National Theatre, You’re Doing Such a Good Job

Thanks to the stunningly vibrant Bard on the Beach that plays out every summer in Vancouver, I already love Shakespeare. Last year’s production of Hamlet was my first time experiencing that play, and boy oh boy was it something to behold! Their interpretations of Bill’s work is always surprising and delightful.

And now I have a new venue to experience the theatre: my dearest cinema. The National Theatre in London has been live-broadcasting their various productions for some time now, and today I thought I’d write a bit about them.

First it was Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle (who you may know as the director of such films as 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Slumdog Millionaire). I was intrigued by the concept of having the two lead actors- playing Doctor Frankenstein and his Creature- swapping roles each night. And when I learned it was Benedict Cumberbatch as one of the two leads, well I was sold. I saw him twice, once in each role, from the comfort of a movie-theatre seat.

Now, don’t tell the attending crowd they’re “only in a movie theatre” because they don’t seem to know. Many are dressed up. There’s applause. It’s generally an older crowd- but something is changing. This is where the National Theatre’s strategy is bloody brilliant: they’re casting actors that a younger crowd knows and loves in stage productions that said crowd might otherwise not care about.

Agony! Outrage! Culture being forced upon us! Made to endure stage productions we know nothing of to get a glimpse of our favourite film actors!

Just a few days ago I stood in line with a friend, waiting for Coriolanus. It was mostly an older crowd, but speckled with people like us- several groups of young women, who were there for one reason and one reason alone: Tom Hiddleston.

You might know him from “The Avengers” franchise, where he has clearly stolen the show with his depiction of the “villain” Loki.

Now this is where the National Theatre’s strategy gets really brilliant. They draw in this new crowd with a face we can’t get enough of, and then, and here’s the important part, the production is so fabulous in every other merit that we become an audience for the whole of it, not just the actor that drew us there.

The rest of the cast is brilliant, by the way.

And yes you see right, that is in fact Mark Gatiss, from (and co-creator of) such other things as the BBC Sherlock and Doctor Who.

I find myself getting excited for King Lear (you had me at “directed by Sam Mendes”- aka another extremely talented film director). And War Horse. Their little teases of both of these were feeding off of my excitement for their depiction of Coriolanus that I couldn’t help but want to go to them.

They’ve successfully hooked me. They’re productions are so well put together that I will be going to others, even if I don’t know the cast or the director. They’ve had a brilliant go at creating brand loyalty here, and I must say they’ve succeeded spectacularly. A new generation of theatre-goers is upon us, one which was brought in by ulterior motives, but which has been won over. As expected, I’m sure. Well NT, I say excellent work. You are well met by this new audience, and I’m pleased to say that we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the years to come.

And in case you missed it, and I (or, let’s be honest, more likely Mr. Hiddleston) have inspired you to check it out, there’s an encore of Coriolanus on the 22nd of February.

Because as far as I can figure, this fandom is pretty cray about him.

(Sidenote update: I’m on a two week writing retreat right now- just tooling up ye olde fifth novel, and reading and making notes on two books on the craft, to assimilate into my brain-noodle. Things are going well now, and I feel pretty darn excited about this manuscript.)

That’s all for now, dear readers.
As ever, thank you for reading.
Heidi out.

P.S. For reference, this post took a full two hours to put together, after thinking on it for several days.

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About H.G. Bells

H.G. Bells writes around the intersections of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. She has several short stories in print, and is repped by Beth Campbell for her novel Sleep Over, coming soon from Skyhorse Publishing.
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