HomeCoronavirusHottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online

Hottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online

Watch Anansi the Spider Re-Spun, episode one – video

Anansi the Spider Re-Spun

The Guardian has partnered with the Unicorn to present a digital theatre series inspired by its 2019 production Anansi the Spider. Three tales about the mischievous folkloric webspinner, for audiences aged three to eight, will be streamed on Saturday mornings on the Guardian website and the Unicorn’s YouTube channel. The 15-minute episodes, available on demand for three weeks, reunite the original cast of the production, Afia Abusham, Juliet Okotie and Sapphire Joy, who filmed themselves performing at home. The next one is on 6 June.


It’s not often a play comes with its own recipe card. But that’s what audiences get with this new online adaptation of Nigel Slater’s food-filled memoir, available as an audio drama and an animated film online from 1–31 July. Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield reunites the West End cast of the play, with Giles Cooper in the lead role as the popular cook and columnist.

The Grinning Man

For Bristol Old Vic’s 250th anniversary, director Tom Morris staged a musical tragicomedy based on the Victor Hugo novel The Man Who Laughs, which was published a few years after Les Misérables. A grisly tale of fairground horror and romance, The Grinning Man was a twisted hit and transferred to the West End. Now, a “rare bootleg capture” of the Bristol production will be available for a week from 26 June.

Living With The Lights On

In 1995, the actor Mark Lockyer was appearing in the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet when he was overcome with anxiety, fear and paranoia. At one point he thought he was possessed by the devil. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and turned his experience into a solo touring show. Lockyer has now created a lockdown version, filmed on his mobile, for the Scottish Mental Health Arts festival. Available 8-15 June.

Smoking Gun

Interactive whistleblower thriller … Smoking Gun.

This intriguing interactive blend of theatre and gaming is spread across a whole week, with participants spending half an hour each night on an online chat app, sifting the evidence of a murky case involving an MP and big Pharma. Created by Dan Barnard, Rachel Briscoe and Joe McAlister for the company Fast Familiar, Smoking Gun is next available from 24-29 June. Read the full review.

National Theatre at Home

The National has risen to the occasion by unveiling a mighty lineup of some of its greatest NT Live hits, to be streamed online on Thursdays at 7pm and then available for seven days. Its production of the political comedy This House by James Graham is available until 4 June. The Donmar Warehouse’s 2013 staging of Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role and directed by Josie Rourke, is then online until 11 June.

The Old Vic

Claire Foy and Matt Smith in Lungs.

Claire Foy and Matt Smith in Lungs. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

The Old Vic is pioneering “socially distanced performances” starting with a revival of Duncan Macmillan’s two-hander Lungs, starring Matt Smith and Claire Foy. It will be performed on the Old Vic’s stage, to an empty auditorium, and virtual theatregoers can buy tickets to watch from home. Dates will be announced soon, along with rehearsed readings that will also be live-streamed. The theatre kicks off its series of archive production streams with A Monster Calls, based on Patrick Ness’s popular novel and directed by Sally Cookson. Available 5-11 June.

Love Letters at Home

The theatre company Uninvited Guests promise a show that is specifically tailored to each audience as they incorporate viewers’ requests for songs and declarations of love into the show. Presented by Fuel, it’s performed live via Zoom to an audience of up to 90 and is going on a “digital international tour” until 26 June, with performances hosted by venues from Inverness to Arizona. 


Alison Steadman and Katherine Parkinson in Grounded by Ducan Macmillan, directed by Jeremy Herrin for Unprecedented.

Alison Steadman and Katherine Parkinson in Grounded by Duncan Macmillan, directed by Jeremy Herrin for Unprecedented. Photograph: Headlong/Century Films

How’s this for a lineup? The cast includes Gemma Arterton, Katherine Parkinson, Paterson Joseph and Denise Gough. The writers include James Graham, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Prasanna Puwanarajah and April De Angelis. And Ned Bennett, Blanche McIntyre, Ola Ince and Tinuke Craig are among the directors. Headlong and Century Films have assembled an extraordinarily talented gang for their 14 short films about lockdown life. On BBC iPlayer. Read the review.

Twelfth Night – Live!

