Theatre in Your Home – is it good or bad?

Today’s post was supposed to be about a book. A book review. But I changed my plans because I saw a strange post. A strange and surprising post. And I’m so surprised and shocked by it, that I have to write about it. About theatre. A theatre in your house.

It all started (for me) with an article in The Guardian (British portal), titled “Why digital theatre poses no threat to live performance“. Are you as confused as me when I read that? Let me explain what the story is about. I have to warn you, it’ll be long.

Drawing the Line online

Hampstead Theatre, a theatre from London, decided to record on 11th January the last performance of a show. Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line, a show about deciding on the borders of India. The performance was recorded and streamed live. That’s not everything. It was also available online on demand for 72 hours after the show.

National Theatre Live

Known also as NT Live is a project to broadcast the best of London theatre performances live across the UK and around the world.

Objections

Did you think everything sounds great until now? I thought so. Watching a theatre performance either at your home or in a close-by cinema? Sounds great! For so many reasons (hey everybody from outside London :D). But somebody had to nag.

Stephen Wood, the executive director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough (England) is scared that NT Live can become too popular and people won’t enjoy the live performances in the theatre.

We must be careful that we don’t arrive at a situation where this type of thing is what people’s only experience of live theatre really is.

It sounds like the old stuff repeated anew. First, it was radio against concerts, TV against cinemas, DVD against cinemas, etc. Boring. But at least he notice few pluses of live performances in cinemas.

My Polish Experiences

Digital theatre being a threat to live performances is just plainly funny. Especially when I think about the theatre experience in Poland.

Theatre in TV

Teatr Telewizji (TV Theatre) in TVP (Polish national TV) started in 1953. It had better and worse days in its history. It broadcasts theatre performances (sometimes lives) through TV (sometimes internet too) to people’s homes.

In a country where most people don’t go to the theatre even once in a year (money issues included), and where their favourite hobby  is… watching TV, Teatr Telewizji is very needed. When there were tries to limit the TV theatre shows, people got together and fought against it. Few years later I could say it’s much better. Now theatre is twice a week, on 2 channels of public TV.

Ah, and I can’t forget plays in public radio – it’s called Teatr Polskiego Radia (Theatre of Polish Radio). Those audio dramas are available in Polish only. Btw, one of the dramas Matysiakowie, is aired every week from 1956. This weekend was aired 2969 episode.

It might be true that such TV experience of a play for some (in smaller cities and villages) is the only experience of (live) theatre. Is that bad? According to April 2011 study over 60% of TV Theatre audience lives in villages or towns under 50.000 people. I think even if it’s their only chance to watch theatre plays (live or not) it, we should be happy they (can) watch plays at all.

Lately I can’t really spare money on a ticket to go to the theatre/cinema/for a concert. But you know what? I plan to watch a theatre play. Yes, in Teatr Telewizji.

Theatre in internet

Teatr Telewizji, of course, has its own website. For live broadcast there is always a dedicated stand-alone website, including a version for mobile devices too (Apple and Android). Otherwise you can watch trailers, interviews, etc. TVP on demand offers Teatr Telewizji as well.

Theatre in internet? Hell yes! Or so do think TVP (national public TV) and National Audiovideo Institute. On 29.10.2012 they started a project called Internetowy Teatr TVP dla szkół (Internet TVP Theatre for Schools). Students at schools can watch coded theatre plays.

Stephen Woods can rest assured, it won’t spoil the children. As a representative of TVP says:

From the start of Internet TVP Theatre for Schools we conduct it in a way that it won’t replace live plays in a real theatre, nor performances of Teatr Telewizji. Also it’s not a mix of these two forms. On the contrary, it’s supposed to arouse interests of young audience and educate them.

That’s not all. The project will also reach out to the children hospices and students of Polish schools abroad. Also, Internet Festival of School Theatrical Groups (Internetowy Przegląd Szkolnych Zespołów Teatralnych) will be continued.

This year’s first play “Momo” from a theatre in Białystok watched 32301 students from 523 schools all over the country. Photos and videos from “Momo” available on the website.

This isn’t the only project for theatre in internet. On the National Audiovideo Institute‘s (NINA) website, you can see various plays (opera included) paid or free. Full length, good quality, tho it’s aimed at Polish speakers and there’s no English subtitles to them.

Wait, that’s still not everything! The last resource I know is E-teatr.tv. Sorry, it’s aimed at Polish only (again) so no English version available. The plays are on Youtube. 😉

Is Stephen Wood right?

I don’t remember anybody ever saying in Poland something similar to Stephen Woods. I think it’s the other way round. The theatre people try to reach out to as biggest group of people as possible (TV, internet), and to get them interested enough to come to the theatre.

I know, that he was worried about the theatre plays in cinemas. I don’t exactly know why he ignores watching plays at home (TV, Internet) as a source of threats for theatre-going. 😉

What’s my opinion? A play in TV? A play in internet? Great idea, not everybody can afford additionally tickets. A play in cinema? Great idea, I think. A ticket to the theatre may be few times more expensive than the ticket to the cinema. Cinema will not offer the quality of watching it with your own eyes, but it still can offer the chance to watch the play at all. The play which could be unavailable for more reasons than just the money issues.

I remember that in 2010 some operas from foreign stages were broadcast live in cinemas in Poland. Now, that’s a treat! How often a person can go abroad and see a quality opera? Even getting a ticket is troublesome.

It’s a pity there is no cinema in Warsaw showing plays from London (NT Live). I know I’d like (whenever possible) to see it. The only cinema in Poland showing NT Live performances is in Katowice, around 300 km from my city. Irony is, Warsaw is capital city of Poland. 😉 And I have to make sure that I won’t miss another live streaming play.

What’s your opinion? Do you think free access to theatre in TV, internet or going for a play to cinema may stop people from going to the theatre? Or do you think it’s great to see theatre in other medias? How it’s in your country? Share your opinion with us.

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