National Theatre at 50: Theatre and the Screen

A strange if magical evening, not least seeing so much theatre on the small screen. I tweeted at the time:

And I hold to that view; it was disorientating to be faced with so many showstopper moments of great theatre all at once. In fact, it was all almost as impressively overwhelming as the number of stars onstage at the curtain call. The claps between different episodes didn’t allow any of the scenes to sink in and it was difficult to contemplate the performances in themselves when you  so immediately had the live audience clapping. I preferred it when scenes would Segway onto the next without allowing the audience time to offer applause.

National Theatre at 50 #nt50

I was thoroughly impressed by the casting of Angels in America, which was certainly the most intense scene to watch and perhaps the only one that perfectly held my attention amidst the flurrying scenes, interviews and archive clips.

The scene from The History Boys was delightfully comical, with both Dominic Cooper and James Corden taking school boy roles. Alan Bennet, whose The Habit of Art was wonderfully rendered in a speech by Frances de la Tour (who starred in the most recent production of his play People at the NT this year), took to the stage in place of the very much missed Richard Griffiths as Hector.

It was fantastic to see Joey from War Horse back on his home Olivier stage and I’d forgotten how moving the folky-music was in that show. We had some hilarious Pinter-pausing from Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi, in No Man’s Land.

There are those who will no doubt criticise the under-representation of women writers, or hail it an establishment celebration of the theatre as stereotypically dominated by white middle-class men. Of course in celebrating their 50 years onstage, the National were going to be faced with works mainly by white male writers; it so goes that if you’re going back in history 50 years that was who had dominance in big-budget, popular theatre. So I didn’t take such an issue with the fact that Alecky Blythe was the only female playwright represented. Everything we were shown was a new wave of incredible theatrical creation, in its original form and in its presentation live on the evening.

All in all, the National Theatre is a cultural centre we can universally take pride in and thank goodness we’ve had such a landmark birthday to celebrate in 2013 as a chin-up after the extravaganza that was 2012.

What do you think about the National’s 50th birthday celebrations? Tell me in the comments!