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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Experience the best of British theater in Manila

When my mother and I went to London sometime in 2019, part of our travel agenda was to watch a live British theater performance. Fortunately, my sister secured tickets for one of the many shows on Broadway and we got that wonderful experience.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to watch at the National Theatre. Although in one of our touring walks around London along South Bank, pretty close to Waterloo, Embankment, and Southwark underground stations, we were able to see and visit the building.

Apparently, the National Theatre (full name is The Royal National Theatre in London) is one of most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues in the United Kingdom. The others are the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House.

William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’

It was founded in 1963, six years before the Cultural Center of the Philippines was established. But the idea of having a national theater came in 1848, when publisher Effingham Wilson wrote his opinion in the pamphlet ‘A House for Shakespeare.’

But it would be another century, in 1949, before a law would be passed releasing funds for the building of a national theater. And another 14 years after that, in 1963, a National Theatre company was launched. But it was only in 1976 that a dedicated structure opened to the public.

Inside the building, there are three theatres, Olivier Theatre, the largest with 1,100 seating capacity and an amphitheatre with a fan-shaped auditorium; Lyttelton, a proscenium theatre with 890 seats; and the Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe Theatre), the smallest and most flexible theater which can accommodate up to 450 viewers. It reminds me of the CCP Main Building, which also has three major theater venues.

Reading about UK national theater, the CCP, and NT share the same vision to make theater accessible to everyone. They also commission theater-makers to create inspiring works, while igniting creativity among youths and building partnerships that support local projects.

Helmed by Lyndsey Turner, ‘The Crucible’ is set to hit the Ayala Cinemas on January 24, 2024

This year, the CCP and the National Theatre partnered to bring the best of British theater to the country through National Theatre Live, a program that simulcasts live productions in cinemas. Launched in 2009, it kicked off with Phedre, starring actress  Helen Mirren, which was screened live in 70 cinemas across the UK. A year later, it expanded with National Theatre Home, a video-on-demand streaming service. NT Live productions have since been broadcast to over 2,500 venues in 60 countries around the world.

Through CCP National Theatre Live, the premier arts and culture institution provides yet another exceptional “live” performance experience to expand the cultural palettes of its audiences, while making international theater accessible to theater enthusiasts, playwrights, artists, and the broader public.

Such good news for theater fans. We get to watch NT productions at Ayala Cinemas in Greenbelt, starting with  Life of Pi  on September 26. The Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation of  Yann Martel’s best-selling novel centers on a 16-year-old boy named Pi who is stranded on a lifeboat with four other survivors – a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger.  Life of Pi  is adapted for the stage by  Lolita Chakrabarti  and directed by  Max Webster.

On October 31, prepare to be spellbound by  Frankenstein, brought to life by Academy Award-winning director  Danny Boyle, with  Nick Dear’s masterful adaptation of  Mary Shelley’s timeless classic. This gripping rendition explores the tragic tale of a man with childlike innocence trapped within a grotesque form, cast into a hostile world by his horrified creator.

Yann Martel’s best-selling novel ‘Life of Pi’ is adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti

November 28 heralds the premiere of  The Seagull, directed by  Jamie Lloyd, renowned for his five-star production of  Cyrano de BergeracEmilia Clarke  makes her West End debut in this adaptation of  Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece.

On December 19, director  Simon Godwin  presents a delightful rendition of  Shakespeare’s  Much Ado About Nothing, set in the legendary Hotel Messina, where a charming young soldier’s arrival disrupts the tranquility, leading to scandalous deceptions and uproarious comedy.

January 24, 2024, marks the screening of  Arthur Miller’s  The Crucible, directed by  Lyndsey Turner, depicting the chilling power of young women’s words in Salem, inspired by Tanghalang Pilipino’s  Ang Pag-uusig.

February 27, 2024, brings  Fleabag, a riotous exploration of a woman living life on her terms, written and performed by  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which inspired the acclaimed TV series.

Prepare for Shakespeare’s  Othello  on March 26, 2024, a poignant tale of love and betrayal, where unseen forces conspire against Desdemona and Othello’s secret union.

Hollywood actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

April 30, 2024, sees the premiere of  King Lear, directed by Jonathan Munby and starring  Sir Ian McKellen, a gripping tragedy exploring family, ambition, and treachery.

Finally, on May 28, 2024,  Benedict Cumberbatch  takes on the iconic role of Hamlet, grappling with revenge, sanity, and the fate of a nation in a production directed by Lyndsey Turner. These theatrical gems promise unforgettable experiences for all.

Witness the magic of the London National Theatre through CCP National Theatre Live. All screenings will be at 5:30 p.m., exclusively at Greenbelt Cinemas. Regular ticket price is P250.00 while the special ticket price for students is at P150.00. Tickets can be purchased at

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