In Review

Seven of the best stage shows to watch from home

Settle back on your sofa for curtain up

Theatres may have gone dark, but that needn’t mean missing out on the thrill and excitement of a play or musical. Your TV, computer or tablet can transform your sofa into the best seat in the house for curtain up.

Add to the atmosphere by dressing up and dimming the lights before you press play, and if you want to share the experience, you can synchronise your viewing with friends. Here’s how to get your “smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowds” fix…

Twelfth Night

Shakespeare’s Globe might be closed for now, but it has more than 130 filmed productions available on its video-on-demand service, Globe Player. This includes the 2012 production of Twelfth Night, which starred Stephen Fry as Malvolio and Mark Rylance as Olivia and won three awards. Performed by an all-male cast authentically dressed in period costume, and accompanied by traditional instruments, this is “a radical production that makes Shakespeare seem completely contemporary”, said Alex Needham in The Guardian.

Available on Globe Player to rent for £5.99, or to buy or send as a gift for £11.99

42nd Street

Filmed over three 2019 performances at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, this classic, unashamedly escapist, musical - originally released in film form in 1933 - sees a chorus-line wannabe soar from small-town girl to Broadway star. Tim Bano in The Stage said: “When that army of dancers gets going, when the rows of lights start twinkling and tap shoes hit the bleachers extending towards the audience from the back of the stage, it’s simply, overwhelmingly, stunning.”

Available on BroadwayHD with a seven-day free trial for the whole subscription service - then $8.99 a month

All My Sons

Based on a true story, Arthur Miller’s three-act tale, written in 1946, stands as a criticism of American society, with themes of betrayal, guilt, grief and faulty family dynamics. Captured at London’s Apollo Theatre in 2010, it stars Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet. Charles Spencer in The Telegraph said: “Miller’s theme of man’s responsibility towards his fellow men feels genuinely noble rather than merely didactic... stunning production of a modern classic and one that those who see it will never forget.” 

Available on Digital Theatre to rent for £7.99 or pay £9.99 a month for the whole subscription service

First Time

Billed as “a show about staying positive in a negative world”, this autobiographical work by Nathaniel Hall about contracting and living with HIV was hailed as one of the best shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 - and described as “a show that packs an emotional punch that resonates even after you’ve left the theatre” by Alex Needham in The Guardian. Immerse yourself in this solo show by watching it in virtual reality.

Available on with a free one-month subscription, including a free ultra-light smartphone VR headset posted to you - then £5.99 a month

Cyprus Avenue

David Ireland’s story follows a Belfast loyalist who mistakes his baby granddaughter for Gerry Adams and takes what he considers to be appropriate action. Starring Stephen Rea – giving “a phenomenal performance... terrifying and hilarious”, reported The Stage – this dark comedy, recorded in 2016.

Available on the Royal Court Theatre’s website, as well as its Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages, from 12pm on 27 March – World Theatre Day – until 26 April

Lady Windermere’s Fan

“There’s a freshness here that's very attractive,” says Paul Taylor, in The Independent, of this 2018 production of Oscar Wilde’s play directed by Kathy Burke. Coming from the Vaudeville Theatre, with a set that’s very fan-focused, and “inspired casting” with Jennifer Saunders as the Duchess, and Samantha Spiro as Mrs Erlynne, the woman that Lady Windermere believes to be having an affair with her husband.

Available on Marquee TV with 30-day free trial for the whole subscription service - then £8.99 a month

I and You 

Hampstead Theatre’s 2018 production of I and You has gained new relevance during the pandemic. It features a young girl (played by Game of Thrones’s Maisie Williams) trapped by a serious illness at home, where her boyfriend introduces her to the work of poet Walt Whitman. Holly Williams in Time Out dubs it a “really rather enjoyable, tender study of youth: [Lauren] Gunderson is good at capturing both that soft-centre earnestness, and the hard, self-protective casing around it, produced by fear and confusion and the desire to be cool”. 

Available on Hampstead Theatre’s Instagram for free until 29 March


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