Saturday, February 04, 2017


I've seen many National Theatre 'Live' and their repeat 'Encore' productions, and every one has been exquisite in its own way. Thursday night it was Amadeus, that twist on history about Mozart's life (which was made into a film). This production of Peter Shaffer's extraordinary play was marvellous.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's short life was captured by Adam Gillen, who brought  a modern take while performing the classical character, and creative types will relate to this performance. Lucian Msamati paints an evil, jealous, spiteful and vindictive Antonio Salieri, out to destroy Mozart for his genius, angry at God for not elevating him from mediocrity to genius, and yet this fine actor still evokes some pity from the audience. Combined with a full orchestra, bits from Mozart operas, and much whimsy mixed with the pathos, not for the first time did I find myself leaving the theater in tears from a NT staging.

National Theatre is from the UK and the actors are classically trained, with much experience behind them. This not only elevates the quality of the performance, but the productions become exceptional and transformative, taking audiences to where theater was intended to take us--out of our daily lives, into a spiritual realm where we can gain big-picture insights into life, and then returning us to our day-to-day world, carrying back something of the divine to incorporate into our personal and the larger world to help us all evolve.

Of the many I've seen, both old school and more recent plays, some of my favorites include:  The Audience (with Helen Mirran, who I also saw in the role of Queen Elizabeth II on Broadway when she did a short run in NYC); Frankenstein (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternating nightly the roles of the Doctor and the Monster--I saw both); No Man's Land with the giants Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart; A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson as Blanche. I've also loved Les Liaisions Dangereuses; Jane Eyre; Warhorse; Medea; Hangman; A View From a Bridge...

My favorites among the Shakespeare plays NT has done are Hamlet (starring Cumberbatch); Coriolanus (starring Tom Hiddleson); Macbeth; King Lear...okay, I'm going on and on here!

NT plays screen in theaters around the world on the same day. The 'Live' you see as it's being filmed, as if you are in the theater, and any 'flubs' are there, but these superb actors very rarely flub.  The 'Encore' is when the tape of the play is screened.  And the best part is, because the play is being filmed, we are right there behind the lenses of the cameras. Even a front row seat in a theater doesn't get you this close to the action!

I am in love with the National Theatre. Their productions are innovative. For example, Macbeth was performed in a reconsecrated church where the pews had been turned so the stage was the main aisle ending at the altar area. The floor was dirt. Sprinklers produced 'rain' for this blustery Scottish setting and the actors in the battle scenes were soon covered in mud! Where do you see such things???

The first link will take you to Amadeus, which screens again on Sunday, March 4th (the Encore). You can type in the city nearest you to see where it's playing and buy a ticket. At the top of the page you can see 'What's On' which lists the current productions. The second link is for Cineplex, the theater chain that screens National Theater, as well as productions by other theater companies. You can also find ballet, opera and museum tours on the Cineplex site under Events


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