An online hub aiming to become a “Netflix for theatre” has been founded to showcase productions from Off-West End theatres and smaller venues in the UK.
Scenesaver.co.uk is the brainchild of Caroline Friedman, an award-winning theatre and film producer, who trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. The site has been set up in partnership with theatre listings site OffWestEnd.com.
The online hub is free to access, however, viewers are encouraged to make a donation when viewing content, with the proceeds going towards supporting the theatres directly. Friedman, who is also an assessor for the Off West End Theatre Awards (Offies), is calling on theatres to upload recorded versions of their shows to the site.
As an Offies assessor reviewing performance for Off West End awards, Friedman spends much of her time visiting London theatres, from tiny rooms above pubs, to cellars or purpose-built theatres. She wanted to offer this same access to live performance to those who aren’t lucky enough to be able to visit the theatre on a regular basis. That is why she decided to set up Scenesaver: so that everyone has the chance to enjoy these wonderful performances but at a time and place to suit them. And to ensure that, when a show finishes, the performance lives on.
The site features many genres of performance from theatres all over the world. Shows from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, dramas, children’s performances, there is already an eclectic mix and the site continues to grow. Content can be viewed anywhere in the world, with footage from all genres and in any language welcome.
Originally, I was starting the site because I wanted to showcase what work was going on for people who were working nights, or with disabilities [and couldn’t access particular theatres], so they were missing out on these amazing productions.
Scenesaver is the one-stop site where you can currently see more than 50 performances. The host site for awards for performance created during the pandemic, new shows are coming online all the time.
“When I first had the idea for Scenesaver it was 2019, long before anyone had ever heard of the COVID 19 pandemic.
“I talked to creatives in the theatre and performance world, asking them if they filmed their work. And some of them were, I’ll be honest, quite impatient with me. “You just don’t get it” they would say ”theatre has to be live”.
“But in fact, I did get it, they were the ones missing the point.
“Live performance is special, it has an urgency, an excitement and a unique quality that can never be re-created. No two performances can ever be exactly the same. James Bond is James Bond whenever you see him-he is burned into a piece of celluloid and will never change. But theatre is always different.
“But, and this is the big but, what happens if you aren’t lucky enough to be able to get to the theatre?
“It could be for one of many reasons. Pressures of work, childcare, finances or accessibility. Not everyone has the time, the availability and the money to go to the theatre. Not everyone can negotiate a rickety staircase or perch on an uncomfortable bench to see a 90-minute show.
“It was not fair that these people, through no fault of their own, should be deprived of the opportunity to see the often wonderful, groundbreaking, original performances in the little theatres.
“And another aspect that was also not fair, was that often I would see mind-blowingly talented performers acting their hearts out. And I knew that at the end of the run they would have to resort to taking temping jobs to stay financially afloat until their next performing role came along. There needed to be a showcase for all this talent, somewhere to help launch their careers so that some fresh faces could be seen in the WestEnd and in Broadway.
“And finally, I realised I was one of the lucky ones, I knew where to go to seek out these performances in venues tucked away under railway arches, in the upstairs of pubs, hidden at the back of tiny shops. I wanted to do my bit to help publicise these theatres and help them attract new audiences.
“And so, the stage was set for Scenesaver.”
I just really want to try and do something to help, and it’s also to keep performance on people’s minds, so when they do come out of this they think ‘I must go back’, she added.
Shows are now streaming at Scenesaver.co.uk and show creators can add a production to the platform by clicking here.