(Chris Wiegand’s article was updated 4/24 and appeared in the Guardian; photo: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian.)
From live-streams of new plays to classics from the archive, here are some of the top shows online now or coming soon – this page is updated daily
12 of the best Shakespeare productions online
Hampstead theatre and the Guardian
Hampstead theatre and the Guardian have teamed up to stream a series of acclaimed productions for free. Tiger Country, written and directed by Nina Raine, is available to watch until 10pm on 26 April. The play follows a group of doctors and nurses at a London hospital one December and stars Indira Varma. It will be followed by #AIWW: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, directed by James Macdonald. Howard Brenton’s play is based on a book by Barnaby Martin about the 81-day detention and interrogation of Ai Weiwei by the Chinese authorities in 2011. Benedict Wong stars as the artist and activist. The production will be available to watch for a week from 10am on 27 April.
The brilliant Berlin theatre run by Thomas Ostermeier is streaming free productions, many with English subtitles, available for one night only. On 25 April, there’s a rare chance to see Lenin, created by Milo Rau, one of the hottest European theatre directors working today.
On a knife-edge: Tiger Country lays bare the ferocity of life in the NHS
Tajinder Singh Hayer’s play brought a postapocalyptic vision of Bradford to the basement of an abandoned Marks & Spencer when it was staged in 2016. Created for Freedom Studios, it follows three teenagers grappling with the aftermath of a plague. A live cast of the production was created for mobile devices and that version will be available on YouTube for free until 7 May. Director Alex Chisholm says that when they started “making digital live performance via mobile phones easy and low cost, we had no idea how urgent that might feel right now”.
National Theatre at Home
The NT has risen to the occasion by unveiling a mighty lineup of some of its greatest hits, to be streamed online on Thursdays at 7pm and then available for seven days. Twelfth Night, directed by Simon Godwin and starring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia, is online until 30 April. Next is Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, staged in 2011, with the inspired idea of Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature on different nights. Audiences will be able to see both actors in each role, as two versions will be shown on consecutive evenings (30 April and 1 May). Simon Godwin’s epic 2018 production of Antony and Cleopatra, starring Fiennes and Okonedo as the tragic lovers, will be streamed on 7 May.
English National Ballet
Tamara Rojo’s brilliant company have announced weekly streams from their archive, available free for 48 hours. On 29 April you can see a 2015 staging of Dust, created by Akram Khan, from ENB’s first world war quartet Lest We Forget and famously performed at Glastonbury a year earlier. Inspired by the workforce of women mobilised during the war, its mesmerising imagery includes a line of dancers shrouded in dust that bursts from their clapped hands.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Our revels have temporarily ended in theatres but you can watch a groundbreaking effects-laden version of The Tempest, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, with a subscription (or 14-day free trial) to the online service Marquee TV. Antony and Cleopatra with Josette Simon and Richard II with David Tennant are two of the other gems in the selection of Royal Shakespeare Company plays available. But there are also six RSC productions available to watch free on BBC iPlayer: Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu, Macbeth with Christopher Eccleston, Much Ado About Nothing with Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry, Othello with Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati, Romeo and Juliet with Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick, and The Merchant of Venice with Makram J Khoury.