It’s been a while since we’ve been able to enjoy the delights of live theatre, and whilst a few have opened their doors to excited audiences, many of us have yet to get back into those slightly uncomfortable red chairs, clutching our pre-show gin and tonics and waiting for the lights to dim. So we recommend having a night at the theatre at home, with these incredible pre-filmed productions from the National Theatre. Shhh…the curtain’s going up…
Great British Theatre is the right term for this collection, featuring five of the National Theatre’s most loved plays. There’s Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag, the one-woman play which preceded the brilliant two series TV show, and Ian McKellen on Stage, the tour he went on to mark his 80th Birthday, where he explores his love of the theatre by performing extracts from his most iconic roles, including Shakespeare’s King Lear, and of course Lord of The Rings’ Gandalf. You shall not pass…up this opportunity to see McKellen perform. Speaking of Shakespeare, the collection also includes Benedict Cumberbatch playing the title role in Hamlet, and if you’re a Cumberbatch fan you’ll be pleased to know he’s also featuring on another one of the plays, as Frankenstein’s creature. And it’s a Franken-double-bill, too, as we can see a role reversed version of the Mary Shelley adaptation, with Cumberbatch as Frankenstein himself, and Jonny Lee Miller as the creature.
All five shows available are five star offerings, each of them receiving praise from the critics when they were on the stage. The Guardian’s Michael Billington says Ian McKellen’s stage show “takes us on an engrossing voyage round himself and the British theatre”, whilst in The Telegraph Dominic Cavendish has love for Fleabag, saying “this small but perfectly formed little critter of a show – fluffy on the outside but with sharp teeth – is a model of how to achieve theatrical riches on a shoestring.” Ben Brantley of The New York Times comments that in Hamlet, Cumberbatch is in fighting trim,” and “brings energy and precision to every word and movement, including the climactic fencing match,” whilst his performance in Frankenstein was praised in The Times, who say “Cumberbatch astonished in the monster role, moving into a zone of physical expressiveness and otherness we have never yet seen.”
Whilst watching it at home may not have quite the same thrill as sitting in a theatre, there are definitely some benefits – you can watch it in your pyjamas, with no annoying mask on, and you won’t have to put up with those people who want to talk the whole way through. Plus, you’ll be supporting – in your own little way – the arts, and what’s not to like about that?
You can watch the trailer for the stage production of Hamlet by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.