The best theatre to stream this month: The Book of Dust, Four Quartets and the start of panto season
The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage
The Bridge theatre’s big Christmas show from 2021, based on Philip Pullman’s novel, is now available from National Theatre at Home. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, who did His Dark Materials at the NT, it’s a masterful fantasy for audiences aged 12 and above – Pullman told the Guardian last year that he has been drawn to stories that attract children and adults ever since he put on a school play every year as a teacher.
The characteristically clever conceit of Alan Ayckbourn’s 87th play is that it ranges across 70 years in the life of one house, from a couple’s moving-in day in 1952 to their granddaughter’s departure in 2022, with a birthday party thrown in between. Filmed at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough, it’s available until 5 November.
Liverpool’s disability, Deaf and neurodivergent arts organisation DaDa takes its festival online this year with digital versions of shows staged at Unity theatre and other assorted offerings. There’s Rosa Faye Garland’s “compost-heap romance” Trash Salad; Kadisha Kayani’s tale of Covid and connection, Sunshine and Shadows; and austerity opera We Ask These Questions of Everybody by Hera, Amble Skuse and Toria Banks. The festival runs until 3 December.
Panto season is officially under way this month and several theatres will be streaming their upcoming festive shows. For those who can’t wait, here’s one that Peter Duncan – the Blue Peter daredevil turned daffy dame – made earlier. Actually, there’s two – Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk, made in Duncan’s own back garden – with a third film set to launch on 1 December.
Regenerate: Lost Songs from the Musicals
From Digital Theatre, here’s a gala concert hosted by Vikki Stone that features songs cut from stage and screen musicals – including Gnomeo and Juliet and Miss Saigon – alongside tunes taken from forthcoming shows, performed by stars including Adrian Lester, Janie Dee and Aisha Jawando. And don’t lose your head but there’s even a new composition from Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, sung by Six queen Natalie Paris.
Three Tall Women
Ontario’s Stratford festival has just finished its 2022 season but is presenting a treat from 2021 starring Martha Henry, one of its most revered and longstanding actors. Henry’s performance in Edward Albee’s play was, says artistic director Antoni Cimolino, “a potent distillation of her strength, fierce intelligence and boundless talent”. It was her final role: she died 12 days after the production closed. Available on Stratfest@Home.
Royal Opera House Stream
A new subscription service unlocks a library of about 50 productions from Covent Garden, plus interviews and other backstage material. New titles are added each month, to complement the current crop of classic ballets (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Manon) and contemporary dance hits including the 2019 one-act version of Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern, which has just been transformed into a full-length work on stage.
The 10th anniversary edition of the multilingual theatre festival produced by London’s Cockpit theatre runs from 3-13 November and several productions will be streamed for free (with donations encouraged). Among them is A Visit to the Minotaur, a collision of myth and harsh reality, performed live in Ukraine with English subtitles and presented by I-DO Lab, which is committed to telling authentic stories of war.
After its UK tour and West End run, Ralph Fiennes’ endlessly rich performance of TS Eliot’s poetic epic about time, nature and faith is now on BBC iPlayer. Fiennes directed himself in the one-man production, staged with a first-rate technical team. Four Quartets is designed by Hildegard Bechtler with lighting by Tim Lutkin and sound by Christopher Shutt.
Bristol Old Vic has kept an admirable commitment to theatre on demand. Its hit productions of Wuthering Heights and Wonder Boy are both bound for Sky Arts and its current “thrillerish” production of Hamlet, directed by John Haidar and starring Billy Howle, will be streamed live on 10 and 11 November and available as an “encore” on 12 November.
Available from the National Theatre of Scotland (until 10 November), this is a filmed reading of a work in progress by playwright Nicola McCartney exploring the care system in Scotland following its three-year “root and branch” independent review, published in 2020. McCartney draws on her own experience as a foster carer and the stories she gathered from young people and professionals in the care system.