With the Covid-19 pandemic and shuttering of theatres and cinemas around the world, The National Theatre in London has been streaming shows from its archives on its YouTube channel – at no charge. Donations are welcome but not mandatory. Each National Theatre At Home broadcast goes live on a Thursday at 20:00 CAT (19:00 BST- British Summer Time) and is available for viewing for seven days.

Tonight – May 21, 2020- and we are waiting for showtime to watch A Streetcar Named Desire. This iconic play by Tennessee Williams was staged in 2014 at The Young Vic and stars Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby. I was fortunate to see Anderson in NT Live’s All About Eve, screened at The Fugard Bioscope in 2019. The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town is one of the screening venues for NT Live titles. The last title that I saw at The Fugard Bioscope was the brilliant Lehman Trilogy, directed by Sam Mendes. My review – posted on February 14, 2020- is here on TheCapeRobyn. Link: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/?s=lehman+trilogy

It is magic to watch NT Live titles at The Fugard Bioscope. One is watching theatre, sitting in the beautiful Fugard Theatre in District Six, Cape Town.. You have your popcorn and you recline in comfy seats, surround sound; bliss. That was before the pandemic when we could sit close to one another. The Lehman Trilogy was sold out and there were plans to screen it again this month [May]. Covid-19 intervened and here we are in the global pandemic. It is great that the National is making titles available -on a no-charge basis – with the option of making a donation. I feel saddened that The Fugard Bioscope cannot operate at the moment but am grateful that the National is gifting us these titles.

I have watched a number of NT At Home films. I was blown away by Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra: Superb performances, design (lighting, set, costume, music). Watching this was treat. Undoubtedly one misses the impact of seeing these films on a big screen but during the pandemic, it is NT at Home. Bravo to The National. Many people have never watched these titles in cinemas and other venues. I think that NT Home will entice them into the theatre/cinema to watch on the big screen. I hope so.

As I write, at 6pm, Thursday May 21, 2020, South African time, I see that there are 2,084 people “waiting” for the A Streetcar Named Desire stream to go live. Postcript: Three hours after the stream went live – just after 11pm SA time – there have been 35,100 views of the link. We are ‘saving’ this play to watch on Saturday night. See you at the theatre.

Titles to watch on NT Live at Home- to be updatedwhen titles released

May 21, 2020: Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Benedict Andrews, starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby. Running Time: Three hours and 25 minutes with a very short interval

May 28, 2020: This House – James Graham’s 2013 play “exploring British politics”. Two hours 40 minutes with a very short interval

June 5, 2020: Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston, staged in 2013 at the Donmar House.  Three hours with a very short interval

June 11, 2020: Nottingham Playhouse’s The Madness of George III, starring Mark Gatiss as George III. It was filmed in 2018 at the Nottingham Playhouse. The production runs for two hours and 10 minutes, short interval

June 18, 2020: Small Island- The National Theatre’s sold-out adaption of Andrea Levy’s novel tracks the history between Jamaica and the UK through World War Two to 1948. Forty actors in this production. Two hours, 55 minutes, short interval

June 25, 2020: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The “immersive production” stars Gwendoline Christie and Hammed Animashaun. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, for this production, the Bridge Theatre “becomes a forest – a dream world of flying fairies, contagious fogs and moonlight revels, surrounded by a roving audience following the action on foot.”

July 2, 2020: Acclaimed South African director, Yaël Farber directs Lorraine Hansberry’s play, Les Blancs, described on the NT At Home site, as “a brave, illuminating and powerful work that confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution…. An African country teeters on the edge of civil war. A society prepares to drive out its colonial present and claim an independent future. Tshembe, returned home from England for his father’s funeral, finds himself in the eye of the storm.”Adapted by Robert Nemiroff. Restored text directed by Joi Gresham. Running time: TBC

July 9, 2020: Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, stars Helen McCrory. Running time: TBC

July 16. 2020: Amadeus, with Lucian Msamati as Antonio Salieri and Adam Gillen as Mozart.

*Image credit: A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo by Johan Persson

Details for National Theatre At Home, 2020

Link to films: Free on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/ntdiscovertheatre

Donate link: Donate in GBP from anywhere in the world via PayPal (Gift Aid available in the UK)

Other links: Visit the National Theatre at Home page for more donation options and for the programme of streaming shows