St Albans’ Maltings theatre relocates Shakespeare’s play to a luxury cruise liner in the roaring 20s, with Zoom as their stage and bangers from Rihanna and Britney Spears on the soundtrack. Originally staged at the Maltings and the Rose Playhouse in London, this reconfigured interactive version is performed by 10 actors and lasts 75 minutes. Available for three nights only, from 12-14 June, it includes a post-show discussion with some of the actors.

Reasons to Be Cheerful

The fantastic Graeae theatre company’s programme of digital shorts, Crips Without Constraints, has already provided plenty of reasons to be cheerful during lockdown. Now the disabled-led organisation is sharing a 2017 recording of their riotous musical tribute to Ian Dury and the Blockheads, staged at Theatre Royal Stratford East and directed by Jenny Sealey. The production blends British Sign Language and creative captioning. A separate audio-described version will also be available. Online until 3 August.

Mum and Dad

This haunting pair of monologues by Gary Owen is presented by Cardiff’s Sherman theatre. In the four-minute Dad, Michael Sheen’s character recalls an eerie encounter on a country lane while his father is in hospital. In the more expansive Mum, Lynn Hunter’s character remembers the feeling of life being upended when you are young, her father’s struggle to feel settled on his farm and her bond with her first pony. The actors are superb; the words both entrancing and devastating. The films are on YouTube. The Sherman suggests a donation of £5.

Kes Reimagined

In 2014, choreographer Jonathan Watkins won acclaim for a soaring dance-theatre adaptation of the Barry Hines novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, at Sheffield’s Crucible. Like Hines, Watkins grew up in Barnsley. The book’s hero, Billy Casper, finds escape through aviculture; Watkins found it through ballet. “I feel dance is really great at painting that picture, where someone goes from being restricted by their environment to opening up through an emotional, physical journey,” he told the Guardian. A film version by director Ross MacGibbon, with Chester Hayes as Casper and puppetry design by Rachael Canning, has been made available by The Space for free online until 18 June.

I Want My Hat Back trilogy

The Little Angel theatre has presented charming versions of three Jon Klassen picture books, directed and performed by Ian Nicholson, with characterful puppets made by Sam Wilde. I Want My Hat Back finds an otherwise polite bear taking revenge on a bad bunny who has pinched his pointy red hat. It’s eight and a half minutes of pure joy. The sequel, This Is Not My Hat, also staged on a wooden dresser and told with music by Jim Whitcher, is a kind of Grand Theft Aqua in which a tiddler has stolen a handsome green bowler from a much bigger fish. We Found a Hat completes a triumphant trilogy. All three films are online until 30 June. The Little Angel’s digital season also includes Toby Olié’s puppet version of the Ross Collins book What Does an Anteater Eat? (online until 1 September).

Sea Wall

“She had us, both of us, absolutely round her finger…” From that first line, Andrew Scott will have you hooked in this half-hour monologue by Simon Stephens that captures truths about family life, art, nature and much else besides. Scott performed the play at the Bush in 2008 and it was a hot ticket when he reprised it at the Old Vic 10 years later. This version was shot in a single take in 2011. Directed by Stephens and Andrew Porter, it is available to rent online. Brace yourself.

I Wish I Was a Mountain

With wonder, wit and sophisticated storytelling, performance poet Toby Thompson creates a beautiful show for over-sevens. Thompson steps in and out of his version of Hermann Hesse’s fairytale Faldum, riffing with the young audience and spinning a handful of jazz LPs. I Wish I Was a Mountain embraces big questions about time and contentment. This is a short but profound show, directed by Lee Lyford, hatched by the Egg theatre’s Incubator development programme and cleverly designed by Anisha Fields. Read the full review.


Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal, Pulitzer prize-winning musical about the “10-dollar founding father without a father” was filmed in New York back in 2016 with the original Broadway cast. It was slated for a 2021 cinema release but has now been fast-tracked for release on the Disney+ streaming service on 3 July. It’s directed by Thomas Kail, who staged the musical, and according to Miranda gives “everyone the best seat in the house” for a show that has been one of the most wanted on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Unknown Island

Thalissa Teixera in The Unknown Island.

Thalissa Teixera in The Unknown Island. Photograph: Cameron Slater

For her opening production as the Gate’s artistic director, Ellen McDougall staged an intimate, hour-long adaptation of a José Saramago short story, which famously saw the cast sharing bread, olives and wine with the audience. You’ll have to supply the snacks yourself but this is a great chance to experience the bewitching 2017 production. The Gate’s staging of Suzy Storck by Magali Mougel, directed by Jean-Pierre Baro, is also available. Both can be streamed until 30 June.


