If you’re like us and the thought of not being able to do, see or talk about theatre for the foreseeable future is simply unacceptable, then fear not! While the impact this crisis might have on live performance and its digital footprint is as of yet up for debate, many fantastic resources already exist for accessing theatre online. Here is a compilation of some of the best streaming services to bring a little bit of theatrical magic directly into your home.
The title here is fairly self-explanatory – this is a collection of all sorts from our dramatic counterparts across the pond. While they are only offering a 7-day free trial on their content, Broadway HD is a liberating escape from the Shakespeare content that dominates many British streaming services (although they’ve got that too!). We would particularly recommend it for your dose of musical theatre, which they have in abundance of. Expect classics like the King and I to modern favourites like Falsettos.
A classic place to turn for some stalwart British theatre that is of a consistent high quality. The performances themselves can be bought or rented for fairly reasonable prices and you can also send them as gifts which is a lovely way to e-bond with your thespy friends. Obviously, there’s a lot of Shakespeare but there is the odd diversion such as the epic narrative poem, Venus and Adonis and new writing in Gabriel. The Globe has also indulged us with some free content which includes their imaginative collection of short films from the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death.
Graeae is a force for change in world-class theatre, boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and challenging preconceptions. Throughout lockdown, they are continuing their work with an exciting new digital programme, Crips Without Constraints which involves three main strands. For more information, visit their website.
Half Moon Theatre
Half Moon Theatre is offering families access to some of its content online. A selection of recent much-loved productions for young people will be made available free, for everyone over the coming weeks. Every Wednesday a new production for young people will be made available online, alongside access to backstage interviews, production photos and information about how the shows were created.
Hull Truck Theatre at Home
Over the coming weeks Hull Truck Theatre will be releasing a programme of great drama and creative activities to keep audiences and communities entertained and inspired whilst we are all at home. From Monday 6 April, they will begin releasing a stream of engaging and accessible content, all of which can be found on their new page.
Offering a 30-day free trial – which will keep you going until the end of that initial three-week isolation period – Marquee TV offers swathes of diverse live performance content. Ballet, opera, theatre, contemporary dance and documentaries are all there. Theatre-wise, they are currently featuring a whole host of RSC content as well as Classic Spring’s Oscar Wilde Season.
Amongst the first of the big theatrical institutions to announce updated online content since the forced closures is the Metropolitan Opera. This powerhouse is offering daily streams of performances from their Live in HD archives. Starting at 11:30am GMT a new opera will be available to stream for 23 hours and until Sunday March 29you can catch a different Wagner performance every night. Find the full programme here:
If you just can’t get enough of opera, the Met is also offering a 7-day trial for their on-demand service which has more than 700 full length performances.
National Theatre At Home
Whilst the National Theatre has not released their entire NT Live archive online free of charge, they have started to stream some productions on their YouTube channel – free of charge. At the moment it is only until May but here’s hoping it will last longer. The NT also have guides on topics like Ibsen, Greek theatre and, how to make a wig – covering every aspect of performance.
On the Boards.tv
Stretching as far away from the conventional theatrical tradition as possible is On the Boards. They specialise in contemporary performance pieces, combining the most avant-garde approaches in dance, music, theatre and technology. Honestly there’s no way to describe the variety and creativity of the content they offer but if you are interested in pushing the limits of performance or want to discover an entirely new genre, this is the place to go. They currently have 60 pieces, collated from all over the world plus they are offering free streaming until the end of April.
It would be atrocious to leave out your dance fix as Sadler’s Wells are also bringing shows to an online audience. New content on their Digital Stage has been created in response to the cancellation of shows across its theatres in efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 and aims to continue bringing dance to audiences through digital channels.
The Actor’s Fund
The Actor’s Fund is a national US charity that provides support for those in the theatre industry. In lieu of their usual fund raising, which was recently cancelled, they have instead started an online programme called #StarsInTheHouse with two uploads a day, featuring some of the biggest stars of Broadway singing, monologuing and just generally having a good time. It’s a little bit of light-heartedness which is sorely needed right now!
Note: The services below are only accessible with a library card or an educational subscription. The level of access will depend on your institution’s subscription.
Digital Theatre Plus
DT+ is the go-to for educational content in theatre. They have insane amounts of the classics, designed around school curriculums and with insightful interviews with the creatives behind every aspect of the theatre.
Drama Online Library
Drama Online is the place to go for reading plays and they have a huge collection of traditional and contemporary theatre. It’s the perfect place to go to find your next project or to fall in love with a new playwright. There are monologue collections for audition pieces that can be filtered by word count, period and theme and the site also features some audio and video recordings that are free to access. They’re mostly from the National Theatre, RSC or the Globe so expect lots of Shakespeare as well as the odd Chekov or Wilde thrown in for good measure.
We’re starting to move off the proverbial beaten path here. Kanopy is primarily a film streaming service, packed with arthouse cinema from all over the world. It does, however, also have a performing arts section which is a combination of theatre documentaries and actual performances including Ian Mckellen’s Macbeth and some incredible contemporary re-inventions of Chekov in Russian theatre – it’s a niche category but worth it!
This is a difficult time for the Arts industry. Theatres across the country are having to close their doors – some for the first time ever and others like the Old Vic have gone dark for the first time since World War II. It’s not just those big institutions that are suffering but every artist who relies on the gig economy. If you are looking for support, SOLT and UK Theatre have launched a 24 hour helpline for anybody in the industry which offers signposting for any questions regarding health, career and/or financial issues.
If you are a theatregoer or an audience member than please consider donating to support artists through these uncertain times and together, the theatre industry will come out stronger.
See more information on A Younger Theatre’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak here.