With no theatre?….
But wait! There’s a whole range of online options to ensure you don’t get entertainment-deprived.
So for you, in honour of this day, we can look back at some amazing shows via the various streaming services I have listed below. Most have free trials, which I have highlighted, and some of them are free anyway!
So dive in, take your pick, and have a wonderful World Theatre Day!
Strongest in Musicals, Broadway HD has a wide range of big-name content on its site – with musicals like 42nd STREET, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, KINKY BOOTS, MEMPHIS, KISS ME KATE, OKLAHOMA!, FALSETTOS, drama from Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Saroyan and Shakespeare – and much more. All accessible through iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire Stick – and they offer a free 7-day trial, after which it’s $8.99 a month (or $99.99 a year).
Strongest in Drama, Digital Theatre offers you access to theatre for £9.99 a month, or you can choose to rent individual shows from £7.99 each. A very limited number of musicals such as FUNNY GIRL (with Sheridan Smith) and INTO THE WOODS are available alongside 75 drama offerings including David Suchet in ALL MY SONS and David Tennant and Catherine Tate in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, and works by Coward, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov and more. These are complemented by Opera, Dance and Music options too. (I dug around but could find no free trials for you – sorry!)
Strongest in Fringe shows, LIVR is rather novel. They have a library of over 70 fringe shows, and they aim to increase this by eight per month. For a monthly subscription you can watch their shows in virtual reality. How? Well, the recorded shows can be viewed through your VR headset if you have one. If you don’t, LIVR will send you a free lightweight (cardboard) headset to slip your mobile phone into where you can get a similar kind of experience as being immersed in the play. It costs just £5.99 a month- and they are currently offering a one-month trial free for which you get a credit to watch one of their shows and the option to receive a lightweight headset free. You need to buy credits to unlock the shows. Well worth a try for you adventurous ones out there who like the road less travelled – and new tech!
A balanced offer of Music, Dance and Drama, Marquee.TV gives subscribers unlimited HD streaming of shows from a wide range of organisations including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Teatro Real in Madrid (which are offering amongst others, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – THE OPERA (how did that one pass me by?)), The Royal Opera House, The Bolshoi Ballet, Sadlers Wells, Glyndebourne, Opera Zurich, The Classic Spring Company’s worthwhile Oscar Wilde Season (AN IDEAL HUSBAND, A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST) as well as the all-female Donmar Trilogy (THE TEMPEST, JULIUS CAESAR and HENRY IV). There is also a good amount of work not in the English Language. Marquee TV is available on Apple TV, iOS, Android, Android TV, Fire TV, Roku and the internet. Shows are also available to download to watch on mobile devices. And if you happen to be in the arts yourself, artists and industry professionals get 40% off annual subscriptions. Even better, for everyone, they have just extended their usual 7-day free trial trial to a 30-day free trial. It’s £8.99 a month thereafter, or you can get a special offer for a limited time – an annual subscription for just £69.99 (saving £20 on the regular price). Marquee.TV is currently available in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Best for Shakespeare, Globe Player* offers you a wealth of content from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Here you will find some free content and other shows to purchase individually. Obviously, a majority of the work is Shakespeare. Here, too, you will find a fair amount of work not in the English Language which may be useful to you; useful as well that most of it has English subtitles. No free trial but there is some free content on the site. You can rent, buy or send shows as gifts to others. Useful for gifts when we all need to be socially-distanced!
Apple TV has a small number of shows filmed live: RENT (filmed on Broadway), NEWSIES (filmed in Los Angeles) and BILLY ELLIOT (filmed in London). The new-ish service offers a 7-day free trial period after which it costs £4.99 a month.
Amazon Prime* has a limited number of stage offerings- Like Apple TV, it has NEWSIES (filmed in Los Angeles), RENT (filmed on Broadway) and BILLY ELLIOT (filmed in London). Prime also has Imelda Staunton’s dazzling performance in GYPSY, as well as BARNUM, Michael Crawford’s much-loved 1980s stage triumph filmed at the Victoria Palace, as well as EVERY LITTLE STEP, a fascinating documentary comparing the original and revival productions of A CHORUS LINE. And for those of you missing being in our glorious West End theatre buildings, check out the ten part series one of GREAT WEST END THEATRES, presented by Sir Donald Sinden, with histories of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Piccadilly, Wyndham’s, Prince of Wales, St Martin’s, Ambassadors, Her Majesty’s, Palace, Noel Coward and Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Best for Opera lovers, the New York Metropolitan Opera where each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming via their website, whilst their repertoire is interrupted.
The National Theatre have just announced National Theatre at Home, where they will stream a different free archive show on their YouTube channel each Thursday at 7pm (GMT), the show then being available to stream for the week. It starts from Thursday April 2nd when audiences will be able to enjoy the hit comedy ONE MAN, TWO GUV’NORS, followed by JANE EYRE, TREASURE ISLAND and TWELFTH NIGHT.
The BBC In times of crisis, we instinctively look to the National Broadcaster. Just before Boris Johnson dismembers the BBC forever, the Corporation steps up to take the lead where the impotent “leaders” of today cannot, and reminds us why the BBC matters. “Culture in Quarantine” is a new scheme to provide arts offerings in the midst of the current crisis. So far confirmed are Emma Rice’s WISE CHILDREN, the Almeida Theatre’s production of ALBION and productions filmed at The Space. Plus some newly commissioned plays created especially for broadcast. They will also broadcast six shows from the RSC. Check out the BBCiplayer for more information-details to be announced.
Hampstead Theatre at Home is a new venture making available some of the Hampstead’s own plays for the next three weeks in “live” recordings via its own website. From Monday March 30 to April 5, you can see Mike Bartlett’s WILD, From April 6 to 12 you can see Beth Steel’s WONDERLAND and from April 13 to 19 you can see DRAWING THE LINE by Howard Brenton. You can find details of the plays, which are available “on-demand” through the week, here.
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS was produced as a lavish, big-scale musical at the London Palladium in 2017. Now the show is available to stream for free, although a donation to Acting For Others, a showbusiness charity is very much suggested. (Acting For Others offer financial and emotional assistance and support to those in the entertainment profession now facing difficulties.)
The rest There’s lots more on YouTube – but it’s of very variable quality, so I have restricted myself to telling you about things that I can recommend outright. WhatsOnStage have helpfully listed a whole range of online offerings that will be worth taking a look at, you can find that here
Non-UK readers please note- some of these services will be UK-limited whilst others may be available further afield.
* NB Some products may incur extra rental cost