A History of Water in the Middle East
The Royal Court has released a new audio version of Sabrina Mahfouz’s poetic, political lecture-cum-gig, first staged at its Theatre Upstairs in 2019. It explores – as the first of its several songs observes – the way water and imperialism have shaped “landscapes, lives, legacies”. Mahfouz is a compelling host and keeps the fact-filled story flowing, switching from personal to global perspectives, for this hourlong gig, directed by Stef O’Driscoll. Listen until 30 January.
Swingin’ the Dream
Even with Louis Armstrong playing Bottom, a jazz musical with a cast of 150 performers riffing on A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a $2m flop when it opened on Broadway in 1939. A new work-in-progress concert performance from the RSC, with London’s Young Vic and New York’s Theatre for a New Audience, brings back music from Gilbert Seldes and Erik Charell’s original show. It’s presented by Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and streamed live from the Royal Shakespeare theatre on 9 January. Available on demand until 16 January.
Weg met Eddy Bellegueule
The mighty Internationaal Theater Amsterdam is one of the many major European venues to embrace streaming. Its online programme includes this award-winning musical adaptation of Édouard Louis’s autobiographical novel The End of Eddy, about growing up gay in a working-class village in France. Four young actors play all the characters in Eline Arbo’s production, which is live-streamed on 22 January.
The Snow Queen
Polly Lister plays umpteen parts in this spirited Hans Christian Andersen adaptation filmed at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre. Lister juggles the roles of a Sun Sorceress and the Snow Queen; best friends Gerda and Kai; a cigar-chewing granny who flirts with the audience like a panto dame; a scooter-riding reindeer; and a raven who specialises in scatological verse. Even if you’ve taken down your own decorations, it all adds up to a welcome burst of festive fun. Available online until 31 January. Read the full review.
First staged at the Almeida in 2019, Shipwreck by Anne “Mr Burns” Washburn gave a sprawling account of modern-day American politics and the rise and potential fall of Trump. It was due to be staged at the Public theatre in New York in 2020 but was instead adapted by Saheem Ali as a three-part audio play in a co-production with Woolly Mammoth theatre company. Set during a getaway for a bunch of friends in upstate New York in 2017, it’s a knotty appraisal of an American moment that, strikingly, already feels like a vanishing era.
As Norma Desmond insists, the pictures got small. But even streamed on a laptop, you won’t want to miss Leicester Curve’s concert version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, based on Billy Wilder’s classic movie. The tale of a flat tyre, a faded idol and a body in the pool is told with a 16-piece orchestra and stars Ria Jones and Danny Mac. Until 17 January. Read the full review.
The Bush theatre reopened in December with this eagerly awaited new play by Travis Alabanza (Burgerz) but was forced to close just a week later when London was moved into tier 3. A film of Debbie Hannan’s production, in which Reece Lyons overflows with emotions while trapped inside a bathroom, can be seen online 18-23 January. Read the full review.
The Southbank Centre’s fifth festival celebrating disability arts goes digital with a range of theatre and dance. Sophie Woolley’s filmed performance Augmented tells how she became a “deaf cyborg” with a cochlear implant; Ellen Renton’s multimedia show Within Sight looks at running, the Paralympics and “inspiration porn”; there’s a night with autistic drag queen Oozing Gloop; Aidan Moesby probes the connection between wellbeing and weather in the brilliantly named I Was Naked, Smelling of Rain; and in One Woman, Cheryl Martin uses binaural technology to reflect on depression. 13-17 January.
Goggles and headphones at the ready! With theatres and swimming pools closed for many of us, here’s a show that combines both. It’s a 35-minute experience created by Silvia Mercuriali who intends to transform your home into “a poetic space where the taps are waterfalls and the bath a primordial broth from which anything can emerge”. You perform it yourself in the bathroom, following audio instructions. Until 15 June.
Talk about a space oddity. David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth landed in London in 2016, with Michael C Hall playing the existential extraterrestrial Thomas Newton. Featuring new and old songs by Bowie, it was stylishly staged by Ivo van Hove and his regular designer Jan Versweyveld at the pop-up King’s Cross theatre. A film of that production will be available to stream on Dice from 8-10 January to mark Bowie’s birthday and the fifth anniversary of his death.
We are enjoying more theatre at home than ever before – and it doesn’t have to be a passive experience. Plenty of shows invite audience participation, such as this “cinematic theatre play” written by Thaddeus Phillips and designed by Steven Dufala. It revolves around a mysterious motel room and involves card tricks, number games and a spot of mind-reading. Until 30 January. Read the full review.
The Case of the Hung Parliament
Fancy a bit of lockdown sleuthing? This online Sherlock Holmes whodunnit is designed by Les Enfants Terribles and the virtual reality company LIVR to be an immersive alternative to traditional boardgames. You can play with your family or members of the public, and the experience features live performances and promises more than 100 clues to decipher as you investigate the murky deaths of the home secretary, the foreign secretary and the Lord Chamberlain. 27 January-17 February.
Tales from the Front Line … and Other Stories
The experience of black frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis is brought to harrowing life in this series of short plays from Talawa theatre company, using verbatim interviews with teachers, train workers, hospital and supermarket staff. The first two films are available now. Further episodes follow in January and March. Read the full review.
National Theatre at Home
After the success of its weekly Thursday night streams during lockdown, the NT has launched a catalogue of past hits online. You can either become a subscriber, or pay per play. Titles include classics such as Phèdre with Helen Mirren, Amadeus with Lucian Msamati and the Donmar’s Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston as well as new writing including Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes and Shahid Hadeem’s Dara. New plays are added to the collection each month. The National’s 2020 panto, Dick Whittington, will be available from 11 January for six weeks.
The Unicorn and Filskit Theatre have created a new online version of their superb production about penguin love in a cold climate. Narrated by Madeline Appiah for an audience of two- to five-year-olds, it’s the tale of an Emperor penguin raising a chick and features imaginative animated surprises. Available to watch on the Guardian website until 13 February.
What the Constitution Means to Me
Heidi Schreck’s phenomenal Broadway show has received five-star reviews from Guardian critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Now available to stream from Amazon, it charts what the supreme law of the US has meant to generations of women, as Schreck recreates the debating competitions she took part in as a teenager. Directed by Marielle Heller, it’s shatteringly funny, deeply disturbing yet imbued with optimism.
What does it mean to stage a play in an empty theatre, no matter how many are watching on Zoom? The Old Vic’s stream of Faith Healer – with the divine cast of Michael Sheen, Indira Varma and David Threlfall – begins by revealing rows of unfilled seats. Director Matthew Warchus accentuates the emptiness to bring out elements of Brian Friel’s four monologues, shared by three characters who colour in or contradict each other’s stories. It’s a spellbinding evening. The Old Vic’s recorded performance is available to watch from 20-22 January, and its equally impressive production of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, starring Matt Smith and Claire Foy, can be seen from 27-29 January.
Mary Prince, a West Indian slave who became an abolitionist, was the first black woman to publish an account of her life in Britain. Her life is explored through music, song, drumming and dance in this show by Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective, available until 12 January. It’s one of the winter offerings from Oxford’s Old Fire Station, which also include Mike Bartlett’s An Intervention starring the comedy duo Britney (Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson). Bartlett directs a rehearsed reading of his punchy political comedy, first staged in 2014 and now updated.
The Cost of Living
As a tribute to the acclaimed disabled dancer David Toole, who died in October, the physical theatre company DV8 have shared their multi-award-winning 2004 film The Cost of Living online. Shot on location at a faded seaside resort in Norfolk, it follows two street performers (Toole and Eddie Kay) in a portrait of friendship and prejudice, brimming with spellbinding images. Available on DV8’s Media Portal for a small membership fee. Unmissable.
They’ve got magic to do, just for you: the original 1980 Broadway production of the Tony award-winning musical, with catchy songs by Stephen Schwartz and some glorious moves by Bob Fosse, is available to stream on Amazon. Ben Vereen is the beguiling leading player of a troupe who may or may not lead the eponymous prince to self-immolation. It’s bizarre and frequently frustrating, but a fascinating chapter of Broadway history. Get the backstage view in the series Fosse/Verdon on BBC iPlayer.
