Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Live cinema shows for National

Helen Mirren will star in the first performance to be broadcast
Helen Mirren will star in the first performance to be broadcast

The National Theatre will broadcast four of its performances live in UK cinemas in an effort to bring its work to a wider audience, it has announced.

The first of the performances will be of Racine's tragedy Phedre, starring actress Dame Helen Mirren, in June.

Cinema tickets will cost 10 while theatre tickets will be reduced because of disruption caused by cameras.

The theatre said the four performances will be relayed to 50 independent and arts cinemas.

It is in talks with the Picturehouse cinema chain over the screenings, a spokesman said.

It will cost about 50,000 to relay each of the four shows by satellite.

Opera example

National director Nicholas Hytner, speaking at the launch of the National's new season, said: "The purpose is to get our work seen more widely, so we are not going to do central London.

"It feels to me like an outside broadcast - that's the frame of reference you have to bring to bear."

He said that, as all actors involved had to agree to the broadcasts, the National had yet to decide which other three performances would feature.

"The reason I mention Phedre is that Helen said yes and I dare anybody else to say no," he added.

Our reaction to the impending economic doom, if that's what's going to happen, is that we should go on doing the same and more so
Nicholas Hytner
National Theatre

The National will follow in the footsteps of the Royal Opera House, which broadcast one if its productions live in cinemas in September.

It relayed Mozart's masterpiece Don Giovanni to the 18-strong Picturehouse chain and plans further broadcasts this year.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York, meanwhile, has been broadcasting live performances in cinemas for some years.

Hytner said the theatre would not abandon experimental works in favour of more populist choices as a result of the economic downturn.

"Our reaction to the impending economic doom, if that's what's going to happen, is that we should go on doing the same and more so," he said.

"I wouldn't know how to play safe - I don't know what playing safe at the National would be any more."

This year's National Theatre highlights include a new, as yet untitled, Alan Bennett play about a fictional meeting between composer Benjamin Britten and poet WH Auden.

Other highlights include a production of Marlowe's Dido and new works England People Very Nice, and The Observer.

A stage version of Sir Terry Pratchett's novel Nation will open in November.

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