Here's how theatre fans can watch a brilliant free play every week during lockdown

The coronavirus crisis has hit the arts sector hard, shutting theatres and throwing planned productions into disarray.

By Richard Blackledge
Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 7:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 7:02 pm

But drama enthusiasts missing out on live performances have been given a lifeline by the National Theatre, which is digging into its valuable archive to show popular plays for free on YouTube.

The organisation’s productions are filmed as a matter of course for its National Theatre Live scheme which normally involves shows being beamed to cinemas on a ‘one night only’ basis. These have been watched by six-and-a-half million viewers worldwide.

Now, every Thursday at 7pm, people can stream selected performances for a week on the official NT YouTube channel.

The broadcasts begin on April 2 with One Man Two Guvnors, starring James Corden and written by Richard Bean, who adapted a 1743 Italian comedy called Servant of Two Masters.

Lisa Burger, the executive director and joint chief executive of the National Theatre, told The Guardian: "Everyone has said yes. Please. Let’s get it out to people.

"It has taken a bit of negotiation and management but the outpouring from the industry has been fantastic."

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James Corden performs from "One Man Two Guvnors" onstage at the 66th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 10, 2012 in New York City. Picture: Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

The other plays announced so far are:

Thursday, April 9: Jane Eyre by Sally Cookson

Thursday, April 16: Treasure Island by Bryony Lavery

Thursday, April 23: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Lisa Burger. Picture: James Bellorini.

The free plays will run until May, with more titles being announced in due course.

There will also be a selection of Q&As with the cast and creative teams of the shows.

In addition, the National Theatre has released a new collection for schools, colleges and universities that features productions from other venues such as the Young Vic, the Donmar Warehouse and the Bridge Theatre. Teachers will be able to give login details to pupils who can access material at home to use in their studies.

While the streaming initiative is free, the NT is welcoming donations, which it says will help it weather the ‘huge financial impact’ of closing its premises on London’s South Bank.

The National Theatre, on London's South Bank. Picture: Philip Vile.