Shh! We Have a Plan
Director Ian Nicholson and designer Sam Wilde brightened up the first lockdown with their delightful puppet versions of the picture book I Want My Hat Back and its sequels. Now, they’re back with another homemade auditorium and another set of eye-catching characters for a 15-minute adventure based on Chris Haughton’s book Shh! We Have a Plan. And this one introduces kids to opera, too, with a new score by Noah Mosely sung by soprano Abigail Kelly. English Touring Opera’s production is online until 25 January.
The York Mystery Plays
This pandemic year has seen a boom in sales for classic fiction as we finally get round to reading famous “bucket list” novels. Why not do the same for theatre – and why not start with some of the York Mystery Plays, which date back to the 1300s? Four of the biblical dramas, including the story of Adam and Eve, have been adapted for BBC radio, with a cast of community and professional actors for York Theatre Royal’s Collective Acts project.
Play-Along Plink and Boo
Build yourself a cosy den and make your own props for this imaginative home theatre experience from Can’t Sit Still. Designed for children aged two to seven, it’s a gentle and playful circus show about how we can be boxed in by gender bias. The clowning duo are played by Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey, whose decision to raise a gender-neutral child was featured in a BBC documentary. Online on 16 February. Full review.
This new musical revue, conceived by Peter Polycarpou, was one of the November productions forced to close by England’s second lockdown. It has now been reimagined as a digital production, starring Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett, weaving together tunes from Charlie Chaplin, Irving Berlin, Arthur Freed and more through the tale of a lost songbook discovered in an antique shop. Available from stream.theatre, 1-14 February.
An American in Paris
Feted at the Châtelet in Paris in 2014, Christopher Wheeldon’s resplendent staging of the Gershwins’ classic went on to conquer Broadway and the West End. It’s available on a new streaming platform, Stage2View.com, which also offers the musicals Kinky Boots and 42nd Street, as well as Michael Grandage’s Mark Rothko drama Red, starring Alfred Molina as the artist.
User Not Found
When we die, what becomes of our digital identity? Do all those tweets and posts endure for eternity – and who decides? The site-specific theatre company Dante or Die asked such questions, and many more, in a thoughtful and funny 2018 show by Chris Goode that was staged in cafes. It has now been reimagined as a 50-minute video podcast, available from the Guardian until 10 March.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic classic has been adapted by Nick Lane, who draws on his own injuries in a car accident to imagine Jekyll seeking a cure for his pain. (“If someone offered me a potion that was guaranteed to make me feel the way I did before the accident, but with the side effect that I’d become ruthless and horrible, would I drink it?” asks Lane.) Blackeyed Theatre’s production is available on demand until 31 January. The dual roles are played by Blake Kubena.
This production by the theatre company Extant celebrates the rich history of Goze, itinerant blind performers who traditionally travelled around Japan to bring audiences a vast selection of stories – accompanied by music played on their shamisen stringed instruments. Flight Paths fuses old and new, bringing together archive material about the Goze, animation and filmed modern performance, in an accessible hourlong digital experience.
Arinzé Kene’s poetic 2017 play good dog posed unanswered questions about the UK’s summer riots of 2011. Revived for a tour last year, it has now been adapted as a superb 20-minute film, directed by Andrew Gillman and Natalie Ibu for Tiata Fahodzi. Anton Cross stars as a man looking back on his youth, his neighbours and his community. The film was commissioned by The Space and supported by BBC and Arts Council England.
For Quality Purposes
The ever-enterprising company Stan’s Cafe have put together a season of lockdown work including a version of their 2013 show The Anatomy of Melancholy, reconceived as 35 short split-screen films. They also have a new 25-minute production, For Quality Purposes, which is set in a call centre, directed by James Yarker and devised by the company specifically to be performed online. It promises humour and pathos as it explores the dynamic between call-centre worker and customer. Available until 11 February. Read the full review.
