Hottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online

photo source: Sadler’s Wells /

Powered by article titled “Hottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online” was written by Chris Wiegand Stage editor, for on Wednesday 8th April 2020 14.42 UTC

Hampstead theatre and the Guardian

Hampstead theatre’s productions of Beth Steel’s Wonderland, set during the miners’ strike of 1984–85, and Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line, about the partition of India, are both available on Wonderland is free to watch until 10pm on 12 April. Drawing the Line will be available from 10am on 13 April.


The Swan

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new director Carlos Acosta has reworked The Dying Swan (originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova), and BRB principal dancer Céline Gittens performs the piece from her living room to yours. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux, is performed by pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais. “This is a dance of promises,” says Acosta. Streamed on 8 April as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine.

National Theatre at Home

The NT has risen to the occasion by unveiling a mighty lineup of some of its greatest hits, to be streamed online on Thursdays at 7pm and then available for seven days. Available until 9 April is the deliriously funny One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean’s 2011 adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s comedy, with a cast including James Corden and Jemima Rooper. In the following weeks you can see Sally Cookson’s adaptation of Jane Eyre (16 April), Bryony Lavery’s Treasure Island (23 April) and Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig (30 April).


You’ve watched both TV series. You’ve read the scripts. Maybe you’ve even seen the stage show more than once. But you’ll probably still be streaming Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of her wildly successful monologue, recorded at Wyndham’s theatre in London where it sold out last summer. Fleabag is available to stream in the UK and Ireland on Soho theatre’s On Demand site. From 10 April, it will be available for a two-week period in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as well as on Amazon Prime Video in the US and UK. All proceeds will go towards charities including the National Emergencies Trust, NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others, which provides support to all theatre workers in times of need.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge on stage in Fleabag.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge on stage in Fleabag.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Flowers for Mrs Harris

Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel Mrs ’Arris Goes to Paris, about a charlady who covets a designer gown, became one of the most acclaimed British musicals in recent years. Written by Rachel Wagstaff, with music and lyrics by Richard Taylor, it was the swansong of Sheffield Crucible’s artistic director Daniel Evans in 2016 and remounted by him when he took over at Chichester Festival theatre. That 2018 staging is the first of several archive recordings promised by Chichester. Available free for 30 days from 9 April.

The Importance of Being Earnest

One should always have something sensational to watch online. You’ve got until 7pm on 12 April to enjoy Oscar Wilde’s epigram-packed comedy, directed by Nikolai Foster and co-produced by Leicester’s Curve and Birmingham Repertory theatre. Cathy Tyson plays Lady Bracknell and Isla Shaw’s mirrored set also dazzles. Best watched with muffins.


Ten dancers run rings round each other to Steve Reich’s minimalist music in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s shimmering production, performed by her Rosas company. Nifty costume changes mean the outfits – by Dries van Noten – subtly seem to bloom into colour during the show. Rain will be screened on 10 April as part of Sadler’s Wells’ Facebook Premieres, then available to watch for a week.

Rain by Rosas.
Rain by Rosas.
Photograph: Anne Van Aerschot

Shakespeare’s Globe

Itching to get back into that wooden O on the South Bank? Happily, the Globe Player has heaps of full productions to rent, including international productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe festival such as a Lithuanian Hamlet, a Turkish Antony and Cleopatra, a Japanese Coriolanus and an Armenian King John. There is also the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’s opening production, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton. On the Globe’s YouTube channel, a series of free streams, each available for a fortnight, continues with Romeo and Juliet (2019), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), The Two Noble Kinsmen (2018), The Winter’s Tale (2018) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019).


Rural touring company Pentabus are releasing shows from their archive every Friday over a period of three months. Deirdre Kinahan’s play Crossings is, according to our critic Arifa Akbar, “an unexpected and touching drama about unlikely friendships, postwar homosexuality and the cost of war for women”. Read the full review.

