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Digital Theatre - Watch Stage Shows at Home

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
Published March 25th 2020
Globe in your home
Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl; Simon Russell Beale in The Tempest Steven Elliott in True West; Anthony Sher in King Lear; Richard Armitage in The Crucible.

Sadly, Covid-19 and social distancing have left live theatre waiting in the wings, but it is still possible to see premium theatre shows, at least digitally.

Manchester, Hamlet, Royal Exchange, theatre, Shakespeare, Maxine Peake, Alex Baranowski, Sarah Frankcom, Katie West, David Bowie
Maxine Peake as Hamlet. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

The Original Theatre Company is streaming The Habit of Art, by Alan Bennett, on its website at 8.15pm on Thursday 26 March.

The following evening, Friday 27 March — at 7.30pm — the same website is showing its production of the new Philip Franks-directed play The Croft. Set in the remote Scottish Highlands, it tells the stories of three women from different eras; their lives intertwined by the croft's dark history. "You can watch from as little as £5 for both shows but, for those of you who can, we would appreciate as much as you can afford to help us begin to support the teams behind these shows."

Hampstead Theatre has announced that its production of I and You, starring Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams, it is available until the end of March, to anyone with an Instagram account to view.

The Digital Theatre site has a collection of productions from venues like the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC); the Young Vic; Tricycle Theatre; Palace Theatre and Royal Exchange Manchester. Amongst the payment options are a monthly subscription for £9.99 and a 'Rent for £7.99' button.

While Londoner's can't go inside Shakespeare's Globe by the Thames at present, we can all watch productions from the Globe online. GlobePlayer offers a mixture of free and rented content. So, you could see Gemma Arterton in The Duchess of Malfi or Samantha Spiro in The Taming of the Shrew for £5.99 each. Or, for free, you could watch Shakespeare Lives - a collection of short films includin poet and writer Laura Dockrill's contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet Rosalind, a dance reworking of As You Like It by James Cousins Company and Korean dancers, or Anne Marie Duff in Miranda's Letter, inspired by The Tempest.

From the West Ends St. Martin's Lane, the Theatre Café will be showing an "extensive series of intimate, piano vocal concerts streamed live from The Theatre Café to audiences for a small affordable fee." See . . . Leave a Light On

Despite there being no substitute for seeing live performers on the stage, digital screenings do at least allow us to see productions from venues outside the regions we live in.

Below is a review of Maxine Peake as Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre in 2014, which is available to watch on
Digital Theatre for £7.99.

Combine one of Shakespeare's most famous plays with an actor at the height of her powers and the result is a mind-expanding cocktail.

The production's first dramatic punch comes when a short-haired Maxine Peake walks on stage as the Prince of Denmark. From then on the question is whether she can maintain the level of interest for the next three hours.

The answer is yes. Peake, famous for TV roles in The Village, Silk and Red Riding, amongst others, powerfully conveys Hamlet's despondency, grief and rage.

Her verse-speaking is particularly impressive. She delivers the lines as if it were normal to speak in verse, whilst also expressing their emotion and wit.

Manchester, Hamlet, Royal Exchange, theatre, Shakespeare, Maxine Peake, Alex Baranowski, Sarah Frankcom, Katie West, David Bowie
Katie West as Ophelia and Maxine Peake as Hamlet. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Katie West, who excelled in Blindsided at the Royal Exchange, is compelling as Ophelia. She movingly captures the torment of a young woman whose faith in Hamlet makes his taunts and betrayal unbearable.

But the night belongs to Maxine Peake. Director, Sarah Frankcom's casting of a female actor as Hamlet could have been a gimmick, in the hands of a lesser talent. Maxine Peake's portrayal makes you wonder why it was ever a talking point at all.
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