A Streetcar Named Desire
A National Theatre Live Young Vic production, broadcast live
Empire Cinema, Sunderland
Loads of people love the cinema. I’m not one of them. No, I haven’t seen Star Wars, The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather or any number of movies people tell me I should see. I’m with Holden Caulfield – to me the pictures are phoney. Okay, I like The Jungle Book and Toy Story, but film is simply not my medium.
On the other hand I adore the theatre. It moves me in a way film never has been able to. So I finally took the step to go and see a live performance of a theatre production broadcast around the country to provincial cinemas. What would it be like? Would it be from one camera angle at the back of the stalls? Would it be anything like being at the theatre? Around 30 people rolled up into what looked like a 200 capacity cinema, paying £15 a head.
The good news was that to start with the audience weren’t bombarded with adverts for forthcoming cinema blockbusters, and a couple of cinema staff arrived with a trolley selling small glasses of wine and ice cream.
Everyone was even handed a complimentary copy of the cast list. To build the atmosphere the screen came online some 20 minutes before the play started, allowing you to see the audience in London begin to build up. A few minutes before the curtain rose the broadcast audience were welcomed by Emma Freud who reappeared during the interval to provide a little insight to the staging.
The lone gentleman next to me informed me he’d been to several of these live screenings and assured me they’d all been good. He was right. It was good, not as good as being there but a lot better than not seeing a play you’d like to because it was only on in London and/or you couldn’t get or afford a ticket even if you were able to travel to the capital.
Several camera angles provided quality coverage, the sound was excellent and during the performance the audience in the cinema were quiet – unlike some films I’ve been to and not been able to really concentrate on.
I love Tennessee Williams’ ‘Streetcar’ and this performance was high class. By no means the best I’ve seen – that goes to a magnificent November 1986 production at Newcastle Playhouse – but Gillian Anderson was a terrifically vulnerable Blanche DuBois and Ben Foster a suitably bestial Stanley Kowalski.
As I walked home I was pleased I’d been and I might be back ‘at the pictures’ again in the not too distant future to see further National Theatre Live broadcasts.