British theater beams into china

By Chen Jie (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-06-24

Broadcast allows audiences to watch theater being performed on the other side of the world. Chen Jie reports.

Chinese theatergoers are enjoying a treat this summer with Britain's National Theater Live broadcasting 10 shows in Beijing and Shanghai, including productions featuring actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston.

Britain's National Theater Live, known as NT Live, first came to China in June 2012, when it broadcast Frankenstein starring Cumberbatch, at Beijing's MOMA Broadway Cinema. Tickets sold out within hours.

NT Live has held occasional screenings of Frankenstein and Coriolanus in Beijing and Shanghai throughout the past three years and demand for the screenings has continued to be strong. Now, as part of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, NT Live is collaborating with the National Theater of China to bring more productions to China. The screenings will run through September.

"The National Theater of Great Britain has a strategic partnership with the National Theater of China, which at its heart is a skills exchange. This will culminate in the Chinese production of War Horse that opens in Beijing in September. Bringing NT Live to China is the latest development in the collaboration," says the general manager of NT Live, Flo Buckeridge.

"China has a fantastic theater tradition and there is a huge range of work created in China that is very interesting and exciting. We are thrilled to be showing our productions to Chinese audiences," she says.

Buckeridge says they are planning a long term partnership with the National Theater of China and they are working together to plan not only next year's season, but further into the future.

"NT Live's stream in China is a unique opportunity for Chinese people to experience world-class theater productions at home," says Zhou Yuyuan, president of the National Theater of China.

"It has become a trend to watch the live broadcast of theater," says Li Dong, producer of National Theater of China, who is in charge of the project.

"Not everyone has a theater on their doorstep. And in a single evening, a play can only be performed for hundreds of people. Even an entire run of a show in a venue can only be performed for thousands of people. But the live stream provides an opportunity to reach a much wider audience," Li says.

The Metropolitan Opera started to run The Met Opera: Live in HD in 2006. The performances are transmitted in high-definition video via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to movie theaters in the US and other parts of the world.

NT Live launched in June 2009 and has broadcast more than 20 of the best British theater productions live from the National Theater of Britain. Some 3.5 million people in more than 1,100 venues around the world have enjoyed an NT Live broadcast.

The 10 productions that are screened in cinemas in Beijing and Shanghai reflect the breadth of the work NT Live broadcasts, including productions from London's West End, The Donmar Warehouse, Broadway in the US and of course, the National Theater in London.

Frankenstein, which is one of the 10 productions, was a sellout hit at the National Theater in 2011. Director Danny Boyle's well-known works include the films Trainspotting and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire and the opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympics.

Cumberbatch, who plays the title role, has a huge fan base in China.

Directed by Stephen Daldry, the West End production of David Hare's Skylight tells the story of schoolteacher Kyra Hollis (Carey Mulligan) and her former lover, Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy), a successful and charismatic restaurateur whose wife has recently died. As the two try to rekindle their relationship, they find themselves locked in a dangerous battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires.

British theater beams into china

The Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Dal-dry's famous movies include The Reader (2008) and Billy Elliot (2000). His sold-out West End production The Audience with actress Helen Mirren will also screen in China.

Actress Mirren reprises her Olivier Award-winning role as Queen Elizabeth II in The National Theater Production The Audience. She won an Academy Award for playing the same role in the movie The Queen.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been hailed by The Times as "a phenomenal combination of storytelling and spectacle". It won seven Olivier Awards including best new play in 2013.

The story is about a 15-year-old boy, Christopher, who has an extraordinary brain. He is exceptional at math but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion of killing Mrs Shears' dog Wellington, he records each fact about the event in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of the murder. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

An adaptation of Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck's play, Of Mice and Men, is also included. It reflects the American spirit and a heartbreaking testament to the bonds of friendship.

One Man, Two Guvnors is an English adaptation of the 16th-century Italian comedy and the National Theater's production swaps the Italian period setting of the original with Brighton in 1963.

The other four productions are all Shakespeare, including Coriolanus, King Lear, Othello and Hamlet.

Coriolanus stars Tom Hiddleston in the title role.

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British theater beams into china

 British theater beams into china

Scenes from Of Mice and Men (top) and Coriolanus (above). They are among the 10 shows of Britain's NT Live screening in Beijing and Shanghai through September. Photos Provided To China Daily

(China Daily 06/24/2015 page18)

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