Charlotte Holmes: Adventure Box
Lockdown restrictions and cancelled travel plans have narrowed horizons for little adventurers. So this “seven-day theatrical experience” for families is both a delight and a relief. Created by Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley theatre, the Dukes in Lancaster and theatre producers the Big Tiny, it’s a series of mysteries encountered by Charlotte, a young girl evacuated to Yorkshire during the second world war. You solve the puzzles by watching jaunty online videos and opening up the envelopes and parcels inside an adventure box sent to you in the post when you book. The Big Tiny’s follow-up, Balthazar Snapdragon, is just as fun. Read the full review.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal, Pulitzer prize-winning musical about the “10-dollar founding father without a father” was filmed over three nights in New York in 2016 with the original Broadway cast. Slated for a 2021 cinema release, it was instead fast-tracked on to the Disney+ streaming service. It’s directed by Thomas Kail, who staged the musical, and according to Miranda gives “everyone the best seat in the house”. Watch it once and, to quote Jonathan Groff’s frothing King George III, You’ll Be Back. Read the full, five-star review.
As Waters Rise
Ben Weatherill’s play is set in the year 2025 when a flood has left Britain in a state of emergency. Originally planned for a stage production, it is now a three-part audio drama directed by Alex Brown and featuring teenage actors from the Almeida Young Company, who recorded their parts in isolation during lockdown. Released as part of Shifting Tides, the Almeida’s digital festival about the climate emergency, aimed at and created with 14- to 25-year-olds. Read the full review.
Culture in Quarantine
The Way Out, a single-take, 40-minute variety film, invites viewers to follow Omid Djalili through the mysterious, majestic and mundane corners of the phoenix-like Battersea Arts Centre. The film is part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine programme on iPlayer, which includes Jade Anouka and Grace Savage’s Her & Her; Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s five-star show Revisor; Where I Go (When I Can’t Be Where I Am), about living with chronic pain, conceived and directed by Rachel Bagshaw and written by Chris Thorpe; and Corey Baker’s marvellous mini Swan Lake, performed in dancers’ baths.
First, Do No Harm
Sharon D Clarke has portrayed a long line of memorable characters but this is something else. In a new short play by Bernardine Evaristo, directed by Adrian Lester, Clarke speaks for the National Health Service and those who work for it, reflecting on the NHS’s past and future. As she proudly says: “I am one of the best things that has ever happened.” First, Do No Harm is part of a series celebrating the NHS entitled The Greatest Wealth, curated for the Old Vic by Lolita Chakrabarti. The Old Vic is also pioneering socially distanced live performances and rehearsed readings as well as archive recordings of past productions.
Slam poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Yorkshire. The locations are combined in her vivid 2016 monologue, in which Lladel Bryant plays Ishmael, a young gay Zimbabwean who flees homophobic violence in his home country and seeks asylum in the UK where he is dispersed to Leeds. Alex Chisholm’s hour-long production, available on YouTube, was recorded at the Arcola theatre in London.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
The all-male theatre company, known for touring open-air Shakespeare productions around the UK, has postponed its Macbeth until next year but shared two past productions on YouTube and on their website: The Tempest, staged in 2018, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented last year to mark the company’s 15th birthday. They encourage you to recreate the spirit of their productions at home – “whether it is on a picnic blanket in your living room or under the stars wrapped up warm” – and share the results on social media.
Quite simply one of 2019’s most celebrated and momentous stagings of Shakespeare. Adjoa Andoh stars as Richard and co-directs, with Lynette Linton, a superb cast entirely comprising women of colour including Shobna Gulati and Ayesha Dharker. An English history play vividly staged for today in the Globe’s candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, perfect for a play full of plotting. Available on YouTube.
Directed by Jennifer Tang and Anthony Lau, this series of 10 short dramas by Moongate Productions and Omnibus theatre explores the pandemic of racism exacerbated by Covid-19 and enacted against Britain’s east and south-east Asian communities. With pieces by writers including Oladipo Agboluaje, Nemo Martin and Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, it amounts to two hours of theatre on film that incorporates animation, poetry, music and dance. Some catchup videos available on YouTube. Read the full review.
