I have been desperate to see a National Theatre Live performance for years now, but it’s something I’ve never quite gotten round to it. The initiative, that broadcasts National Theatre productions live to cinema venues around the world, has been spreading theatre joy since 2009 and ensuring that those of who don’t live near a National Theatre, don’t have to miss out on their spectacular productions.
When I finally got a ticket to see Harold Pinter’s classic play No Man’s Land, which was being broadcast live from the Wyndham’s Theatre in London, I was so excited to see how it was all going to work. As I made my way into Dundee Contemporary Art’s (DCA) cinema I was struck by how much it felt like I was entering an actual theatre. With beautiful views of Wyndham’s Theatre on the screen and the sounds of the audience’s chatter filling the room – the DCA contained that amazing pre-performance buzz, which I’ve never experienced in a cinema before.
When the performance began – with the theatre’s curtain going up, the DCA audience were exceptionally quiet, taking great care not to chat or rustle their popcorn – it was as if we too were worried about distracting the actors.
The play was every bit as spectacular as I dreamt it would be. Pinter’s No Man Land is as poetic as it is dark and deliciously funny. Starring Sir Ian McKellen as Spooner and Patrick Stewart as Hirst, the story begins when the two ageing writers return to Hirst’s stately home after meeting for the first time in a pub on Hampstead Heath. As the pair become increasingly drunk, their friendly but boastful banter changes into something more serious and when they are joined by two younger men, the evening takes a sinister turn.
The small cast, which also included Owen Teale and Damien Molony, were superb and had both the theatre and cinema audience laughing along and gasping in equal turns. When the performance came to an end, I couldn’t stop myself from clapping along – it just felt rude not to!
After the event we were treated to a live question and answer from the four strong cast along with the Director of the play, Sean Mathias, which gave both audiences fresh insight into Harold Pinter’s original play, 41 years on.
I left feeling richer for having seen my first National Theatre production and very much looking forward to seeing the next one live at the DCA.
National Theatre Live are broadcasting a number of theatre productions in 2017, including Saint Joan, Amadeus, Hedda Gabler and the Twelfth Night all of which will be shown at the DCA. For more information and to book tickets, visit: www.dca.org.uk
*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of No Man’s Land in exchange for a fair and honest review.