The Royal Court, like all UK theatres, is closed due to the lockdown. But you can visit it virtually in this intriguing installation by Hester Chillingworth. The stage is still set for EV Crowe’s play Shoe Lady, as seen from Chillingworth’s static camera in the balcony. Occasionally it is cloaked in darkness and occasionally we hear messages of hope. Principally, the installation becomes a space to savour the importance of theatregoing until the Court invites audiences back to sit on those comfy leather chairs again.


The anarchic physical theatre and comedy company are unlocking their vault of inventive, irreverent shows with many becoming available each Sunday to be streamed for free. Highlights include, from 21 June, the Feydeau farce Every Last Trick.

So It Goes

How do we talk about bereavement? It can be hard to find the words –, as encapsulated in this bittersweet, dialogue-free fringe hit by the theatre company On the Run. Hannah Moss uses a mixture of mime, doodling and scribbling – performing with David Ralfe – to express her relationship with her father, Mike, and her grief following his death. It’s available to stream for a suggested donation of £3 with 50% of all proceeds donated to Marie Curie Hospice Hampstead, which cared for Mike. Online until 12 June.

Lyric Theatre in Belfast

Belfast’s Lyric had to cancel its co-production of 1984 with Bruiser theatre company but instead launched the initiative New Speak: Re-imagined, in which Northern Irish talents including Amadan Ensemble, Dominic Montague and Katie Richardson respond to the lockdown crisis. They are being released in episodes on YouTube. The Lyric is also collaborating on six new five-minute drama commissions for the series Splendid Isolation: Lockdown Drama, to be broadcast on BBC Two Northern Ireland in June and made available afterwards on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

Mountview Live – Giles Terera Meets …

This isn’t live drama, but should be essential viewing for theatre lovers and students as the Olivier award-winning actor Giles Terera talks to top names from the industry. The hour-long conversations on YouTube include questions from Mountview Academy of Theatre students. Guests include the fabulous Noma Dumezweni, who is a Mountview honorary doctorate, Judi Dench and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Expect some nuanced questions for that last one: Terera is best known for his knockout performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.

Sadler’s Wells

The London dance powerhouse is presenting an online programme, Digital Stage, offering Friday night performances on Facebook that remain available for a week. From 29 May you can see fashion designer Hussein Chalayan’s first theatrical work, Gravity Fatigue.

The Place

Fagin’s Twist

Spin on Dickens … Fagin’s Twist. Photograph: Eric Richmond

London’s essential contemporary dance hub is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Just as some of its dance classes have gone online, so has its performance programme. On Thursday nights, the Place is streaming past productions, which remain available until the following Monday night. From 4 June you can see The Headwrap Diaries, Uchenna Dance’s show set in a hair salon, and from 11 June it’s Fagin’s Twist, Avant Garde Dance’s spin on Dickens.

Southwark Playhouse

The London theatre has launched a Southwark Stayhouse streaming programme, available free until it reopens its doors. Offerings include the “fantastically witty” Wasted, a rock musical about the Brontës, directed by Adam Lenson with music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller. There’s also a Twelfth Night relocated to a music festival, directed by Anna Girvan, and Jesse Briton’s Bound, about a maritime tragedy.

English National Ballet

Tamara Rojo’s brilliant company have a schedule of weekly streams from their archive on Wednesdays, available free for 48 hours afterwards. These are never-before-seen full-length recordings of company performances. Coming up next, on 17 June, is Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, set to Mahler’s song cycle Das Lied von der Erde, and filmed at the Palace theatre in Manchester in 2017. MacMillan’s Manon is on 24 June, recorded at the Manchester Opera House in 2018, with Jules Massenet’s music performed by English National Ballet Philharmonic.

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.

It Is Easy to Be Dead

It Is Easy to Be Dead.

Five-star tribute … It Is Easy to Be Dead. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The Finborough’s tribute to the first world war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley was nominated for an Olivier award, transferred to the West End and toured, and received a five-star review in the Guardian. Neil McPherson’s script draws on Sorley’s letters and poems, and there is music from from composers of the period including George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s available until 7 July for free although the theatre welcomes donations as “we fall between the cracks of government and local authority support”. Read the full review.