Luna: A Play About the Moon

Is there a lunar module in your home-schooling schedule? If so, then you may like to try Roustabout Theatre’s fun, fact-packed cabaret for kids, which mixes science and storytelling in a series of skits, including a couple preparing to blast off into space, armed with battered suitcases and an acoustic guitar. Performers Jean Goubert and Shaelee Rooke make a likable double act and writer-director Toby Hulse brings wit and variety to an hour of encounters with the moon. For ages five and upwards. Read the full review.

Breach Theatre

This year’s Edinburgh festival has been cancelled, but you can catch up on the fringe hits of the smart, questing young company, Breach Theatre. Their breakthrough 2015 show, The Beanfield (on Vimeo), revisits the clash between police and new age travellers near Stonehenge in what was dubbed the “battle of the beanfield”. Breach’s widely acclaimed 2018 piece It’s True, It’s True, It’s True had been due to run at London’s Barbican this month but is now online instead from the Space. It’s a compelling three-hander evoking the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi, accused of rape by baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

Night of the Living Dead – Remix.
Night of the Living Dead – Remix.
Photograph: Ed Waring

Imitating the Dog

The groundbreaking theatre company Imitating the Dog were midway through touring Night of the Living Dead – Remix when theatres shut down. Now, they are streaming this ambitious show in which a cast of actors remake George Romero’s classic horror film shot by shot in real time. The company have also opened up their archive to stream a selection of creations from the last 20 years. Works will be released every fortnight, starting on 3 April with Oh, the Night, and the productions are available to watch on a pay-what-you-like basis.

The Beast Will Rise

Philip Ridley’s new play The Beast of Blue Yonder was due to open at the Southwark Playhouse in London in April. It has now been postponed but a series of new monologues by Ridley responding to the current crisis will be performed online by members of the cast. The first, Gator, stars Rachel Bright. Further online world premieres from Ridley will follow each week.

Belarus Free Theatre

The internet has been vital to the success of Belarus Free Theatre, one of Europe’s most essential theatre companies, which is forced to operate underground in its restrictive home country after the government banned it on political grounds. They have long rehearsed and created new productions over Skype. Now, the company – which turns 15 this year – is streaming 24 of its shows throughout April, May and June. The series starts with their 2005 staging of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis on 4 April. English subtitles are available for those productions in Russian and Belarusian and each show will be available online for 24 hours. A cast of actors including Samuel West and Stephen Fry will also be reading excerpts from their favourite fairytales in BFT’s new online series.

Now I’m Fine

What better time is there to watch a “grand-scale experimental pop opera about keeping it together”? Ahamefule J Oluo’s innovative show, staged at Seattle’s Moore theatre in 2014, mixes standup-style routines with a mesmerising musical accompaniment and explores his experience of a rare autoimmune disease. It is one of many films available to stream from On the Boards. Read the full review.

Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist

With the help of a carrot, a sponge, the Miracles and some game audience members, Sam is going to tell you about five hook-ups he had through the casual encounters section of online classified-ads board Craigslist. Filmed at the Push festival in Home, Manchester, YESYESNONO’s production is an open, affecting and troubling look at searching for intimacy and connection. This hour will leave you reencountering your own life.

I, Cinna

The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this spellbinding film of Tim Crouch’s monologue, part of his series magnifying the experiences of minor characters from Shakespeare. Read the full review.


Berlin’s essential theatre, run by Thomas Ostermeier, is streaming classic productions from its archive, many of them with English subtitles. Highlights include Nina Hoss in Yasmina Reza’s Bella Figura on 11 April and Beware of Pity, Simon McBurney’s version of Stefan Zweig’s novel, on 13 April. Full Schaubühne schedule.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

A selection of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals will be released weekly on the YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On, starting on 3 April with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The 2000 version stars Donny Osmond, Maria Friedman, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins. It’s followed by Jesus Christ Superstar on 10 April which, appropriately enough, is Good Friday. Tim Minchin and Melanie C star in the 2012 staging. Each show will be available free for 48 hours online.

