Watching live theatre at the cinema: is it any good?

Date Posted: 03/09/2015

Watching live theatre at the cinema. Is it any good? Can it recreate the same excitement you feel when going to the theatre? Alyssa Lim went to her local cinema to watch the RSC’s production of Othello to see how it fared - here's her review of live theatre at the cinema.

I was a little apprehensive going to watch the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Othello at my local cinema rather than in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Despite the convenience of a five minute journey to my local Cineworld, rather than the 100-plus mile round trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, I was a little unsure as to whether it would work.

I love going to the theatre because of the buzz you get on arrival and the atmosphere and intimacy you feel at either a local or West End venue. Would I be able to enjoy it as much on the big screen?

In short the answer is yes. Othello was absolutely great. I’ll admit, I didn’t have the buzz before going in, but that was more to do with my preconceived ideas and I know next time I go to see theatre at the cinema I will be a lot more excited as it certainly isn’t like your regular visit to see a film.

On arrival I was given an abbreviated programme and 15 minutes before the play was due to start we were treated to an interview with director, Iqbal Khan to whet the appetite.

As the play started I completely forgot where I was. There’s no doubt that the quality of the RSC production, from the setting to the acting, completely transfixed you, but I’m also sure that that could only be achieved if the quality of filming was just as good.

Although the camera chooses where your eyes are drawn to by focusing on parts rather than the whole stage that you would normally see at a theatre, it means you’re right on top of the action and in this production, you certainly didn’t want to miss a thing.  

Maybe the one thing that was missing was the round of applause at the end, as we instead watched in silence whilst the audience in Stratford gave the actors a standing ovation. Perhaps here the atmosphere in the cinema faltered against that in the theatre, but the post-performance discussions that I overheard as I was leaving certainly sounded like a happy audience, which could just as easily have been walking out of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre instead of Cineworld in Milton Keynes.

So, I would definitely recommend the cinema as an alternative for the theatre. Granted the atmosphere of the theatre might not be able to be quite matched, but if you’re looking to take your group on a cheap, local trip, or if you couldn’t get tickets for the stage production – like the sold out production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch, but are desperate to catch the show, take a look at your local cinema to see if they have it on offer.

For more information visit ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk.

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