Dear Ireland

The Abbey, Ireland’s national theatre, assembled an extraordinary lineup of 50 actors and 50 writers for this series of rapid-response monologues about the coronavirus crisis, self-taped by the performers from isolation. The writers include Frank McGuinness, Iseult Golden, Stacey Gregg, Sarah Hanly, Nancy Harris, Enda Walsh and David Ireland; the cast includes Nicola Coughlan, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Denise Gough, Bríd Ní Neachtain and Brendan Gleeson.

to a simple, rock’n’roll … song

to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll...song by Michael Clark Company.

to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll…song by Michael Clark Company. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

It may hail the alligator and watusi dance crazes of the 60s but music from Patti Smith’s blistering 1975 album, Horses, drives some of Michael Clark’s most deliriously thrilling modern choreography in the first act of this 2017 Barbican production now on BBC iPlayer. These moves are as arresting as any guitar riff, matching Smith’s cantering repetition and a blizzard of trippy visuals from Charles Atlas. The second act celebrates Erik Satie and the third pays tribute to David Bowie.


The Berlin powerhouse, run by Thomas Ostermeier, is streaming a selection of archive productions, many with English subtitles, and often for one night only. It’s a rare opportunity for UK audiences to see works directed by Luc Bondy, Peter Falk and Ostermeier himself. This month’s lineup.

What Once Was Ours

A co-production by Zest Theatre and Half Moon, the two-hander What Once Was Ours follows the relationship between a pair of half-siblings and draws on real conversations with Britain’s young people in the wake of the Brexit vote. Their voices can be heard amid the conversations between Callum (Jaz Hutchins) and Katie (Pippa Beckwith). Available free online. Read the full review.

Performance Live

Omid Djalili and Bláithín Mac Gabhann in Performance Live: The Way Out.

Omid Djalili and Bláithín Mac Gabhann in Performance Live: The Way Out. Photograph: Arts Council England, BBC Arts, Battersea Arts Centre

The Way Out, a single-take, 40-minute variety film, invites viewers to follow Omid Djalili through the mysterious, majestic and mundane corners of the phoenix-like Battersea Arts Centre. There are performances en route from Lucy McCormick, Le Gateau Chocolat and the hula-hooping Amazí from The Cocoa Butter Club. The film is part of the BBC’s Performance Live strand on iPlayer which includes Clowns by Hofesh Shechter; Winged Bull in the Elephant Case, in which dancers take over the National Gallery; Alexander Zeldin’s devastating Love, about Christmas in temporary accommodation; a poetry night hosted by Kate Tempest; Eggs Collective’s raucous Get a Round; and I Told My Mum I Was Going on an RE Trip, based on real stories about abortion. Full lineup for Performance Live. Read our review of The Way Out.

Alexander Ekman

Five works by the Swedish choreographer are on Marquee TV, including a new work for the Royal Swedish Ballet, Eskapist, which gets a five-star review from Lyndsey Winship. On a vast stage, “Ekman offers a bombardment of fantastical images, realised with the help of Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov, who does a Mad Hatter’s couture party of eccentrically structured silhouettes.” Ekman’s other works to rent include Swan Lake and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Read the full review.

Deafinitely Theatre

The groundbreaking company Deafinitely Theatre have launched a season of their work, performed in British Sign Language and spoken English. A version of Mike Bartlett’s Contractions, about workplace fear, is available in June. On YouTube.

The Phantom of the Opera

Obsession! Haunting ballads! A shattered chandelier! And musical theatre’s most famous mask … Enjoy one of the world’s most successful shows, presented at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, with Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The film is available to rent on Amazon. It was also streamed as part of The Shows Must Go On, a series offering a different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical each week.

Told By An Idiot

The questing British theatre have, as they put it, been “creating the unexpected” since they launched in 1993. As their current tour of The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel has been cut short, they are sharing shows from their vast archive which is stuffed with gems. Each is available for a week only – keep an eye on their site to see what’s currently on offer.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The groundbreaking dance company, formed more than 60 years ago by Alvin Ailey, is streaming full-length performances, many with accompanying behind-the-scenes videos, talks and workshops. Videos include Robert Battle’s The Hunt (until 4 June).

Wise Children

Oman Douglas and Melissa James in Wise Children.

