In any walk of life, throughout the annals of time the things that we have with us today have evolved from something else. The moving image and the glorious art of storytelling via the cinematic medium all owe some huge debts of gratitude from the men and the women who strut across the floorboards of the stage long before the likes of Georges Melies changed it all forever. Now in a collision of the old and the new, the National Theatre in London, one of the homes of modern storytelling isn’t afraid to keep the theatre alive as they bring it to multiplexes across the globe.
At select Cineplex locations across the country, the pure joy of the theatre comes to audiences everywhere thanks to NTLive that allows audiences everywhere to feel like they are in London taking in some of the best theatre that the world has to offer. I got the unique chance to take in not one but two events on their calendar of events and they were experiences that I won’t be able to forget anytime soon.
Felt fitting for a night at the theatre to take in some classic Shakespeare with his comedy, As You Like It hits the National Theatre stages for the first time since the 1980’s. Director Polly Findlay gave us a deftly adapted affair that allowed for some moments of modernity to seep into it all, a smart move given how this is easily one of Shakespeare’s least accessible works. Findlay lets it flow with a crisp and manic energy and recreates the Forest of Arden in an almost cryptic but still very beautiful way as we track this cavalcade of characters who bemoan the state of love and their relationship to it. She makes it a very immersive experience and even though we aren’t in the actual theatre it translates well and feels like we have a unique window into this world.
Star Rosalie Craig who some audiences might recognize from the adaptation of London Road that played TIFF earlier this year, inhabits the lead role of Rosalind quite well managing to milk the comedy of it all which is very sly and more subtle than most people would expect. It’s challenging but oh so very rewarding and yet another reminder that entertainment can and does have a responsibility to put more than a smile on our faces.
Continuing on a theme but in a much darker fashion I also got the chance to take in the stage adaptation of one of the more salacious pieces of literature in modern times. Based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos, the sex, intrigue and suspense in a pre-revolutionary France is hard not to look away from as scandal was sport for many of the aristocrats of the time all of which makes Les Liaisons Dangereuses one of the more iconic pieces of literature of all time.
Marking the thirtieth anniversary of this adaptation from writer Christopher Hampton, we can easily see how this is an award winning play that highlights the true magnetic power of seeing two actors bare their souls on stage exploring their respective roles, thanks to some excellently deft direction from Josie Rourke.
Both Janet McTeer as the cunning Marquise de Merteuil and Dominic West as the Viconte de Valmont sell every move they make as they toy with the emotions and psyches of their sexual prey with a cold and calculating ease that never undercuts how these two sociopaths of society truly care about each other. It is a character piece like no other and anyone who enjoys watching actors gleefully duel on stage deserve this rare treat.
It is simply why actors like Dominic West and Janet McTeer, both with excellent film careers of their own periodically return to the stage. This is where the craft of acting was born and it is the ultimate achievement when these actors can inhabit characters and stories so wholly that you can’t help but get lost in it all.
I’ll be the first to admit that this fast paced world is hard to keep up with at the best of times, and when we have not only the regular movies that hit theatres week in and week out but a renaissance of storytelling on television and VOD services likes Netflix for us all to stay home and “chill” with, it’s hard to get out and remember the shared joy of performance and storytelling for an audience. The National Theatre hasn’t, and with a myriad of interactive options that range from digital programs along with behind the scenes documentaries about the making of these plays and the meticulous details of the stories that these talented artisans are trying to tell, all I can say is this. When you see National Theatre or NTL Live on your local Cineplex listing, you are guaranteed quality and are reminded of why there’s nothing like letting those house lights go down and get transported to another world.
As You Like It has a repeat screening at select Cineplex locations across the country on Saturday Mar. 26th, and you can check the Cineplex or the National Theatre Live website to see what the next night of theatre coming to your local multiplex might be.