Seven things we love about NT Live at Esplanade.
“Furiously exciting” and “politically urgent” are some adjectives British reviewers have thrown at the UK National Theatre’s 2018 staging of Julius Caesar—and it’s not just because this play-turned-cinematic-experience has a certain populist politician in a red baseball cap as one of its main characters.
Coming to Singapore audiences in the form of a dynamic live broadcast courtesy of the NT Live platform, Julius Caesar’s cameras seem to whiz around the stars on stage, offering us glimpses of the audience members standing around on all sides of the dramatic action, responding to it with expressions of curiosity, shock, and anger that blur the boundaries between performer and viewer, stage and real life.
Such action-packed camera work is just one reason why we are always happy to catch NT Live, which brings the best of theatre and stagecraft to performing arts venues all around the world. Since its launch in June 2009, NT Live has broadcast more than 40 productions to over 2,000 venues internationally. This time around, Julius Caesar and Follies make their big screen debuts at Esplanade. Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t miss NT Live at the durian.
1. Award-winning international theatrical productions an MRT ride away
You don’t have to make the trek to London’s Southbank Centre to catch some of the world’s best theatre. Turn that 14-hour flight into a hop, skip and jump to Esplanade Theatre and free yourself of the long airport waits and grouchy passengers. Here’s how to get to Esplanade.
2. That one chance to bring snacks into the Esplanade Theatre
How many times have you felt peckish while enjoying a performance in the Esplanade Theatre? At NT Live screenings you won’t go hungry, because you’re allowed to bring your snacks from the foyer bar into the venue! (But try not to annoy your fellow audience members with loud munching.)
3. A moment to fawn over top-notch film actors performing on the NT Live stage
Okay, so they won’t actually be physically present on stage—but you’ll still get a chance to ogle at your favorite actors up close on screen, performing in front of a live audience.
Remember Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller going toe-to-toe on screen as the scientist Frankenstein and his creature at Esplanade in 2014 and 2017? This time around, The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey storms the screen as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, while Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shakespeare in Love) turns in a heartbreaking performance as a faded showgirl in Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies.
When compared to acting for television and film, stage acting is a whole different game with immense demands on the performer. It’s a great opportunity to compare how actors work across contexts from the film studio to live theatre.
4. Great storytelling that will have you on the edge of your seat
The upcoming NT Live season at Esplanade features works of theatre from some of the best writers of all time. Shakespeare’s classic Julius Caesar gets a contemporary update as a political thriller, while musical theatre fans should not miss Follies, by the wizard of the modern musical Stephen Sondheim, known for the alchemy of his infectious music and witty, intelligent lyrics.
5. All the best angles = all the good seats
This isn’t just a single static camera that only shows a fixed view of the stage. NT Live’s dynamic “cinematography” tracks the movements of performers as they move about the space. Occasionally, the cameras pan across audience members and pick up some movement and ambient noises, further emphasizing the sense of watching a live production. This dynamic camera echoes the kinds of continuity editing found in film and television. By importing the visual language of the cinema into theatrical broadcasts, NT Live brings the best of both worlds into the 21st-century theatre space. So you don’t need to worry if you’re getting a good seat—you’re getting all of them.
6. Being wowed by stage magic
What’s more, if you’re impressed by one-take music videos and movies—think of the music video for Halsey’s Sorry or Alexander Sokurov’s arthouse film Russian Ark (2002)—get this: NT Live shows are essentially one-take films! Everything that you watch onscreen, including multicamera shots, is done in a single take without any post-production edits. At the end of the day, whether viewed on screen or at the actual venue, the authenticity and humanity offered up by the theatrical experience still trumps cinema and television. While the latter two offer highly produced and finely edited films and shows, NT Live retains the grit and flaws of live theatre, which make the high points of the play ever more glorious. You might even be interested to watch some live theatre at Esplanade—check out what’s on.
7. Enjoying a pre- or post-show dinner at Esplanade Mall
The experience doesn’t end in the theatre. You’ll get to enjoy special ticket holder privileges when you dine at a wide selection of restaurants in Esplanade Mall! Even better: treat yourself to more free performances at the Esplanade Concourse and Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. Then, take a relaxing evening stroll by our magnificent waterfront. Check out your ticket holder privileges here, and what free programmes we have on the day.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.