Oman Douglas and Melissa James in Wise Children. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Former Kneehigh and Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director Emma Rice chose an adaptation of Angela Carter’s carnivalesque final novel Wise Children as her first production for her new theatre company, which shares the same name as the book. Filmed at York Theatre Royal, it’s available to stream on BBC iPlayer until 10 June as part of the Culture in Quarantine programme. Expect twins, cartwheels, puppets and a palpable passion for theatre itself. Read the full review.

What the Butler Saw

Joe Orton’s final farce, completed in the summer of 1967 just before the playwright’s death, is a subversive satire about an irrational world, set in a psychiatrist’s consulting room. Rufus Hound dons the white coat as the philandering Dr Prentice in Nikolai Foster’s 2017 production for Leicester Curve and Theatre Royal Bath. The cast includes Dakota Blue Richards and Jasper Britton. Curve’s productions of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual and The Importance of Being Earnest are also online.

Little Red Riding Hood

The big bad wolf is soppy rather than scary in Northern Ballet’s sweet retelling of the fairytale. He wouldn’t dream of eating gran and ends up invited to a jolly tea party instead. A spring tour of the production has been cancelled but there is a version adapted for CBeebies online. An attractive introduction to ballet’s magic. Read the full review.

The Swan

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new director Carlos Acosta has reworked The Dying Swan (originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova), and BRB principal dancer Céline Gittens performs the piece from her living room to yours. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux, is performed by pianist Jonathan Higgins and cellist Antonio Novais. “This is a dance of promises,” says Acosta.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge on stage in Fleabag.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge on stage in Fleabag. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

You’ve watched both TV series. You’ve read the scripts. Maybe you’ve even seen the stage show more than once. But you’ll probably still be streaming Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of her wildly successful monologue, recorded at Wyndham’s theatre in London where it sold out last summer. Fleabag is available to stream on Soho theatre’s On Demand site and on Amazon Prime. All proceeds will go towards charities including the National Emergencies Trust, NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others, which provides support to all theatre workers in times of need.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Itching to get back into that wooden O on the South Bank? Happily, the Globe Player has heaps of full productions to rent, including international productions from the 2012 Globe to Globe festival such as a Lithuanian Hamlet, a Turkish Antony and Cleopatra, a Japanese Coriolanus and an Armenian King John. There is also the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse’s opening production, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton. On the Globe’s YouTube channel, a series of free streams, each available for a fortnight, continues with The Winter’s Tale (2018) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019).

Mushy: Lyrically Speaking

Mushy : Lyrically Speaking.

Mushy : Lyrically Speaking. Photograph: Richard Davenport/The Other Richard

Musharaf Asghar became a reality TV star in 2013 when the schoolboy appeared on Educating Yorkshire, which documented how a teacher helped him with his lifelong speech impediment. Asghar’s tale is now the subject of a new British musical, co-produced by Rifco theatre company and Watford Palace theatre and staged last year. It’s online and free to view for the entire isolation period. Read the full review.

Imitating the Dog

The groundbreaking theatre company Imitating the Dog were midway through touring Night of the Living Dead – Remix when theatres shut down. Now, they are streaming this ambitious show in which a cast of actors remake George Romero’s classic horror film shot by shot in real time. The company have also opened up their archive to stream a selection of creations from the last 20 years. Works will be released every fortnight and are available to watch on a pay-what-you-like basis.

The Beast Will Rise

Philip Ridley’s new play The Beast of Blue Yonder was due to open at the Southwark Playhouse in London in April. It has now been postponed but a series of new monologues by Ridley responding to the current crisis have been performed online by members of the cast, starting with Gators, starring Rachel Bright. Read the full review.

Belarus Free Theatre

The internet has been vital to the success of Belarus Free Theatre, one of Europe’s most essential theatre companies, which is forced to operate underground in its restrictive home country after the government banned it on political grounds. The company – which turns 15 this year – is streaming archive shows throughout June. Each show will be available online for 24 hours. A School for Fools, its adaptation of Sasha Sokolov’s experimental novella, is performed live on Thursdays until 9 July. Read the full review.

Now I’m Fine

What better time is there to watch a “grand-scale experimental pop opera about keeping it together”? Ahamefule J Oluo’s innovative show, staged at Seattle’s Moore theatre in 2014, mixes standup-style routines with a mesmerising musical accompaniment and explores his experience of a rare autoimmune disease. It is one of many films, including Americana Kamikaze, that are available to stream from On the Boards. Read the full review.

Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist

With the help of a carrot, a sponge, the Miracles and some game audience members, Sam is going to tell you about five hook-ups he had through the casual encounters section of online classified-ads board Craigslist. Filmed at the Push festival in Home, Manchester, YESYESNONO’s production is an open, affecting and troubling look at searching for intimacy and connection. This hour will leave you reencountering your own life.

I, Cinna

The outbreak of homeschooling caused by the coronavirus has found many of us playing the role of teacher while still in our dressing gowns. And here’s one unexpected tutor who really commands your attention: Jude Owusu, clad in a dirty bathrobe, with a pen behind his ear and a notepad dangling around his neck. Owusu is Cinna, the poet from Julius Caesar, in this spellbinding film of Tim Crouch’s monologue, part of his series magnifying the experiences of minor characters from Shakespeare. Read the full review.

Cyprus Avenue

On Friday 27 March, to mark World Theatre Day, the Royal Court released an online version of David Ireland’s blistering play Cyprus Avenue, starring Stephen Rea as a Belfast loyalist who is convinced his baby granddaughter is Gerry Adams. The film mixes the drama shot at the Royal Court with location scenes of Belfast.

Alonzo King Lines Ballet

A handful of productions by San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King and his marvellous company Lines Ballet are available to rent on Marquee.tv. Dust and Light, Triangle of the Squinches and Scheherazade, all filmed in 2012, showcase the elegant nature of his work, which pushes beyond classical ballet. There’s also a short documentary dipping into his background as the son of a prominent civil rights activist. Read the full review.

Boys Don’t

The Cure’s Robert Smith tried to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies, because – all together now – boys don’t cry. A powerful piece of rhyme-packed storytelling for the over-eights, Boys Don’t is delivered by four compelling performers and based on real-life experiences of the expectations placed on “little men” throughout the generations before they even get to the playground. Presented by Half Moon theatre, it’s a Papertale production in association with Apples and Snakes, staged at Brighton festival in 2018.

Funny Girl

Showtunes don’t get much more defiant or rousing than Don’t Rain on My Parade. Sheridan Smith wards off the clouds with a gritty rendition as Fanny Bryce in this production of the classic musical at Manchester’s Palace theatre in 2017. It’s one of the many productions available from Digital Theatre, whose offerings also include The Crucible starring Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in London, and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Fragments (Beckett by Brook)

Is there a more fitting playwright for our current moment of isolation, uncertainty and endurance than Beckett? In this production, filmed at the marvellously atmospheric Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 2015, Peter Brook directs five Beckett shorts with a cast of three (Jos Houben, Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter). The production comprises Rough for Theatre I, Rockaby, Neither, Come and Go and Act Without Words II. Feel the rising panic and despair in Rockaby as the solitary, wide-eyed Hunter recounts a descent through long, lonely days.

Palermo Palermo

Even by Pina Bausch’s standards it’s an arresting opening: a huge wall collapses on stage and across the rubble comes Julie Shanahan, in high heels and a floral frock. After desperately commanding hugs from two suitors, she takes a seat and is pelted with rotten tomatoes. And so begins an epic patchwork of masochistic rituals, nightmares and games, blending the quotidian with the phenomenal, all inspired by the choreographer’s trip to Sicily. A rare chance to watch one of Bausch’s creations in full and for free online.


At first sight they could be Pina Bausch’s dancers: a procession of performers wearing smart suits and enigmatic smiles, gliding across a stage filled with apples. Bausch’s company memorably balanced apples on their heads in Palermo Palermo, but as Smashed is created by those juggling supremos Gandini, the fruit is mostly in motion here. Their Bausch homage has the same childlike games, adult fantasy and bruised humour of the German choreographer’s work. Smashed is crisp, fresh and full of flavour. You may never look at an apple in the same way again …

Oscar Wilde season

All four productions in Classic Spring’s starry Oscar Wilde season in the West End can be watched on the online service Marquee TV, which is offering a 14-day free trial. Edward and Freddie Fox play father and son in An Ideal Husband; Eve Best is a memorable Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance; Kathy Burke directs Lady Windermere’s Fan; and Sophie Thompson is horrified by theatre’s most famous handbag in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Original Theatre Company

This touring company had to cut short its productions of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, about WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, and Ali Milles’s The Croft, which intertwines the lives of women over time on a Scottish Highland outpost. Both were filmed on their final performances to empty auditoriums and are available to rent online. Gwen Taylor stars in The Croft and Matthew Kelly is in The Habit of Art.

