the RSC’s first live broadcast from Stratford-upon-Avon to 364 cinemas across the UK and it was a triumph all round.
The play was the RSC’s critically acclaimed (and sold-out) production of Richard II, with David Tennant at his brilliant best as the flawed king. I have to admit that after seeing Tennant as the brooding Detective Inspector Alec Hardy in TV’s Broadchurch it was a bit of a shock to see him with waist-length hair and flowing medieval robes.
The mood at the Harbour Lights Picturehouse in Southampton was upbeat. We all knew we were part of something special and while sceptics might claim that seeing the play at the cinema isn’t a patch on going to Stratford I have to disagree. It’s not worse or better – it’s just different.
Last night also had the benefit of interviews with the cast (including a moving chat with Jane Lapotaire, who plays the Duchess of Gloucester), shots of the actors’ trip to Westminster Abbey to see the tomb of Richard II and a discussion about the play with director Gregory Doran, all of which added hugely to my enjoyment. His analysis of the play as being “about regime change” and “a man refusing to let go of the power that he thinks is his God-given right” stuck in my head all evening.
Gregory Doran has said that the aim is to bring the work to the widest possible audience and considering that last night’s performance was seen by more than 60,000 people across the UK the RSC is clearly onto a winner. Not only that, it will be broadcast around the world in the coming months and tomorrow (November 14) will be streamed to 34,000 schoolchildren in 1,000 UK classrooms.
One thing’s for sure, if David Tennant can’t turn them on to Shakespeare then no one can.