London, quite honestly, has some of the best theatre out there. From long standing shows such as The Lion King, Wicked and Les Miserables to newer shows such as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Hamilton and Tina Turner the Musical. This isn’t even mentioning the wealth of theatre on offer at off-West End and fringe venues. Whilst this is fantastic for anyone local to London it can be very unaccessible for many people in the country. Yes, a lot of shows tour and the quality of the touring shows are much improved now with the shows often being as good as on stage in London. But the problem remains, that often if a show is currently onstage in London it is unlikely to tour at the same time. So what happens if you cannot get to London? Is it fair that people have to miss out purely due to location?
With social media such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube fans of shows often get to hear the music, see snippets of the cast and almost get to feel like they are part of the show. This is brilliant. But the problem comes when these fans live too far away from the show to actually ever have a chance of seeing it. Not only are ticket prices extremely high but the cost of travel, accommodation, food etc all adds up meaning that for many people attending the theatre is just too expensive. Therefore you can hardly blame people for resorting to YouTube and watching clips of the show that audience members have illegally taken on their phones. This should not be encouraged at all. Not only is it illegal but it is highly distracting for the artists on stage and fellow audience members. So what is the answer? How can theatre be more inclusive? Well it seems the answer for some shows is to stream their shows to local cinemas. But is this the same? Does it help promote theatre and make it more accessible? Or does it lose some of its sparkle and emotion when on the big screen?
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is the latest West End show to have been seen in cinemas. Fans of the musical flocked to their local cinemas to see a live-streamed performance of the show. This is fantastic as it allows more people to see the show. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is all about inclusivity and by doing this, the show made itself more inclusive and accessible to everyone. Whilst not all cinemas took part in this performance seeing the general reaction was brilliant. Not only does it mean people can see it from all over the country but they also can be part of something without spending a fortune on travel, accommodation and theatre tickets. But the question remains… does it still have that magic? Or does seeing a show through a screen diminish this?
In addition to the live streaming as seen with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, a lot of shows have been recorded and then shown at a later date. An American In Paris, for instance, was shown at cinemas across the country after it had closed at the Dominion Theatre, London. With no tour on the cards as of yet it provided a perfect chance for those who had missed the show to be able to see it for themselves. Some shows have gone even further and even offer DVD’s of their performances, Billy Elliot, From Here to Eternity, Miss Saigon and RENT for example, allowing fans to watch at home time and time again.
It’s not just musical theatre which has been seen on the big screen lately either. The National Theatre and Royal Opera House often show live streamed shows to selected cinemas. Surely this is a brilliant way of allowing more people to see the magic of the theatre. It may not have the same magic, or buzz to seeing a live performance in front of you. But for many this is the only option and if it entices more people to see shows and introduces them into the world of theatre then surely it’s worth it? So, what’s your opinion? Have you seen a show streamed to the cinema? How was the experience for you? Or do you think live theatre should be just that, live on stage not through a screen? Let me know!