One Play, Many Venues

London’s National Theatre went international last night for a live screening of One Man, Two Guvnors. Manchester’s Cornerhouse joined cinemas in Canada, New Zealand, Estonia, South Africa, Iceland and many other countries in charging people to sit and watch a play being performed somewhere else.

Strange idea in the 21st century, really. Television broadcast by satellite from the other side of the globe has become commonplace. So what was it like paying £15 to watch something that wasn’t quite a film, and wasn’t quite like being at a live performance?

It did feel a bit detached – almost voyeuristic. We in Manchester were witnessing something, more than directly engaging in the performance. The audience in London applauded but we did not. There was raucous laughter at the NT – and a few muffled guffaws in Manchester.

We had a better view than those in the theatre’s cheap seats. The camerawork was sophisticated, mixing close-ups with wide angle views and audience shots. It was not just a static projection of the entire stage as I had feared it might be. We also got a backstage tour in the interval, conducted by Emma Freud.

And what of the play itself? A five-star performance from the truly talented James Corden, supported by a very strong cast – including a skiffle band. It’s a farce based on Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters written in 1743, brought up-to-date (actually to 1963) by Richard Bean. The script is sparkling, the slapstick comedy timed to perfection.

I’m really glad I went, and just a bit sorry that I didn’t clap at the end. It transfers to the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End from 8 November, with the original cast. Go and see it!