Five ways to stream theatre from your living room this World Theatre Day

Missing the razzle-dazzle, glitz and glam of a night soaking up culture in the West End? From Funny Girl to Shakespeare, we’ve rounded up five ways to watch theatre from the comfort of your own sofa

Theatre’s have been gathering dust since March 2020 (credit: Kevin Schmid)

“Please make your way to your seats, the performance is about to begin,” the tannoy booms. As the lights start to dim, animated audience voices fade one by one, hushed by the start of the show, and as the curtain rises, you’re hypnotised by the drama unfolding before your eyes. 

Familiar to many, this well-loved theatre setting has been gathering dust and cobwebs since the closure of playhouses across the country in March 2020. For centuries it has vibrantly transported its usual live audience on a rollercoaster of emotions, and now, forced into a constant interval, absent are the days where the nation’s cultural needs could be treated with annual trips oozing glamour and a night at the theatre. And though a dim but hopeful light through yonder window shows some cracks, its supporters had to settle with a digitised, Covid-friendly version: theatre at home. 

Tom Benjamin, an actor based in London, has devoured online productions to get his thespian fix saying, “It’s been an amazing response on how to get people to experience theatre all together.” He added how it offers a unique perspective, enabling viewers to enjoy shows from millions of miles away.  

Nia Morris, a Wales-based theatre director and fan of virtual physical theatre productions, adds to this explaining, “What’s amazing about online streaming is that I can watch things in parts of the world where I wouldn’t usually be able to watch them.” Though it can never be a replacement for live theatre, says an optimistic Tom.

For just over a year, we’ve been living for virtual entertainment, and after bingeing Netflix to satiate our boredom with 90s reboots and docuseries, the need to absorb more culture was great – and we’re not alone. When Disney+ released the musical Hamilton last July, it nearly broke the internet, with a 74% increase in app downloads and audiences “far bigger than anything on Netflix in July,” according to Forbes.

Tickets for shows of this calibre usually cost an arm and a leg, so when online theatre exploded with shows broadcast digitally across the globe with Zoom, archived and quarantined productions readily available to the masses for a fraction of the price, what more could you want? 

So, plump up your cushions, get your wine gums ready and prepare to be transported to theatreland without even leaving your sofa, as we bring you five wonderful ways to itch that melodramatic scratch for under a tenner, just in time for World Theatre Day. 

National Theatre at Home 
Sienna Miller stars in NT at Home’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (credit: NT’s YouTube channel)

This household name is no stranger to streaming productions. With National Theatre Live having broadcast plays via cinemas for over ten years, they are skilled in evolving stage to screen. As Covid-19 erupted, causing the closure of cinemas, NT had to adapt, introducing NT at Home: a unique streaming service, offering “unforgettable British theatre” anytime, anywhere.

With renowned plays such as Othello and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring national treasures (like Olivia Colman and Zoe Wannamaker) added every month, viewers have the option to subscribe to a monthly payment of £9.99 (to watch any play, anytime) or to rent a single play for £7.99. Wales-based author and theatre fanatic Sarah Todd Taylor said, “I’ve seen shows I could only dream of seeing via that.” Explaining the only downside is the lack of buzz and a directed line of sight, she adds, “It’s like having the best seat in the house for every show!” 

Watch here

Digital Theatre 
World-class theatre is available at the touch of a button (credit Digital Theatre’s YouTube channel)

Working in partnership with international household names such as The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old (and Young) Vic, and more, Digital Theatre’s on-demand subscription service, which has been running for many years, hosts a plethora of plays, musicals, operas and ballets to satisfy your cultural drought.

Similar to NT, its subscription, which can be cancelled any time, is £9.99, with singular rentals being £7.99. With shows ranging from Funny Girl starring Sheridan Smith, to La Bohème, this streaming service is sure to tickle your thespian tastebuds until you can experience the real live deal once again. 

Sign up here

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Shows Must Go On
With shows like Hairspray available, you can enjoy the West End in your own front room (credit: The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel)

This YouTube channel celebrates and reminisces on “All Things Theatre.” From backstage snippets of Cats, available completely free of charge, to fully-fledged archived stage productions like The Phantom of the Opera  for a measly £2.49 (in standard definition) – 3.8% of the actual price for a good seat.

This platform offers you the West End with a twist – the twist being you can do it from the comfort of your front room without paying the usual £7.50 for a small glass of wine. It’s even got an all-star cast reading a series called Letters Live, which, according to Broadway World, is “an essential event that you must take the time to experience.”

Watch here

The Show Must Go On… line! 
Rob Myles’ homage to Shakespeare is an amazing adaptation of theatre in the pandemic (credit: TSMGO YouTube)

Don’t be fooled by the name. This is not another Lloyd Webber production. Born amid the beginnings of the Covid-19 crisis, TSMGO is a collection of performed readings of the Complete Plays of Shakespeare in its written chronological order, created by actor and director Rob Myles. According to its website, it is “the first, best and most prolific creator of made-for-digital Shakespeare in response to the pandemic.”

Using the unofficial sponsor of the past year, Zoom, as a medium, it has brought together actors (both professional and amateur) from across the world in a bid to “provide a progressive vision for the future of theatre.” Recorded weekly over the last year, the read-throughs of plays such as The Tempest, which include cast, crew, and composers, akin to a real theatre production, are available to watch on YouTube for free. With 40 different plays to enjoy, and plenty of time still on our hands, you’ve nothing to lose.

Watch here

Culture in Quarantine with the BBC 
play title in front of leather chair
A still from the BBC’s broadcast of Uncle Vanya available on BBC’s iPlayer

From well-versed wonders of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya to performances from the Royal and Northern Ballet companies, the BBC has created a cultural hub to quench all your creative thirsts, giving you a front row seat, completely free of charge, to some of the UK’s greatest past performances in the dramatic arts industry. 

Watch here