Funny Girl

Showtunes don’t get much more defiant or rousing than Don’t Rain on My Parade. Sheridan Smith wards off the clouds with a gritty rendition as Fanny Bryce in this production of the classic musical at Manchester’s Palace theatre in 2017. It’s one of the many productions available from Digital Theatre, whose offerings also include The Crucible starring Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in London, and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Boys Don’t

The Cure’s Robert Smith tried to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies, because – all together now – boys don’t cry. A powerful piece of rhyme-packed storytelling for the over-eights, Boys Don’t is delivered by four compelling performers and based on real-life experiences of the expectations placed on “little men” throughout the generations before they even get to the playground. Presented by Half Moon theatre, it’s a Papertale production in association with Apples and Snakes, staged at Brighton festival in 2018.

Fragments (Beckett by Brook)

Is there a more fitting playwright for our current moment of isolation, uncertainty and endurance than Beckett? In this production, filmed at the marvellously atmospheric Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2015, Peter Brook directs five Beckett shorts with a cast of three (Jos Houben, Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter). The production comprises Rough for Theatre I, Rockaby, Neither, Come and Go and Act Without Words II. Feel the rising panic and despair in Rockaby as the solitary, wide-eyed Hunter recounts a descent through long, lonely days.

Palermo Palermo

Even by Pina Bausch’s standards it’s an arresting opening: a huge wall collapses on stage and across the rubble comes Julie Shanahan, in high heels and a floral frock. After desperately commanding hugs from two suitors, she takes a seat and is pelted with rotten tomatoes. And so begins an epic patchwork of masochistic rituals, nightmares and games, blending the quotidian with the phenomenal, all inspired by the choreographer’s trip to Sicily. A rare chance to watch one of Bausch’s creations in full and for free online.


At first sight they could be Pina Bausch’s dancers: a procession of performers wearing smart suits and enigmatic smiles, gliding across a stage filled with apples. Bausch’s company memorably balanced apples on their heads in Palermo Palermo, but as Smashed is created by those juggling supremos Gandini, the fruit is mostly in motion here. Their Bausch homage has the same childlike games, adult fantasy and bruised humour of the German choreographer’s work. Smashed is crisp, fresh and full of flavour. You may never look at an apple in the same way again …

Ghost Quartet

If you missed its run at Soho’s new Boulevard theatre, here’s a chance to savour Dave Malloy’s song cycle, filmed in New York in 2015. Alternately rousing and yearning, this is a gorgeous hymn to barflies, precious memories and the joys of being a ghost, told with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and Thelonious Monk. It’s a glorious get-together of a show, as warming as the whiskey handed out to the audience – but you’ll have to pour your own I’m afraid.

Oscar Wilde season

All four productions in Classic Spring’s starry Oscar Wilde season in the West End can be watched on the online service Marquee TV, which is offering a 30-day free trial. Edward and Freddie Fox play father and son in An Ideal Husband; Eve Best is a memorable Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance; Kathy Burke directs Lady Windermere’s Fan; and Sophie Thompson is horrified by theatre’s most famous handbag in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Key Change

Open Clasp is a women’s theatre company aiming to “change the world, one play at a time”. Key Change, now available to stream online, is a fantastic introduction to their consistently impressive work with women who are on the margins of society; in this case, prisoners at HM Prison Low Newton, who devised the 2015 show with the theatre group over several months in order to break down stigma and enlighten audiences. It was filmed in partnership with The Space.

Whatever the Weather

Created for children aged three to seven by Rochdale’s touring theatre company, M6, this sweetly magical show is centred on an alpine weather house whose little male and female figures each pop outdoors depending on the weather (rain for him, sun for her). When the couple start to look after a nest of birds, Gilly Baskeyfield’s story and her jaunty production gently explore themes of family and shared responsibilities. A rainbow of a show, available throughout April. Read the full review.

The Metamorphosis

The Royal Opera House may have shut its doors but it has opened up its archive for a series of free streams on its Facebook and YouTube channels. These include the Royal Ballet performing Peter and the Wolf and, on 17 April, The Metamorphosis, a surreal and very gloopy staging of Kafka’s novella, choreographed by Arthur Pita and created for dancer Edward Watson.

