Summer’s drawing to a close, but there are still lots of Shakespeare treats to enjoy, though not perhaps out of doors. No matter where you live, your local cinema may be able to provide you with a fix of stage performance.
Shakespeare’s Globe is just about to release three of its 2011 productions to cinemas in the USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK. The three plays are All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing and Marlowe’s great play Doctor Faustus.
This is the link to Globe on Screen (as I write this the website doesn’t appear to be working, but hopefully it will have been fixed by now).
I was invited down to the Globe to see how they produce these filmed versions, and it was fascinating to see the technical side. Watching a film, like watching the live play, you’re never aware of the amount of work that has gone into its creation.
We were shown some of the set-up for The Taming of the Shrew, one of the plays from this year’s season that’s being filmed. Ross MacGibbon is the Screen Director who explained how he approaches the filming. He sees the play several times and works out every shot in advance. They use five cameras, some on tracks so they can be moved, and film two complete performances. The Globe’s lack of a roof makes the recording challenging: they can’t control weather or aircraft so broadcasting live isn’t an option, and as daylight turns to darkness the film crew has to take account of the changing quality of light. Actors wear microphones, which works better for close-ups, and the musicians have their own microphones. The costs of filming in this way are significant.
These recordings are very different from early video recordings of productions which used (and many theatres still continue to use) a single fixed camera to capture the entire performance from a static viewpoint. These recordings are simple, cheap to implement, but suitable for research purposes only. Over the last twenty years there has been much debate about how (or even if) video should be used to capture live theatre and there’s a discussion of the pros and cons of watching shows in cinemas here.
These commercial recordings are good enough for cinema transmission and DVD sale. The aim is to make the viewer feel they are there, sitting in the best seat in the house: particularly at the Globe the audience is an essential part of the show. One aim when creating videos is to encourage new audiences to buy a ticket for the real thing.
So when and where might you see these productions? All’s Well That Ends Well is being released on 26 September, Much Ado About Nothing from 10 October, and Doctor Faustus from 24 October.
Also available is NTLive, which will be bringing a number of National Theatre productions to cinemas this autumn. Shakespeare-lovers will want to catch Timon of Athens with Simon Russell Beale which is being screened live on 1 November, and as an Encore performance in some cinemas afterwards.
Check out your local cinemas for these events and for others in the future. World-class performances that have been screened this year have included ballet from the Royal Opera House and the Bolshoi, and Opera from the Met in New York and Glyndebourne.
None of these are the same as the live event, but for the majority who don’t live within easy reach of top-class live theatre it’s a very good substitute that will help us through the dark days of winter.
“These recordings are very different from early video recordings of productions which used (and many theatres still continue to use) a single fixed camera to capture the entire performance from a static viewpoint. These recordings are simple, cheap to implement, but suitable for research purposes only. ”
When the Globe opened we were keen to provide a good video record of performances to support the two Leverhulme funded Research Fellows over the first three years. The shape of the theatre and the presence of the pillars meant that the old stand-by of a fixed camera dead centre on the 2nd gallery (ie the Dress Circle Equivalent) would not be sufficient. Our solution was to support a head on view with two cameras set at an angle, from different bays of the theatre. Even then we didn’t catch everything. For example in THE CHASTE MAID OF CHEAPSIDE and the first AS YOU LIKE IT much use was made of the yard, so I captured this on a handheld video camera. We did not attempt to edit the tapes, seeing this as a directorial intervention. This followed the original policy adopted by the Theatre Museum for its National performance archive.