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How to enjoy a night at the theater at home

See Michaela Coel in Medea on the National Theatre at Home streaming service

Theaters, on the whole, have had to keep their doors closed for much of the past year, and while there is no replacement for the real thing, the creative communities have been putting together programs of spectacular virtual events until we can visit again. So why not set the scene for a night of theater from the comfort of your own home, asks KATIE BERRINGTON – by dressing for the occasion, indulging in your favorite auditorium treats and taking a front-row seat to watch these shows…


Delve into the archives

Many theaters have opened up an online library of their past performances via subscription-based services (think of them as the Netflix of the theater world), so that you can catch the must-sees you missed first time around. Plus, you get to discover lesser-known works or re-watch a classic. On the National Theatre at Home, watch big names tread the boards, from Michaela Coel in Medea to Helen Mirren in Phèdre and Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus. The Cultural Center of the Philippines has released a great array of past performances on its website and YouTube channel, as well as branching into digital performances via Zoom by the likes of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. At Shakespeare’s Globe, the theater’s Globe Player allows you to rent or buy some of the most talked-about renditions of Shakespeare’s works from the vaults of the cultural landmark. Meanwhile, on BroadwayHD, you can delve into a line-up that includes hit musicals, award-winning plays and exquisite ballets. Opera houses and dance companies – from the Royal Opera House to Sadler’s Wells – are also getting in on the virtual action, offering livestreams and on-demand shows. And it seems these archives will remain open even after it’s possible to visit in person again. The Sydney Opera House’s From Our House To Yours, for instance, provides a vast digital program of online festivals and talks, full-length concerts and never-before-seen footage that you can soak up from the comfort of your own home.

Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell star in Fosse/Verdon, which is available on BBC iPlayer

Search your favorite streaming platforms

Major streaming platforms are also championing the joy of theater in their ever-extended offerings. On BBC iPlayer, watch the rave-reviewed production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which opened briefly at the Harold Pinter Theatre in early 2020 and has since been transformed into an “exciting new hybrid of film and theater” with its ensemble cast. (While browsing iPlayer, if you happened to miss the excellent Fosse/Verdon in 2019, starring Sam Rockwell as director-choreographer Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as actor-dancer Gwen Verdon, make it your next series to watch. Admittedly not a stage show, but it still invokes the thrill of theater.) Netflix has quite a few movies that will appeal to its musical-loving audiences, from La La Land to West Side Story (watch it before the new Steven Spielberg adaptation arrives at the end of this year). And, of course, for subscribers to Disney+, much excitement ensued last year when the original production of Hamilton, with Lin-Manuel Miranda in the titular role, landed on the platform. Discover new streaming platforms and rising talents, too, such as Scenesaver, which is an ever-growing online hub of performances from fringe theaters all over the world. Free to watch, the platform asks for pay-what-you-can donations that go directly to the performers.

Nikesh Patel and Sian Clifford star in Good Grief, available on Platform Presents

Seek out new forms of theater

The past year has necessitated new ways of creating, enjoying and harnessing the power of theater. The RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) is seeking to fill the void left by the lack of live theater by putting on a performance set in a virtual midsummer forest. Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, audiences will be given the opportunity to influence the play as it happens, from wherever they are in the world, in a set-up that brings “performance and gaming technology together to explore new ways for audiences to experience live theater”. LIVR has recently launched as the world’s first virtual-reality platform that is solely dedicated to theater, offering a fully immersive 360-degree VR in-audience experience – from exciting new works to critically acclaimed shows in its digital catalogue of on-demand shows. Theater company Platform Presents has recently revealed its digital production of Lorien Haynes’s romantic comedy, Good Grief, a two-hander starring Fleabag’s Sian Clifford and Nikesh Patel, which straddles the border of stage and screen. For a quicker culture dose, check out The 24 Hour Plays, which has been reuniting creative communities with its viral monologues – new works written, rehearsed and recorded in just 24 hours, then released on its website and Instagram account for your viewing pleasure.

Dancing Nation, a three-part celebration of world-class dance, is available to watch on the Sadler’s Wells website

Keep showing your support for the theater community

Finally, invest in your theater trips of the future by supporting organizations that are providing much-needed help to artists and venues in these extraordinarily challenging circumstances. When you watch something online for free, donate to the creatives (or their chosen funds) behind it. And buy membership and tickets to a theater, for yourself or as a gift, to show your support and ensure that you have a theater fix to look forward to on the other side.

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown