Okay, maybe if you don’t watch British comedy, or Doctor Who, or Shakespeare, the names, on their own, aren’t enough – but bear with me, there’s more!
It’s Digital Theatre.
No, it isn’t androids doing Beckett (although that’s an interesting thought).
It’s a mob who have partnered with British theatre companies to film their performances and make them available to audiences worldwide through downloadable digital files.
And we’re not talking any old theatre companies, here. We’re talking The Royal Shakespeare Company, the English Touring Theatre, The Royal Exchange Theatre and the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, to name just a few.
This is seriously good theatre, which would cost an arm and a leg to go to, even if I happened to be in London, which, for the most part, I am not. And for about 10 pounds, I can get in on my computer and watch it as many times as I like.
This is a notion so fantastic, it’s of the ‘why didn’t I think of that?‘ and ‘why hasn’t anyone done that before?‘ level of brilliance. I don’t know who came up with it, but bless his or her cotton sockettes and may all their Christmases be white.
I’ll admit, I was influenced by their first available production being Much Ado about Nothing, starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant.
(I should probably disclose, at this point, that I have studied Shakespeare and have been known to pay good money to see even the weirder of his plays, like The Tempest. Get drunk first; it helps.)
Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s comedies (for which, read, rollicking, ridiculous, romances) and just about my favourite. And these two actors are on my list of ones I would pay cold hard cash to see in just about anything.*
So, I downloaded the free desktop player, plunked down my virtual cash and downloaded the file** and watched it.
I wasn’t disappointed. It is a great production; well cast, fabulously acted and magnificently staged (set, music, lighting and choreography, all impressed). The other half, who has done some film work, quibbled over some of the editing choices, but they didn’t bother me. If this is a sample of the quality of production they are offering, I think this is an idea that will take off. (You can see a teaser of the production on their website. Click on the red logo, above).
The only downside was having to watch it on the computer (and the fact that it took so long to download). But then I had a brainwave and hooked the computer up to the newer TV (via the HDML cable) and voila! Theatre in the bedroom. Love it!
I could tell you about the story, but this is Friday Favourites, not Shakespeare 101, so I’ll save that for another day. Unless there is violent clamouring in the comments (pause while Imelda listens to the sound whistling through the empty spaces in that thread), in which case I will reconsider.
I haven’t tried any of the other productions yet, but I will. And I will harass the local theatre companies to try the same thing. We have some of the best live theatre in the world, here in Australia. I don’t see why other countries shouldn’t be able to share!
*Tellingly, two more of the actors on that list have also starred in this play, in the version that was my favourite before this one. Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson made a movie of it. Hie thee to the video shop and request it. Trust me; I’m a Shakespeare fan.
**On the subject of the download, please let me give you a tip. If they offer you a choice between ‘broadcast quality’ and HD, take the ‘broadcast quality’. The HD file took HOURS to download and blew out my download limit for the month.
PS. In case any of you go through the tags and are wondering why this comes up under ‘Women’s Business’? David Tennant IS women’s business. So there!