Scenes for Survival
The National Theatre of Scotland was among the first theatres to announce a lockdown programme of work responding to the pandemic. Its growing collection of short films is designed to offer audiences “hope and joy”. There’s Brian Cox as Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh detective John Rebus, Two Doors Down’s Jonathan Watson as a shipyard electrician suffering from exposure to asbestos and Kate Dickie as brilliant as ever in a monologue by Jenni Fagan. The lineup of Scottish talent is extraordinary – Tam Dean Burn, Rona Munro and Douglas Henshall all contribute – and don’t miss Janey Godley’s two-hander with her adorable sausage dog. Read the full review.
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes from Home
One of the major dance productions cut short by the coronavirus crisis was Matthew Bourne’s tour of The Red Shoes, his rapturously received version of the Powell and Pressburger film. But Bourne’s company New Adventures has unveiled a charming 12-minute film version, performed by the cast from home – among children’s toys in their living rooms, on tables, in gardens and backyards, and in the kitchen. The costumes include football kits and, in one case, a couple of towels.
Antoinette Nwandu’s blistering, Beckettian play about police brutality was filmed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theatre by Spike Lee for this 75-minute version, which crackles with humour, tension and tragedy. Lee skilfully weaves the audience, and the world outside the theatre, into a work that our critic Arifa Akbar gives five stars. Available on Amazon Prime. Read the full review.
The Grinning Man
For Bristol Old Vic’s 250th anniversary, director Tom Morris staged a musical tragicomedy based on the Victor Hugo novel The Man Who Laughs, which was published a few years after Les Misérables. A grisly tale of fairground horror and romance, The Grinning Man was a twisted hit and transferred to the West End. Now, a “rare bootleg capture” of the Bristol production is available until 28 February as part of Bristol Old Vic’s At Home season of on-demand shows.
How’s this for a lineup? The cast includes Katherine Parkinson, Paterson Joseph and Denise Gough. The writers include James Graham, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Prasanna Puwanarajah and April De Angelis. And Ned Bennett, Blanche McIntyre, Ola Ince and Tinuke Craig are among the directors. Headlong and Century Films have assembled an extraordinarily talented gang for their 14 short films about lockdown life. On BBC iPlayer. Read the review.
Itching to get back into that wooden O on the South Bank? Happily, the Globe Player has heaps of full productions to rent, including international productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe festival such as a Lithuanian Hamlet, a Turkish Antony and Cleopatra, a Japanese Coriolanus and an Armenian King John. There is also the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’s opening production, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton.
“She had us, both of us, absolutely round her finger…” From that first line, Andrew Scott will have you hooked in this half-hour monologue by Simon Stephens that captures truths about family life, art, nature and much else besides. Scott performed the play at the Bush in 2008 and it was a hot ticket when he reprised it at the Old Vic 10 years later. This version was shot in a single take in 2011. Directed by Stephens and Andrew Porter, it is available online to buy. Brace yourself.
I Wish I Was a Mountain
With wonder, wit and sophisticated storytelling, performance poet Toby Thompson creates a beautiful show for over-sevens. Thompson steps in and out of his version of Hermann Hesse’s fairytale Faldum, riffing with the young audience and spinning a handful of jazz LPs. I Wish I Was a Mountain embraces big questions about time and contentment. This is a short but profound show, directed by Lee Lyford, hatched by the Egg theatre’s Incubator development programme and cleverly designed by Anisha Fields. Read the full review.
Lyric theatre in Belfast
Belfast’s Lyric had to cancel its co-production of 1984 with Bruiser Theatre Company but instead launched the initiative New Speak: Re-imagined, in which Northern Irish talents including Amadan Ensemble, Dominic Montague and Katie Richardson respond to the lockdown crisis. They are being released in episodes on YouTube. The Lyric has also collaborated on a series of five-minute drama commissions for the series Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, available on BBC iPlayer.
