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The London theater? No, but it's as close as you'll get from afar

April 19, 2013|By James Bartlett
  • Helen Mirren reprises her as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience," which is to be broadcast from London's Gielgud Theatre as part of National Theatre Live.
Helen Mirren reprises her as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience,"… (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown,…)

It's as close to being in the London theater as you can get without actually being in Britain.

Visitors to London know that a ticket to a play – any play – at the National Theatre is a must. But if that's not in the cards, the Downtown Independent (251 S. Main St., Los Angeles), the James Bridges Theater at UCLA and others (check for venues here) have begun tuning their satellite dishes to NT Live, an innovation that allows plays to be streamed across the world and the recordings replayed several times in the coming weeks.

As you take your seats, the feed shows that evening’s arriving audience – hence the show time of 11 a.m. or noon for live relays (later for rebroadcasts). Then there is a short featurette about the play, movie-style trailers for upcoming ones and a presenter setting the scene, before the curtain goes up 5,500 miles away.

The crisp, digital multi-camera coverage follows the action/reaction like a sitcom, which is why NT Live tends to focus on “talking heads” plays rather than epic stagecraft affairs.

Though it's not quite the same as being there, it is one of the best seats in the house. A 20-minute clock counts down during the intermission, but instead of the British tradition of ice cream, there’s popcorn to munch on.

The current play is "People," by Alan Bennett ("History Boys," "The Madness of King George"); a rebroadcast will be shown Sunday and again on April 28; check theaters for times.

After the 1970 political drama "The House," in June Helen Mirren will  reprise her Oscar-winning role as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience,” the first broadcast from the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. The show is already sold out for its entire run in London, so book now if you want to see a Dame play a Queen.

Info: National Theater Live. Ticket prices vary.

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