There is a certain feeling you get when you walk into a theatre. An atmosphere is palpable and usually that particular theatre-smell (or should I say scent) hits the nostrils within seconds of entering. Differentiating between the scents of theatrical stages and cinema houses is usually easy, but entering a screening of the latest National Theatre Live production created a strange hybrid.
National Theatre Live has been running now since June 2009 with its debut live performance of Phedre starring Helen Mirren. Their latest piece The Kitchen was my first experience with NT Live and there is quite a lot that can be said about capturing a live performance in front of an audience. While some may cry capitalist claims of making more money, the move by the National Theatre seems more of an internationally inclusive move. In short, this is a pro for globalisation.
The direction by Bijan Sheibani was quite successful, considering the difficult task of choreographing the actors, let alone deciding where the camera should be focusing when every piece of the scenery seems fairly crucial to the storytelling. The play reached its climax at the end of Act One where the interaction between the cooks and the waitresses becomes charged and chaotic due to the rapid speed of orders. Movements were reduced to choreographed motions and looked marvellous alongside the musical score by Dan Jones.
Of the 31 performers who donned the oftentimes hectic stage, there was one particular standout in Tom Brooke. You may remember him as Thick Kevin from The Boat That Rocked, but this time he slips on a German accent and displays great depths portraying the slightly manic Peter. His performance is at times a little too strong, but it does not seem out of place. The subtleties of his performance are luckily captured on film, where they might be more difficult to pick up on in a theatre.
The Kitchen was playwright Arnold Wesker’s first play, written in 1957. The National Theatre’s revival speaks to the universality of the play, as well as the timeliness, regarding the placement of under appreciated and dissatisfied workers. National Theatre Live gives an international audience the chance to experience its brilliant theatrical productions at the cost of a cinema ticket. How lucky we are!