The Royal National Theatre London have announced their plans to broadcast some of its most popular productions for free during the lockdown.
The new two-month National Theatre at Home programme will begin with One Man, Two Guvnors, the Richard Bean comedy starring James Corden.
The films will be shown live in the UK at 7pm every Thursday to try to recreate, where possible, the communal viewing experience but they will then be available on-demand for seven days.
Lisa Burger, the executive director and joint chief executive of the National Theatre, said writers, actors and directors had all waived their rights to the productions.
“Everyone has said yes. Please. Let’s get it out to people,” she said. “It has taken a bit of negotiation and management but the outpouring from the industry has been fantastic.”
The shows will be available to watch on YouTube. They kick off on 2 April with a play regarded as one of the most joyously laugh-out-loud shows of the last decade.
One Man, Two Guvnors, directed by Nicholas Hytner, is Bean’s 2011 adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 comedy and a brilliant vehicle for Corden’s stage comedy skills.
That will be followed by Sally Cookson’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a production that began at Bristol Old Vic; Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Treasure Island which was the National’s Christmas show in 2014, and the 2017 Twelfth Night, which starred Tamsin Greig as Malvolio. More titles are still to be announced.
The shows will also have accompanying contact, which includes Q&As with casts and creatives and post-show talks.
The National is just one of many arts organisations quickly endeavouring to get content out to the public during the coronavirus lockdown.
The RSC has teamed up with the BBC for six plays to be broadcast from their archives including the 2016 Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu; the 2018 Macbeth that starred Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, and the 2015 Othello, which starred Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati.
Burger said storytelling was needed more than ever.
That combination of entertaining, inspiring, challenging … it makes us think a bit about what other people might be going through. But also it just brings people together around something which is shared. I hope it stimulates a lot of conversations.
As well as National Theatre at Home, the theatre is making its online resource for schools, universities and libraries, the National Theatre Collection, accessible at home while everything is closed.
The National Theatre will be one of many arts organisations and individuals to benefit from Arts Council England’s £160m emergency package to help them survive the coronavirus crisis. The money is also designed to help them come up with creative responses “to buoy the public” during the lockdown.
Burger said it was a positive move.
Of course it is very much needed because we are all in a very precarious position. It is good that they have got that money and we look forward to understanding how it will be used, how freelancers can be supported and also theatres who don’t receive Arts Council funding.