National Theatre Live productions will soon be available to watch for free on YouTube under plans for a new digital service from the National Theatre.
Created in the days since theatres across the UK, including the NT, closed down to fight the spread of coronavirus, National Theatre at Home will stream productions into audience’s homes, in addition to making the theatre’s education collection available remotely while schools are closed.
The service’s main offering will see one NT Live production made available online each week, via the organisation’s YouTube channel.
It will begin next week with Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden, followed by Sally Cookson’s devised adaptation of Jane Eyre, the 2014 production of Treasure Island starring Patsy Ferran, and Twelfth Night, featuring Tamsin Greig as a gender-swapped Malvolia, which concludes the first month of at-home offerings.
Lisa Burger, the NT’s executive director and joint chief executive, said she hoped the service would “lift the spirits, bring people together and become something to talk about”.
She told The Stage: “We’re going with YouTube because we wanted to have a sense of event, and of people being able to share this experience, because the whole thing about NT Live was that it was designed to be in cinemas.
“We’re seeing this very much as something that is a stopgap while theatres and cinemas are closed, but something that we really wanted to get to a wide audience of people stuck at home in these very isolating circumstances.”
Each production will be made available on YouTube at 7pm on Thursdays, beginning on April 2, and audiences will be able to watch live or catch up any time in the following seven days.
Burger added: “It would be lovely to think of everybody sitting down at 7pm to start watching it, but obviously we recognise that not everybody can do that, so during this period they’ll be available for the following week before we’ll launch the next one.”
National Theatre at Home will also share extra content including interviews and post-stream talks, also on YouTube, alongside productions.
Following the first four weeks of shows, the NT plans to announce a further four for May.
In addition to the main stream of productions, the NT Collection – the theatre’s education offering – is being made available at home for the first time.
The NT Collection, which features 24 productions drawn from NT Live and from the theatre’s archive, will now be free for pupils and teachers in state education to access remotely, while schools are closed.
The remote access is being provided with the backing of Bloomsbury Publishing, the NT’s partner on the project.
The service is already free for state schools, but will also now be offered for free, on a trial period, for independent schools, universities and libraries until the end of May.
The productions sit alongside a package of additional learning materials that explore the craft of theatremaking.
Alice King-Farlow, director of learning at the NT, said: “Given the unprecedented challenges we are all currently facing across the globe, we want to ensure that pupils, teachers and academic institutions are supported during this time and can continue to have access to a range of learning resources during the school closure period.”