Last Thursday I had the opportunity to see a special performance from London’s National Theatre of Tennessee Williams’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
But I saw it from the comfort of my seat at the Camelot theatre in Palm Springs.
When my friend Megan told me she had an extra ticket for the showing I actually thought we were going to watch a live stage performance. It was instead a pre-recorded live performance in select cinemas around the world for one night only. And to my surprise it was very much like being right there in person. Or at least the closest thing to experiencing the actual feeling of sitting in the theatre. This was the first I’ve heard of National Theatre Live.
National Theatre Live was founded specifically to bring access to the incredible live performances of The National Theatre and shares them with audiences who may not have the opportunity to go to London’s West End to see them.
Broadcasts retain the feeling of a live performance and though each broadcast is filmed in front of a live audience in the theatre, cameras are carefully positioned throughout the auditorium to ensure that cinema audiences get the ‘best seat in the house.’ I was amazed at how good it was.
I vaguely remember seeing the movie about a tempestuous marriage in a dysfunctional family with lots of secrets and lies. In the original it was Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in the title roles and I thought who would ever be able to outdo them? But this play, directed by Benedict Andrews managed to pair a wonderful Jack O’Connell as drunken husband Brick, and an amazing performance by Sienna Miller as Maggie “the cat”, Brick’s neglected wife. It’s a steamy family fight for survival that’s complex, riveting, disturbing and poetic all at once. I have to admit their Mississippi accents makes the fighting and arguing sound that much more romantic.
So unless I’m actually in London, I’ll be on the lookout for more of these cinematic events by this exceptional company.
ABOUT NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE
National Theatre Live launched in June 2009 with a broadcast of the National Theatre production of Phèdre with Helen Mirren. NTL captures live performances from the National Theatre and from other theatres in the UK and broadcasts them in more than 2,500 movie theaters and other venues in 60 countries worldwide. As of February 2017, the global audience reached almost 8 million people.
Next Production is Hamlet – The 2015 broadcast, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, returns to UK and international cinemas.
Have you seen one of these?