The London theatre has launched a Southwark Stayhouse streaming programme, available free until it reopens its doors. Offerings include the “fantastically witty” Wasted, a rock musical about the Brontës, directed by Adam Lenson with music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller. There’s also a Twelfth Night relocated to a music festival, directed by Anna Girvan, and Jesse Briton’s Bound, about a maritime tragedy. A new British musical, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost, had been due to open to the public in January but will now be streamed from 26 January-14 February instead.
English National Ballet
Tamara Rojo’s brilliant company has a steadily growing catalogue of productions, available as individual three-day rentals. There’s Akram Khan’s breathtaking Dust, about the first world war; his version of Giselle with Rojo in the lead role; and classics such as Alina Cojocaru and Vadim Muntagirov starring in the swashbuckler Le Corsaire. Plus, a series of five new short works destined for the stage but available to sample on screen first, from Russell Maliphant’s Echoes, directed by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, to Arielle Smith’s Jolly Folly. Rent from ENB.
Stopgap Dance Company’s disabled and non-disabled dancers create a mood of quiet suspension in an abandoned shopping centre in this 25-minute piece, directed by Sophie Fiennes and available from the Space. Read the full review.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Our revels have temporarily ended in theatres but you can watch a groundbreaking effects-laden version of The Tempest, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, with a subscription (or 14-day free trial) to the online service Marquee TV. Antony and Cleopatra with Josette Simon and Richard II with David Tennant are two of the other gems in the selection of Royal Shakespeare Company plays available.
The celebrated Berlin theatre, run by Thomas Ostermeier, is streaming a selection of archive productions, many with English subtitles, and often for one night only. It’s a rare opportunity for UK audiences to see works directed by Luc Bondy, Peter Falk and Ostermeier himself. This month’s lineup.
Five works by the Swedish choreographer are on Marquee TV, including a new work for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Eskapist, which got a five-star review from Lyndsey Winship. On a vast stage, “Ekman offers a bombardment of fantastical images, realised with the help of Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov, who does a Mad Hatter’s couture party of eccentrically structured silhouettes.” Ekman’s other works to rent include Swan Lake and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Read the full review.
What the Butler Saw
Joe Orton’s final farce, completed in the summer of 1967 just before the playwright’s death, is a subversive satire about an irrational world, set in a psychiatrist’s consulting room. Rufus Hound dons the white coat as the philandering Dr Prentice in Nikolai Foster’s 2017 production for Leicester Curve and Theatre Royal Bath. The cast includes Dakota Blue Richards and Jasper Britton. Curve’s productions of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual and The Importance of Being Earnest are also online.
The Phantom of the Opera
Obsession! Haunting ballads! A shattered chandelier! And musical theatre’s most famous mask … Enjoy one of the world’s most successful shows, presented at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The film is available to rent on Amazon. It was also streamed as part of The Shows Must Go On, a series offering a different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical each week.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new director Carlos Acosta has reworked The Dying Swan (originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova), and BRB principal dancer Céline Gittens performs the piece from her living room to yours. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux, is performed by pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais. “This is a dance of promises,” says Acosta.
Imitating the Dog
The groundbreaking theatre company Imitating the Dog were midway through touring Night of the Living Dead – Remix when theatres shut down. Now, they are streaming this ambitious show in which a cast of actors remake George Romero’s classic horror film shot by shot in real time. The company have also opened up their archive to stream a selection of creations from the last 20 years, available on a pay-what-you-like basis.
Now I’m Fine
What better time is there to watch a “grand-scale experimental pop opera about keeping it together”? Ahamefule J Oluo’s innovative show, staged at Seattle’s Moore theatre in 2014, mixes standup-style routines with a mesmerising musical accompaniment and explores his experience of a rare autoimmune disease. It is one of many films, including Americana Kamikaze, that are available to rent or buy from On the Boards. Read the full review.
Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist
With the help of a carrot, a sponge, the Miracles and some game audience members, Sam is going to tell you about five hook-ups he had through the casual encounters section of online classified-ads board Craigslist. Filmed at the Push festival in Home, Manchester, YESYESNONO’s production is an open, affecting and troubling look at searching for intimacy and connection. This hour will leave you re-evaluating your own life.
