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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Harvey Proctor's home was raided by the Met under a warrant investigating historical child sexual abuse  

Harvey Proctor: A gay sex ring in Westminster? I don't believe it

Harvey Proctor
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk