This Lockdown, England’s Theaters Know What to Do Online


I, for one, was thrilled to see James Corden’s Tony Award-winning performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” once more, and to revel anew in the invention of Michael Longhurst’s revival of “Amadeus,” which incorporated a live orchestra into Peter Shaffer’s storied play about Mozart and Salieri.

The more recent trend away from past productions and toward new work, with plays developed to work with an audience in-house or as streams, was the route traveled by a fine Off West End revival of the Jason Robert Brown musical “The Last Five Years,” which had its Southwark Playhouse run cut short not once but twice and is responding by livestreaming the final performances this week.

Also this week, on Friday, the National is making available for 24 hours via YouTube a solo play, “Death of England: Delroy,” by Roy Williams and Clint Dyer, whose widely anticipated opening night, Nov. 4, turned out to be its closing when the latest lockdown took effect the next day.

With good foresight, the production team filmed that performance, though the National promises the live version will be back next spring. The happy result is that the show will live in both mediums, offering renewed opportunities to be in the same room with Michael Balogun, who takes star-making, fiery command of Delroy, the Black British Brexit-supporter of the title.

One byproduct of this weird year is a theater community that has learned to be quick on its feet, whether that means fashioning work specifically for the web, as with “Little Wars,” or repurposing productions so that they are able to adjust to the changing dictates of the virus. Another show at the National, “Romeo and Juliet,” a revival intended for the stage this summer, is instead being filmed inside the theater’s Lyttelton auditorium for a TV airing next year, with a starry cast headed by Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley.

The Old Vic, too, has garnered attention with a heady sequence of plays, scheduled to be streamed afresh next year, filmed for online audiences on the stage of the empty theater. Further titles are promised over the months ahead.

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