“Thi’ can always tell a Yorkshireman but thi’ can’t tell ‘im owt.” I have a feeling this was coined for Barry Rutter, a fine charismatic Hull-born actor, and founder and forthright Artistic Director of Northern Broadsides Theatre Company (based in Halifax but an old-fashioned touring company nonetheless). Asked about his views on live NT performances on screen he was vehement in his dislike and contempt for such a notion. “If they can’t be bothered to buy a ticket, why let them see it at all?” was his rejoinder.
My heart sinks for my beloved county when I hear this otherwise intelligent, gifted and articulate man utter such balderdash. Mr Rutter, I would love to be there at the NT, at the ROH, at the ENO or the RFH, not simply to celebrate National Acronyms Week but to be THERE, in the midst of it all. You can’t beat presence. You need to be in the thick of the action. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the groundlings. That’s what theatre is.
Up to a point, Lord Copper.
Just to get into those places means losing an arm. To travel to London means the loss of the other. To stay in even the humblest of hotels means I become a uniped, and to then buy a simple pint of bitter would entail travel by wheelchair. Which would probably mean I couldn’t get into most West End Theatres. So I blessed the day the decision was taken to live-screen the National and the ENO, so that I was able to see and hear wonderful sold-out (nb, Barry) London productions like Macbeth, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto,… Amadeus just a couple of nights ago.
And all for no more than £15. Often less. And an hour’s drive to Harrogate. Or an hour train to Leeds. For peanuts.
And screening allows so much more for the spectator who’s instantly literally IN the heat, as the several cameras swing in and out to see the action from so many vantages; the close-ups portray the slightest flicker of nuance; the sound clear and bright from all the cast; the orchestra full-on. I saw Stuart Skelton, a bearlike Peter Grimes on all fours, slowly raise his head in close-up as he comprehended Balstrode’s last fatal words to him, and I saw the light of life suddenly go from his eyes, a superb delicate piece of acting I could never have hoped to glimpse from my usual row G in the Gods.
So Barry, love him though I do, is a reet barmpot in this. At one stroke live screening’s removed for thousands of us the elitism of those monied and even-better-monied spectators sought by the London theatres. For I DO buy a ticket, Mr Rutter, and much of that goes to the London venue. I’m reight mithered to hear such bollox from thee.