Ghost Quartet

If you missed its run at Soho’s new Boulevard theatre, here’s a chance to savour Dave Malloy’s song cycle, filmed in New York in 2015. Alternately rousing and yearning, this is a gorgeous hymn to barflies, precious memories and the joys of being a ghost, told with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and Thelonious Monk. It’s a glorious get-together of a show, as warming as the whiskey handed out to the audience – but you’ll have to pour your own.

Key Change

Open Clasp is a women’s theatre company aiming to “change the world, one play at a time”. Key Change, now available to stream online, is a fantastic introduction to their consistently impressive work with women who are on the margins of society; in this case, prisoners at HM Prison Low Newton, who devised the 2015 show with the theatre group over several months in order to break down stigma and enlighten audiences. It was filmed in partnership with The Space.


Rural touring company Pentabus are releasing shows from their archive every Friday over a period of three months. Deirdre Kinahan’s play Crossings is, according to our critic Arifa Akbar, “an unexpected and touching drama about unlikely friendships, postwar homosexuality and the cost of war for women”. Read the full review.

Snow Mouse

You have to hunt to find full theatre productions for very young audiences online, so here’s a little treat. To mark World Day of Theatre for Children on 20 March the lovely Egg in Bath released their wintry 40-minute tale for the under-fours.

The Show Must Go Online

The actor Robert Myles has set up a live-streamed reading group for professional and amateur actors to perform Shakespeare’s complete plays in the order they’re believed to have been written. The Guardian’s very own Stephen Moss took on the role of the Duke of Burgundy in Henry VI Part I.

Peeping Tom trilogy

The brilliant Belgian dance-theatre company turned 20 this year and are best known in the UK for performing at London international mime festival and for their trilogy comprising Mother, Father and Child. Their brand of domestic terror, hope and ennui will strike a chord at this troubling time. Watch their first trilogy (Le Jardin, Le Salon and Le Sous Sol) online.

The School for Wives

Travel restrictions needn’t prevent you from enjoying international theatre online. Paris’s esteemed Odéon has released its 2018 production of Molière’s satirical 1662 comedy of manners and cuckoldry. Claude Duparfait stars as the foolish Arnolphe, and Stéphane Braunschweig directs. English subtitles available, évidemment. Read the full review.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

After more than 1,000 productions, the Showstoppers improv crew are some of the quickest wits in the biz. So it’s no surprise that when they were faced with a West End closure they live-streamed a performance. Watch their custom-made, never-to-be-repeated impro musical on Facebook.

Since U Been Gone

Teddy Lamb was due to present a Trans Take Over at London’s Bunker theatre as part of its now suspended Power Share season. So they have uploaded a version of their musical fringe hit about losing loved ones and finding your own voice.

5 Soldiers

Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body Is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK, but, since its livestream is still available online, you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.

The Wind in the Willows

Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe teamed up to deliver a merry new version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, staged at the London Palladium in 2017, with Rufus Hound wearing 50 shades of green as Mr Toad. It’s available to rent online, with the option to donate to help provide financial and emotional support to theatre workers.

Girls Like That

London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.

Le Patin Libre

Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities, but the Canadian troupe, Le Patin Libre, has taken the art form into a new dimension. In their double bill, Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades.

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show, Latin History for Morons, is on Netflix.


Apphia Campbell in Woke.

Apphia Campbell in Woke. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/the Guardian

LIVR is a subscription service that enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into the headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots. The award-winning Patricia Gets Ready, written by Martha Watson Allpress, is also available from LIVR.

Timpson: The Musical

Two households, both alike in dignity … well, sort of. Our narrator, a talking portrait, lays our scene in Victorian London, and this musical comedy imagines the founding of the popular shoe-repair chain as a union between two companies, the Montashoes and the Keypulets. Watch Gigglemug Theatre’s show on YouTube.

My Left Nut

This is cheating as it’s a TV series, but BBC Three’s superb comedy drama is based on one of the most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s based on Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.

Rosas Danst Rosas

Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic, Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair.

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