There is always something slightly dangerous and exciting about watching a live performance. First of all there is the rather perverse thrill you get contemplating the possibility that something could go terribly wrong: a flubbed line or a note off-key perhaps. On the more positive side, performances seem to have more impact when they take place just a few yards away. It is an experience that just can’t be captured when viewed on a television set in the comfort of your own home.
Admittedly, though, there are some big drawbacks. Live performances can be a pain in the butt to get to. Scheduling times, dates, and places are not only annoying but can sometimes be downright impossible to coordinate. Live performances also can’t be stored and played again for your convenience. Finally, price can also be a significant obstacle: a concert ticket is way more expensive than a DVD rental after all.
Luckily I’ve recently stumbled upon a happy compromise: Broadcasts of live performances. The performances are live, for the most part, and broadcast to a theater near you. Here are few upcoming examples.
RiffTrax Live: Starship Troopers
The concept is simple. Some films deserve to be heckled. Average hecklers aren’t very creative though (“This movie sucks!” gets old pretty fast) so it is best to leave it to the experts. The RiffTrax team, with their Mystery Science Theater 3000 credentials, is more than up to the task and on August 15th you can watch them take down Starship Troopers in real-time. If you haven’t heard of Starship Troopers, the library (wisely perhaps) does not have the film but does own the book, you are in for an experience. The plot is easily summed up as, literally, a bug hunt. Somewhere Bill Paxton is smiling.
If you would like to see something considered a little more cultured you are in luck. This fall the National Theatre will be presenting several live broadcasts of plays via their National Theatre Live project. We are lucky to have several locations in the area that will be participating, including SIFF. Here are three plays that look especially interesting:
Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston
I don’t really need to sell you on this one do I? Even if you aren’t a big Shakespeare fan, this play has enough murder, madness and existential despair to keep you on the edge of your seat. And that Lady Macbeth, oh my. This production has been receiving outstanding reviews and is performed in a deconsecrated Manchester church to add to the ominous ambiance. Branagh is known for many roles but his recent turn in the BBC version of Wallander is excellent. Kingston is a seasoned actress who is more recently known for her work on Dr. Who.
Othello with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear
More Shakespeare I know, but Othello has always been a favorite. I mean really, what the heck is Iago’s problem? I still don’t know for sure, but trying to figure out why he is so hell-bent on destroying his former comrade-in-arms is half the fun. Instead of 16th century Venice, this production is set in modern-day London and has been receiving rave reviews. Both Lester and Kinnear have done work you may be familiar with, and are veteran stage actors that should not disappoint.
Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller
This play adaptation, by Nick Dear, of Mary Shelley’s classic book is not currently on stage (it was originally performed in 2011) but will be shown again this fall as an ‘encore’ performance. In addition to positive reviews, this production has an interesting hook: the two lead actors alternate between the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation every other performance. Add to this the fact that Danny Boyle is the director and it becomes a production that is hard to resist. Interestingly, both actors are currently involved in television reboots of the Sherlock Holmes character: Sherlock in the UK for Cumberbatch and Elementary in the US for Miller.
So don’t let the inconveniences of mere time and space prevent you from enjoying a live performance. Now if someone would just invent a transporter or a TARDIS.