|NT Live: Cinema or Theatre?|
NT Live - Can Cinema and Theatre work together?
Date: 2 May 2011
After many months of missing out on tickets for NT Live in Manchester, I finally managed to get my hands on some tickets to see Danny Boyle's highly acclaimed production of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein at the Cornerhouse. As a theatre and film buff, I was excited at the thought of seeing this live - as it were.
With regards to play itself - I can easily see why it is sold out night after night as Boyle marries his film expertise and his love of a good narrative and has produced a stunning if slightly flawed play. With regards to the performances - Jonny Lee Miller brings humour, vulnerability and a sense of longing to the creature. Thanks to Boyle - the character has a voice which is missing from many movie versions. Benedict Cumberbatch is his usual stoic self and heartbreakingly real in the second hour of the play. As a production, Danny Boyle's Frankenstein works - although some of the supporting cast members seem slightly weak - but is this because the camera is picking up elements of their performances that you would not see in the stalls?
NT Live prides itself on the fact that audiences can watch the same production as that at the National or the Donmar for example - on the same night - at the same time - but in a cinema in another city or other part of the world. This - though means that we could hear Benedict speaking with his mic on - as himself once he had left the stage. It also meant that during a long monologue poor Jonny Lee Miller could be seen yet not heard as the sound cut out midway through.
There is something quite voyeuristic about seeing audience members chatting before the production starts, using hushed tones. A filmed Madonna gig would mean the audience would probably play up to the cameras as they know they can own the dvd eventually or spot themselves on TV. But here - because NT Live film, screen and then presumably archive and not release it - the audiences seem to view the camera as a distraction.
When you see a play - you choose where to focus your eyes and what to pick up on. Here, of course - that is done for you. So there are some high angles shots involving rain which remain cinematic and there lies the chief flaw - this is neither theatre or film. If you clap - you feel a fool as no-one can hear you. You cannot smell the greasepaint - yet the lack of edits reminds you that this is staged. Surprisingly, the creature's stage birth is not as modest as in the usual stage version - as the character falls onto the stage in a loincloth. If you pay to see a non filmed version - he is naked like a new born baby which surely fits the narrative far more than a coy loincloth.
With Frankenstein - there is the added bonus of not knowing which actor is playing which role which of course leads to a different experience each time you attend. You also get a real thrill from seeing something in your home town if you do not live in London and watching something that you may otherwise - miss.
I'm sure NT Live and the fantastic work they are doing - getting theatre into the cinema meaning people do not have to travel and pay for highly inflated tickets if a great incentive. But there are a few teething problems which need sorting out before this innovative concept becomes as welcome as 3D cinema seems to be.
Have you seen a theatre piece at the cinema? What are your views?For more details on NT Live - visit the website here.
- by Glenn Meads
Any opinions expressed above do not represent the view of Whatsonstage.com nor any of its staff or contributors beyond the bylined author.
|Glenn has covered the Manchester theatre scene for Whatsonstage.com since 2001. Since then he has edited whatsonstage.com/manchester and he currently edits the North West site, as well as providing news, reviews, features and competitions.|
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