Saw One Man, Two Guvnors last night, on screen, at The Picturehouse. Genius. On many levels. Not only is it an ingenious idea of National Theatre Live to beam live theatre through cinema screens nationwide - correction, worldwide, the production that they chose to kick off this initiative with was priceless theatre entertainment, that had even those of us who weren't seeing it in the flesh, rolling in the aisles.
James Corden is comic gold dust. I'd never realised, having never caught Gavin and Stacey. He may have made his name on the telly but live theatre beamed worldwide certainly didn't faze him. On the contrary, he seemed to thrive on it. The guy was hilarious throughout, and utterly flawless, despite the regular requirement for unpredictable audience interaction and improvisation. His timing, facial expressions, slapstick, delivery, everything about the man is funny and you can see how the rest of the cast are charged and buoyed by him, the true mark of a comedy professional. Beyond him, Oliver Chris's general 'rah' throughout, and his interplay with Corden in particular stood out for me, but everything and -one worked so well together. Plus the musical intermissions between set changes, and the way that all in the cast were involved, added expertly to the hilarity and the overall uplifting quality of the production.
Nicholas Hytner has delivered a masterpiece, and, providing the cast remains intact, I want to see it again, and take others with me - the production moves from The National to the West End's Adelphi Theatre in November.
What's interesting about the National Theatre Live initiative is that on the one hand it opens up wonderful productions like these to a much wider audience, but presumably by the same token risks future theatre traffic and limits seasons - we cinema viewers no longer need to go and see the plays in situ. Does it matter? With tickets to plays sold worldwide through cinemas, who needs long seasons? Box office takings rocket, more people get to see quality theatre, and actors and performances stay fresh. And perhaps like me, impressed cinema viewers come away intent on taking others to see it on the stage.
Whichever way you look at it, beaming plays through the big screen is a winner. It could, in fact, be just what the theatre world needs. Plus live theatre will always reveal the true scope of people's talent. One night's performance has just broadened James Corden's universe of appreciation cumulatively, and that most definitely can't be a bad thing.