Edward Watson and Nina Goldman in The Metamorphosis by the Royal Ballet.
Edward Watson and Nina Goldman in The Metamorphosis by the Royal Ballet.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Snow Mouse

You have to hunt to find full theatre productions for very young audiences online, so here’s a little treat. To mark World Day of Theatre for Children on 20 March the lovely Egg in Bath released their wintry 40-minute tale for the under-fours.

The School for Wives

Travel restrictions needn’t prevent you from enjoying international theatre online. Paris’s esteemed Odéon has released its 2018 production of Molière’s satirical 1662 comedy of manners and cuckoldry. Claude Duparfait stars as the foolish Arnolphe, and Stéphane Braunschweig directs. English subtitles available, évidemment. Read the full review.

The Show Must Go Online

The actor Robert Myles has set up a live-streamed reading group for professional and amateur actors to perform Shakespeare’s complete plays in the order they’re believed to have been written. The Guardian’s very own Stephen Moss took on the role of the Duke of Burgundy in Henry VI Part I.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

After more than 1,000 productions, the Showstoppers improv crew are some of the quickest wits in the biz. So it’s no surprise that when they were faced with a West End closure they live-streamed a performance. Watch their custom-made, never-to-be-repeated impro musical on Facebook.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Viral Monologues

Twenty actors performed new monologues written just for them in this new initiative, shared online on 17 March. There’s some top talent involved, including comedian David Cross, actors Rachel Dratch and Andre Royo, and writers David Lindsay-Abaire, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Monique Moses.

Peeping Tom trilogy

The brilliant Belgian dance-theatre company turned 20 this year and are best known in the UK for performing at London international mime festival and for their trilogy comprising Mother, Father and Child. Their brand of domestic terror, hope and ennui will strike a chord at this troubling time. Watch their first trilogy (Le Jardin, Le Salon and Le Sous Sol) online.

Since U Been Gone

Teddy Lamb was due to present a Trans Take Over at London’s Bunker theatre as part of its now suspended Power Share season. So they have uploaded a version of their musical fringe hit about losing loved ones and finding your own voice.

Royal Shakespeare Company

Our revels have temporarily ended in theatres but you can watch a groundbreaking effects-laden version of The Tempest, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, with a subscription (or 30-day free trial) to the online service Marquee TV. Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu, Antony and Cleopatra with Josette Simon and Richard II with David Tennant are three of the other gems in the selection of RSC plays available.


Is this the short-term future of theatre-making? Bubble, a play set entirely on Facebook, uses a cast of European actors who have never met in person, rehearsed over Skype and filmed on their cameras. Theatre Uncuts production, written by Beats playwright Kieran Hurley, is online until 23 April. Read the full review.

5 Soldiers

Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body Is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK, but, since its live stream is still available online, you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.

The Wind in the Willows

Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe teamed up to deliver a merry new version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, staged at the London Palladium in 2017, with Rufus Hound wearing 50 shades of green as Mr Toad. It’s available to stream online for free, with the option to donate to help provide financial and emotional support to theatre workers.

Girls Like That

London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.

Le Patin Libre

Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities, but the Canadian troupe, Le Patin Libre, has taken the art form into a new dimension. In their double bill, Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades.


LIVR is a subscription service that enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into the headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s Fringe First award-winning show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots.

Apphia Campbell in Woke.
Apphia Campbell in Woke.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/the Guardian

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show, Latin History for Morons, is on Netflix.

Cyprus Avenue

On Friday 27 March, to mark World Theatre Day, the Royal Court released an online version of David Ireland’s blistering play Cyprus Avenue, starring Stephen Rea as a Belfast loyalist who is convinced his baby granddaughter is Gerry Adams. The film mixes the drama shot at the Royal Court with location scenes of Belfast.

Chris Corrigan and Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court.
Chris Corrigan and Stephen Rea in Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Timpson: The Musical

Two households, both alike in dignity … well, sort of. Our narrator, a talking portrait, lays our scene in Victorian London, and this musical comedy imagines the founding of the popular shoe-repair chain as a union between two companies, the Montashoes and the Keypulets. Watch Gigglemug Theatre’s show on YouTube.

My Left Nut

This is cheating as it’s a TV series, but BBC Three’s superb comedy drama is based on one of the most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s based on Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.

Rosas Danst Rosas

Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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