Stephen Wood, the executive director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, has warned that the National Theatre’s NT Live initiative must never become a “substitute” for actual theatregoing.
Wood, who worked as head of press at the National in the 80s, has labelled the screenings “weird”, adding: “They are neither theatre nor film, but something in between. That’s not to say they are not valid, it’s just that they are a very odd thing.”
The NT Live initiative, which sees theatre productions screened live to venues around the UK, is available at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Later this month, the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Coriolanus will be shown at the theatre.
Although Wood recognises the value of the screenings, he is keen to protect audience attendances for the theatre’s own productions.
He acknowledged that NT Live is a “fantastic thing” in allowing people to access shows they might not be able to otherwise see, calling it a “huge plus” that the screenings are cheaper than a trip to London to see a play.
However, he said: “But it is not the same experience as being in the theatre. When you are sitting in the room where a performance is happening, every single person has a unique ‘shot’ or take of the performance. In this case, the shot that everyone sees is exactly the same – and it is the one chosen by the camera director.”
Wood told the Yorkshire Post that the industry has to be “careful that we don’t arrive at a situation where this type of thing is what people’s only experience of live theatre really is”.
“It must not ever become a substitute,” he said.
The National declined to comment.