National Theatre Live is Keeping the Thrill of The Stage Alive

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"I've been to four London plays, yet I've never seen a play in London." 


The NT Live performances are a rare and miraculous event created by the fact that the play is being performed live right at that moment and you can watch it from your own local cinema. Both the expenses and travel time are avoided. 

There is something so powerful about them; seeing the action up on the big screen with such A-List celebrities (such as Gillian Anderson, Lily James and Bill Pullman) very much intensifies it.  

Unlike a movie though it skips the unrealism, the bright colours that add that Hollywood effect. It stands in an entirely new league of its own, being able to show much harsher imagery since it is a play. In fact, during the 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' performance the audience was immediately subjected to an image of Jack O'Connell stripped bare naked, revealing everything, underneath a shower.

Now of course this extreme nudity would make this film be marked as a 15 or even an 18 but instead, since it is a play, it is therefore culturally acceptable. There is an even bigger connection between the audience and cast and so this naturality is less frowned upon. We know that we are all humans and instead of discouraging this we celebrate it.

Everything is intensified and perhaps this is why it is a much more thrilling experience than going to see a movie.  

But like all films it was the camera angles that added to the scene. Close ups of characters slowly getting more withdrawn, building up the tension of the scene, and wide shots of the entire scene. The cameras give us a chance to be at the very focus of the event, being side-by-side to the actors, an impossible experience in the actual theatre.

The cameras give us a chance to be God-like, we almost become more powerful in the narrative than the actual cast. That said our focus was put on certain things due to these camera angles and so it leads to the question: is it better to see the play live or from the comfort of your cinema?  

With anything involving a camera you are given an altered perspective. There will always be something going on at the same time, but you could potentially miss it due to the way the scene is presented.

Watching live in the theatre, however, you are given much more freedom as a viewer to select what you want to see.  

Of course, the play may be more exciting, you are in the room with all these acting greats, watching the narrative play out. There is always a buzz when you are right at the heart of it, excitement lingers in the air. 

And yet you are being shown exactly the same thing in the cinema at exactly the same time.

It may be even more relaxed in the cinema. You can eat popcorn and are more chilled in your attitude, so do you enjoy it more?  

To be honest it is difficult to say which is best. To see it live with all the action and excitement or to see it on screen. They are completely different experiences and yet they are both unique experience that bare a wide range of differing results.

It widens the Arts and makes it more accessible to a wider variety of people, rather than discouraging people due to distance.

Is this the future? Hopefully.

These live performances, no matter where you see them are not only thrilling but vitally important. 

In a media obsessed society, it gets younger audiences to keep the thrill of the stage alive.

Let’s hope that they continue and expand.  



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