It is almost impossible to comprehend the speed and virulence of the global pandemic that has changed all of our lives.
Less than one month ago, this writer spent a day in heaven or close to it. In fact, it was a mere seven hours in the National Theatre’s Lyttelton auditorium, soaking up Robert Lepage’s incomparable Seven Streams of the River Ota.
If nothing else, this was a great way to sign off from the theatre and will leave rich memories for the several months of closure that now appear inevitable.
Although it is hard to overstate the hardship that so many are suffering, it could be a great deal worse. As a result of the wonders of modern technology, it is possible to stay in touch with friends without leaving your home but also addicts can enjoy some great theatrical productions from around the world, albeit at one remove.
Many companies have begun to share their wares online and it seemed helpful to highlight them. Even better, many are available at no cost, although some of the teams behind them would welcome donations in their efforts to remain afloat.
BTG has already reviewed a number of these so you can get some top tips before you decide how best to allocate your time.
When the writer is asked to name his favourite shows of all time, one that always makes the shortlist is One Man, Two Guvnors. That led off the National Theatre’s NT at Home programme via YouTube and has now disappeared. There is still a list of other wonderful productions with another fine presentation, Jane Eyre, now live.
If you don’t mind shelling out a few pounds or more, Soho Theatre has the stage version of Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag. This is the kind of show that is perfectly designed for a computer or TV screen and will set viewers back anything from £4 to £250, depending on how generous they are feeling.
The Royal Opera House starts its operatic selection with Così Fan Tutti, which goes live this weekend in competition with the same opera at the Met, though with a longer virtual life.
Fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals can try the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On!, which started with Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and is now on to Jesus Christ Superstar with more to follow.
Hampstead Theatre has also created a programme with some carefully selected plays, every one of which is well worth a try.
A particular favourite that is like nothing else is Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet, a delightful mixture of catchy music and Gothic drama.
Many theatres from around the country are also in the game including Chichester Festival Theatre, the enterprising Barn from Cirencester and the Curve in Leicester.
Looking even further afield, there is a wide choice on offer from various countries, many with English language speech or subtitles.
As readers of recent reviews will know, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York has generously shared some of its greatest hits Live in HD though only for 23 hours at a time. The good news is that anyone who gets hooked has the opportunity to pay for additional treats, either on a one-off basis or through monthly or annual subscription.
Elsewhere in the United States, Thirteen Media’s Great Performances lives up to its name. However, there is a problem since these are not readily available in the UK (unless you know your way around the Internet) and many are behind a subscription paywall. That is a pity, since both the Shakespeare in the Park Much Ado about Nothing and Kevin Kline in Present Laughter by Noël Coward are gems.
For those with more eclectic tastes, Berlin’s Schaubühne has released what looks like a great selection, although only a limited number of productions have English subtitles.
By way of contrast, that wonderful campaigning company Belarus Free Theatre has recorded and is sharing much of its output with two fresh offerings each weekend, many of which are either in English or do have subtitles.
Fans of dance will find much to enjoy with companies including the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi contributing to the online arts selection.