The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this spellbinding film of Tim Crouch’s monologue. Read the full review.
Alonzo King Lines Ballet
A handful of productions by San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King and his marvellous company Lines Ballet are available to rent on Marquee TV. Dust and Light, Triangle of the Squinches and Scheherazade, all filmed in 2012, showcase the elegant nature of his work, which pushes beyond classical ballet. Read the full review.
Showtunes don’t get much more defiant or rousing than Don’t Rain on My Parade. Sheridan Smith wards off the clouds with a gritty rendition as Fanny Bryce in this production of the classic musical at Manchester’s Palace theatre in 2017. It’s one of the many productions available to rent from Digital Theatre, whose offerings also include The Crucible starring Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in London, and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.
Fragments (Beckett by Brook)
Is there a more fitting playwright for our current moment of isolation, uncertainty and endurance than Beckett? In this production, filmed at the marvellously atmospheric Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2015, Peter Brook directs five Beckett shorts with a cast of three (Jos Houben, Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter). The production comprises Rough for Theatre I, Rockaby, Neither, Come and Go and Act Without Words II. Feel the rising panic and despair in Rockaby as the solitary, wide-eyed Hunter recounts a descent through long, lonely days.
Even by Pina Bausch’s standards it’s an arresting opening: a huge wall collapses on stage and across the rubble comes Julie Shanahan, in high heels and a floral frock. After desperately commanding hugs from two suitors, she takes a seat and is pelted with rotten tomatoes. And so begins an epic patchwork of masochistic rituals, nightmares and games, blending the quotidian with the phenomenal, all inspired by the choreographer’s trip to Sicily. A rare chance to watch one of Bausch’s creations in full and for free online.
Oscar Wilde season
All four productions in Classic Spring’s starry Oscar Wilde season in the West End can be watched on the online service Marquee TV, which is offering a 14-day free trial. Edward and Freddie Fox play father and son in An Ideal Husband; Eve Best is a memorable Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance; Kathy Burke directs Lady Windermere’s Fan; and Sophie Thompson is horrified by theatre’s most famous handbag in The Importance of Being Earnest.
If you missed its run at Soho’s Boulevard theatre, here’s a chance to savour Dave Malloy’s song cycle, filmed in New York in 2015. Alternately rousing and yearning, this is a gorgeous hymn to barflies, precious memories and the joys of being a ghost, told with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and Thelonious Monk. It’s a glorious get-together of a show, as warming as the whiskey handed out to the audience – but you’ll have to pour your own.
Le Patin Libre
Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities, but the Canadian troupe, Le Patin Libre, has taken the art form into a new dimension. In their double bill, Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades. Watch the 20-minute short film Vertical on YouTube.
The School for Wives
Travel restrictions needn’t prevent you from enjoying international theatre online. Paris’s esteemed Odéon has released its 2018 production of Molière’s satirical 1662 comedy of manners and cuckoldry. Claude Duparfait stars as the foolish Arnolphe, and Stéphane Braunschweig directs. English subtitles available, évidemment. Read the full review.
Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body Is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK, but, since its livestream is still available online, you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.
The Wind in the Willows
Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe teamed up to deliver a merry new version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, staged at the London Palladium in 2017, with Rufus Hound wearing 50 shades of green as Mr Toad. It’s available to rent online, with the option to donate to help provide financial and emotional support to theatre workers.
Girls Like That
London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons
Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show, Latin History for Morons, is on Netflix.
The subscription service LIVR enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into a headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots. The award-winning Patricia Gets Ready, written by Martha Watson Allpress, is also available from LIVR.
Timpson: The Musical
Two households, both alike in dignity … well, sort of. Our narrator, a talking portrait, lays our scene in Victorian London, and this musical comedy imagines the founding of the popular shoe-repair chain as a union between two companies, the Montashoes and the Keypulets. Watch Gigglemug Theatre’s show on their website.
My Left Nut
This is cheating as it’s a TV series, but BBC Three’s superb comedy drama is based on one of the most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s inspired by Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.
Rosas Danst Rosas
Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair.