This Sunday, a house full of lucky Londoners will have the opportunity to see London’s National Theatre perform one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies: “King Lear.” But they won’t be the only audience — across the ocean, theater lovers in Ann Arbor will be watching, too.
NT Live: “King Lear”
Sunday at 7 p.m.
Enoch Brater, an LSA professor of dramatic literature, spoke in praise of the broadcast.
“Theater is a handcrafted art in an age of mass production, and not everyone has the opportunity to travel to theaters and see a production like this,” he said.
According to Truly Render, press and marketing coordinator for the University Music Society, Ann Arborites have consistently filled the Michigan Theater for National Theatre live broadcasts.
This is the second year UMS has collaborated with the Michigan Theater on the program. Past broadcasts include “FELA!,” “Hamlet” and Complicite’s “A Disappearing Number.”
“I think people are simply hungry for high-quality cultural experiences,” Render wrote in an e-mail interview.
“King Lear” was written centuries ago, but its values are still relevant. In the play, King Lear puts his three daughters through a test to prove their devotion to him. The two older daughters flatter him, but the youngest, Cordelia, says she has no words to describe her love for him. Angered, King Lear disowns her and the family spirals into chaos, ultimately ending in Cordelia’s death.
“It’s a classic play of a dysfunctional family,” Brater said. “It begins with the dissolution of a whole family, but it also signifies the dissolution of a whole society and the whole world.”
Brater added that the play is globally appreciated because anyone can relate to its themes.
“(Shakespeare’s) plays are constantly redone in productions all over the world by professional companies and student theater alike,” Brater said. “It’s all around us.”
In spite of the play’s general appeal, “King Lear” is one of Shakespeare’s most challenging and demanding works to perform. According to Brater, the lead must have an incredible amount of stamina.
“It’s attracted the talents of some of the greatest actors of all time, and this is the case for this production,” he said. “It’s icing on the cake for any great Shakespearian actor.”
In the past, Christopher Plummer and Laurence Olivier have taken on the role. This production will feature British actor Derek Jacobi, who was a founding member of the Royal National Theatre and appears in “The King’s Speech.”
Render noted the broadcast offers a different experience to live theater.
“The cinematography is not static — it’s not simply a camera on a tripod filming from the back of the house,” she wrote. “The performances at the National are (selected) in advance to allow cameras greater freedom in the auditorium.”
Render also noted that each broadcast includes pre-show interviews and behind-the-scenes footage so audiences can glimpse what goes on before the curtain rises.
“Audiences are making connections and really taking the deep dive after seeing NT Live performances,” she wrote. “And that is such a great thing to see.”