How to create a truly National Theatre: Get the Beeb on board

 

Share
Related Topics

The National Theatre’s recent 50th anniversary gala was delightful in a number of ways, and not just for the opportunity to hear Dame Judi Dench give another magnificent rendition of “Send in the Clowns”.

Broadcast on the BBC, it offered the rare and cherishable spectacle of theatre on terrestrial television. We’re used to the occasional ballet or opera, especially over Christmas, but theatre almost never gets a look in. The days of Play for Today, when hit plays were filmed for television audiences, have never seemed so far away.

The irony of the situation is that, thanks to developments in digital technology, theatre, as well as opera and ballet, is now regularly available in cinemas. The NT Live programme, which live-films productions for broadcast, has been one of the great success stories in recent years; according to the National’s 2012-13 annual report, a total of 277,000 people in this country enjoyed seven NT Live productions across 260 venues last year.

However, despite these glowing – and growing – figures, there is a sense of unease in some quarters. The National Theatre, as the name implies, has a country-wide remit; it is for this reason that it gets £17.5m of Arts Council subsidy. Filming its shows and then charging people 10 quid a ticket to see them on the big screen cannot possibly pass for a national outreach strategy.

Compare and contrast the healthy NT Live figures with those for the two touring shows that it sent out on the road in that same financial year: just 96,700 people enjoyed an actual live National Theatre production across 11 venues. One Man, Two Guvnors and Travelling Light went to Glasgow, Belfast, Newcastle, Blackpool, Leeds, Llandudno, Salford, Nottingham, Leicester, Norwich and Cardiff. Plot those cities on a map and spot the problems in geographical spread. Tough if you’re a tax-paying arts lover in the south-west, isn’t it? (Two National shows have, however, visited Plymouth this autumn.)

With this in mind, and following the decimation of BBC4’s drama budget, might a virtuous-circle solution for all concerned not be for some NT Live shows to be broadcast to licence-fee payers on the BBC? If successful, and it’s hard to imagine otherwise, the project could be extended. Just imagine, for example, the lifelines and possibilities that could be extended to permanently struggling regional theatres through this scheme.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us