The Live Screening Experience – Guest Blog by Melanie Denning
The NT Live production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch at The Courtyard was only my third experience of live screenings but I honestly enjoyed every minute. It struck me both at the start and afterwards what a great new format of arts delivery this is … a way to enjoy being part of a live experience without actually being there – in this case, it would have meant a long trip into central London and the Barbican.
My husband Chris, son Owain and I could hear and see the audience (both in their cinema space and the main theatre) and when the lights went down and the hush descended… it did here too and this made me feel connected somehow! Being able to see the actors’ faces so clearly, with every emotional nuance laid bare, as well as hearing every word they said, enabled me to connect better with the action. I know my 15-year-old son Owain felt the same – he, along with many teenagers, doesn’t find the language of Shakespeare that accessible but I know he was gripped by the action in this tragedy.
The screening came with a few bells and whistles…. a short pre-show interview between Benedict and Melvyn Bragg and, much more interesting for me, as a big fan of community arts, Benedict’s visit to a London secondary school where the students had given the “To be” speech their own unique and quite inspiring interpretation.
Yes, you don’t quite get the full live experience but these live screenings are ‘as near as’ and you feel absorbed in the action. Although you’re getting the director’s cut in terms of what you see, most of the time you’ll be seeing more than you might if you were watching from a seat in the actual theatre, depending on how good (or bad) your tickets are! And that’s before you start to add up the expense of getting to London and back. It won’t replace live theatre for sure, and never can, but I’m all in favour of this brilliant new genre and how it’s opened up more productions to the wider general public… this can only be a good thing.