With theatres still closed, many are missing their fix of live performances on the London stage. Thankfully, after a year of lockdown, the UK’s best theatres have learned how to take the experience online, with many combining the immediacy and rawness of live plays with the intimacy and creativity of the camera lens. From new lockdown creations such as Lorien Haynes’ Good Grief, to creative solutions for bringing audiences plays that were cut short or cancelled because of the pandemic, including Uncle Vanya and the Josh O’Connor-led Romeo and Juliet. Here, we’ve rounded up the most impressive online theatre shows to catch now.
A regrettably timely exploration of the waves and stages of bereavement, Good Grief follows the aftermath of the death of a young woman, and the experience of her boyfriend and her best friend as they learn to cope with the loss. Subtly and movingly written by Lorien Haynes, the play stars Sian Clifford, who played Fleabag’s sister, and Nikesh Patel. The duo rehearsed with director Natalie Abrahami over Zoom for two days before filming the play in a studio, combining the grit of live stage performances with the precision of a film recording. Tenderly written and heart-wrenchingly observant of the many complex feelings of grief, it’s a far cry from the original Zoom-recorded plays created during the first wave of the lockdown.
Available until April 15 on Original Theatre Online
Following his award-winning turns as Prince Charles in The Crown, Josh O’Connor takes on another famous name — Romeo. After the staged National Theatre production was cancelled due to the pandemic, the team decided to rework it as the theatre’s first original film recorded in the London headquarters. The result is incredibly inventive, with director Simon Godwin using the various theatre spaces to create an immersive, creative reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous love story. Jessie Buckley co-stars as Juliet, with Tamsin Greig, Fisayo Akinade and Adrian Lester also joining the cast.
Premiering at 9pm Sunday 4 April on Sky Arts
Sonia Friedman Productions’ adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s famed play opened to stellar reviews in early 2020 before being cut short by the lockdown. In December, the cast — including Toby Jones and Richard Armitage — reunited in the Harold Pinter Theatre to capture the play on film. The story follows Sonya (Aimee Lou Wood) and her Uncle Vanya (Jones) who have dedicated their lives to maintaining the crumbling family estate, with only the radical local doctor Astrov (Armitage) for company. But when Sonya’s father, Professor Serebryakov (Roger Allam) suddenly returns with his powerful new wife Yelena (Rosalind Eleazar), secrets are revealed and long-buried resentments are brought to the surface.
Available now on BBC iPlayer
The National Theatre recently launched its at Home streaming service, bringing new and archival recordings of the theatre’s most successful plays to your screen. One of the most exciting new additions is Benedict Andrews’ 2017 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ tense Mississippi-based drama, starring Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell. The play was a breakthrough stage role for Miller, and for good reason — her electric performance as Maggie, navigating secrets and sexual tension that threaten to destroy her marriage, is a worthy contender against Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic portrayal in the 1950s film.
Available now on National Theatre at Home
For one night only, the Shake Festival is hosting a live-streamed rehearsed reading of Shakespeare’s beloved magical comedy. Starring Dan Stevens as Oberon and Rebecca Hall as Tatiana, the set-up will mimic that of a live play, bringing a taste of the pre-pandemic Shake Festival — an annual celebration of Shakespeare — to home screens. Following the mad journey of four lovers in a magical forest who find themselves bewitched by fairies, it’s an enchanting and amusing tale of misunderstandings, jealousies and love.
Available on shakefestival.com on 31 March, 7:30pm
Another not-to-be-missed new addition to National Theatre at Home is Tony Kushner’s multi-award-winning two-part play about the AIDS crisis. Directed by Marianne Elliott, and featuring a stellar cast that includes Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey, the play was a hit and near impossible to get tickets for, making it even more exciting to have the two parts available to stream. Set in America in the mid-1980s, the play follows six New Yorkers with interconnected lives grappling with life, love, sex and death through the AIDS crisis and conservative Reagan administration.
Available now on National Theatre at Home
Oscar Wilde’s Faustian tale gets a 21st century update in Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation. In this version, Dorian Gray (played by Fionn Whitehead) is a part of the Instagram-obsessed world, and makes a deal to ensure that his star power as a leading influencer will never fade and that the perfect version of himself that he presents to his followers is maintained. But, as his mental health starts to decline and corruption begins to corrode his idealised world, the cost of his deal becomes apparent. With an all-star cast including Russell Tovey, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, the digital-focused tale crosses social media, Zoom interviews and the dangers of filtered perfection.
Available from 16 – 31 March on pictureofdoriangray.com
Tapping into the early days of lockdown dating, the online play is made up of episodes that correspond to significant dates in the pandemic and are released on those exact dates a year later. The play follows the courtship of medieval musician Emilia and playwright Giovanni, kicking off with awkward early Zoom dates just before lockdown and growing into a collaborative relationship as the two decide to work on a project together. Starring Racheal Stirling and Alec Newman, the play was directed and filmed entirely over Zoom, fully capturing the highs and lows of lockdown love.
Available now on Youtube
Part theatre, part immersive experience, the chilling thriller The Kindling Hour puts you and your team at the centre of the action. Taking inspiration from ancient myths and fables, the experience challenges you to infiltrate a powerful organisation by cracking codes, hacking the system and trying to evade capture — or recruitment. It’s a race against the clock, bringing a high dose of tension and pressure to the at-home adventure. To get the full experience, try the first two installments of the Swamp Motel series, Plymouth Point and The Mermaid’s Tongue, before getting into the latest underworld mystery.
Available now on thekindlinghour.com
The ground-breaking, multiple award-winning musical that brought the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through a combination of rap and song was nearly impossible to nab tickets for — luckily, Disney+ has released a filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s staged play with the original cast, including Miranda, Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. From its unforgettable, electric soundtrack to the surprisingly moving plot, the story of building America is given a fresh life in this blend of hip-hop, R&B and Broadway. Filmed at The Richard Rogers Theatre in Broadway, it transports viewers to the heart of New York theatreland with front row seats to the world’s most successful musical.
Available now on Disney+