Stage vs Screen: Is It The Way Forward?

Having the chance to see Billy Elliot The Musical broadcast live from the Victoria Palace in London was a truly amazing experience but it did pose the question of whether this was the way forward for the theatre?

Throughout the 2hr45mins production, I kept forgetting I was watching a live stream rather than a film but would get reminded when the cheering from the ‘real’ crowd was heard.

As the streaming had the ability to zoom in and out, it really did make the experience seem more like a movie experience but this did not change my opinion that the concept of live broadcasting is a good thing.

For one thing, it makes the West End productions more accessible for those who are physically unable to get to London and watch one of the many theatre shows.

As well as the tickets to see a broadcast show are considerably cheaper than getting into London, purchasing your tickets and booking into a hotel.

The fact that the tickets and accessibility is relatively easy, it was no surprise that the cinema was full of people of all ages ranging from the elderly to students like myself.

It is no surprise that money is a big issue in both arguments, the fact that it is cheaper for students is a good point yet there is now a risk that there will be a decline in the box office throughout the West End if more shows are broadcast live.

Personally, the concept of broadcasting live adds to the success of shows as Billy Elliot was broadcast to 550 cinemas worldwide rather than just audiences who had the ability to make it to London for the show.

As well as increasing their audience number, the magnificently talented actors who star in these productions also get themselves noticed across the entire world.

What better way is there for an actor to really make a mark on the ever challenging and competitive acting world?

The way the camera was filming the show also allowed the audience in the cinema to identify with the characters like they would when watching a film.

By zooming in on a characters facial expression during a more emotional scene really added to how that character was feeling.

Another benefit of having a live broadcast is that distributors are able then to release the live show on DVD and blu-ray making it accessible for everyone and really that will have an impact on the revenue of the shows.

I have not read anywhere of a show that has been broadcast live not to have complete adoration from both audiences and more and more shows will, I feel, start creating shows in this new format.

There is no doubt that the concept of streaming live has it benefits for sure but are there any negatives?

I have briefly mentioned that people may be concerned that the box office revenue will decline due to live broadcast, however, according the Society of London Theatre overall attendances has increased by 4%, so personally, a concern about box office revenue declining is slim.

One could argue, and I would agree with this, that there is nothing more pleasing than sitting in a theatre and watching an outstandingly brilliant performance.

A theatre production consists of everything from the show itself, the actors, the ambiance plus the theatre as well.

There was no denying that before Billy Elliot began, I was worried that there would not be the same atmosphere but I was indefinitely wrong.

People were clapping along with the audience in the theatre, people were sniffing during the more emotional scenes and laughing during the amusing scenes.

The only really difference was that we were not in a glamourous theatre palace but instead a small dark room with a big screen.

One issue that could see an increase of dislike towards the live broadcasting is what happens if the technology breaks mid-show? It is one of those risks that has to be taken.

Theatre purist will think that broadcasting live will ruin the theatre but as a huge fan of the theatre myself, I will welcome any opportunity I can to see a live show.

People may also argue that technology is starting to take over our lives, and I would agree with that concept, however, technology is something that we all MUST accept and move alongside with it.

There is no doubt that in the near future a fair few more shows will be broadcast live and I personally look forward to seeing as many shows as possible, whether that will be in the theatre or the cinema.


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