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National Theatre Live: 100 Plays in Cinemas – 1-25


This year, National Theatre Live broadcast its 100th title, Nye, live from the Olivier stage.

Now buckle up as we’re going to take you on a journey through all 100 NT Lives (you heard that right).

From our first to our most recent, join us to recount all the incredible plays that have made it from the stage to the screen – with some fun facts thrown in for good measure!

Screenings 1 to 25

1. Phèdre – 25 June 2009 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Jean Racine, in a version by Ted Hughes. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

Where it all began! Our first ever National Theatre Live broadcast with the legendary Helen Mirren, which premiered in 270 cinemas across 19 countries (with maybe a line forgotten…) That’s live-streamed theatre baby!

Today NT Live is regularly screened in over 2500 cinemas in 70 countries.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

2. All's Well That Ends Well – 1 October 2009 (Olivier Theatre)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Marianne Elliott.

Get ready for a whole lot of Shakespeare! This is the first of many Shakespeare plays for NT Live and the first filmed from our iconic Olivier Theatre.

Designed by Rae Smith and directed by Marianne Elliott, who had worked together on War Horse.

Photo by Simon Annand

3. Nation – 30 January 2010 (Olivier Theatre)

By Mark Ravenhill, based on the novel by Terry Pratchett. Directed by Melly Still.

Interestingly, the only time we have ever broadcast a live matinee. The play about the devastating effects of a tsunami featured captivating puppetry by Yvonne Stone.

Puppets have since become a common occurrence in NT Lives, we’re looking at you Book of Dust.

Photo by Johan Persson

4. The Habit of Art – 22 April 2010 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Alan Bennett. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

The recording of this modern classic had Steadicam cameras that filmed on stage with the actors and featured a stellar cast including Alex Jennings and Adrian Scarborough, who have become NT Live regulars, and the late Richard Griffiths.

Photo by Johan Persson

5. London Assurance – 28 June 2010 (Olivier Theatre)

By Dion Boucicault. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

The first performance in an NT Live for the legendary Simon Russell Beale, with many more to follow that. Beale has become one of our most frequent NT Live performers.

And for the first time, the play was shown for free to an audience watching in the square outside theatre; a tradition which has now become a staple of the summer River Stage festival.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

6. A Disappearing Number – 14 October 2010 (Theatre Royal, Portsmouth)

Written and directed by Simon McBurney.

A monumental moment, our first release filmed outside of London, and outside of the National Theatre, working together with theatre company Complicité.

The theatre company will return to the National Theatre this year with Mnemonic.

Photo by Stephanie Berger

7. Hamlet – 9 December 2010 (Olivier Theatre)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

He’s coming for your crown Simon Russell Beale, our joint most featured star Rory Kinnear played the titular, tormented Hamlet looking to avenge his father’s murder in this classic tragedy.

Photo by Johan Persson

8. FELA! – 13 January 2011 (Olivier Theatre)

By Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis. Directed by Bill T. Jones.

Presented by Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (quite the team), this vibrant and soulful show depicting the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti marked the first time the National Theatre had ever produced a show currently running on Broadway.

Photo by Tristram Kenton

9. King Lear – 3 February 2011 (Donmar Warehouse)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Grandage.

In collaboration with the Donmar Warehouse, this was the first of three King Lear’s we have released to cinemas worldwide, featuring Sir Derek Jacobi as the tyrant whose world descends into chaos.

Photo by Johan Persson

10. Frankenstein – 17 March 2011 and 24 March 2011 (Olivier Theatre)

By Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley. Directed by Danny Boyle.

At this point 10 was a monumental achievement! (Who was to know there would be 90 more…) For this iconic show, we broadcast two separate performances a week apart with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature.

The creative team went on to create none other than the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

11. The Cherry Orchard – 30 June 2011 (Olivier Theatre)

By Anton Chekhov, in a version by Andrew Upton. Directed by Howard Davies.

Our first Chekhov with Zoë Wanamaker as Ranyevskaya, the aristocratic landowner who is forced to sell her family estate and seal the fate of their beloved orchard.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

12. One Man, Two Guvnors – 15 September 2011 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Richard Bean. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

Hard to forget this one! James Corden was Francis Henshall – ex-skiffle band member turned criminal aide – in this cheeky comedy.

This was the first play released for free on YouTube through National Theatre at Home during the pandemic, watched by 2.6 million people online, from South Africa to Serbia.

Photo by Johan Persson

13. The Kitchen – 6 October 2011 (Olivier Theatre)

By Arnold Wesker. Directed by Bijan Sheibani.

Soup, fish, cutlets, fruit flans, just some of the food cooked up on-stage in this one. Set in 1950s London, the orders are piling up in the kitchen.

The company trained in knife skills and other ways of working as a chef with renowned chef Jeremy Lee (Quo Vadis), who also gave an interview in the interval. Sounds tasty.

Image by Marc Brenner

14. Collaborators – 1 December 2011 (Cottesloe Theatre)

By John Hodge. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

The play was originally commissioned as an idea for a film and then screenwriter John Hodge (Trainspotting) was inspired to turn it into a play.

Filmed from the Cottesloe Theatre that we now know as the Dorfman.

Photo by Johan Persson

15. Travelling Light – 9 February 2012 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Nicholas Wright. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

Antony Sher’s return to the National Theatre and a National Theatre debut for Damien Molony.

The action of the play takes place between two settings: a Jewish Shtetl in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and Hollywood in 1936. This was shown through film clips projected on a curtain that made the Shtetl become a ‘set-within-a-set’, designed by Bob Crowley.

Photo by Johan Persson

16. The Comedy of Errors – 1 March 2012 (Olivier Theatre)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Dominic Cooke.

Starred inspired duo Lucian Msamati as Dromio of Syracuse and Lenny Henry as the Antipholus of Syracuse in Shakespeare’s iconic farce.

This was Henry’s National Theatre debut and Dominic Cooke’s first NT Live before musical Follies.

Photo by Johan Persson

17. She Stoops to Conquer – 29 March 2012 (Olivier Theatre)

By Oliver Goldsmith. Directed by Jamie Lloyd.

Before the days of Sunset Boulevard and Cyrano de Bergerac, one of London’s finest, Jamie Lloyd, took on this celebration of chaos, courtship and the dysfunctional family.

The large ensemble cast included Katherine Kelly as Kate Hardcastle, Cush Jumbo as Constance Neville and Steve Pemberton as Mr Hardcastle.

Photo by Johan Persson

18. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – 6 September 2012 (Cottesloe Theatre)

By Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon. Directed by Marianne Elliott.

Filmed before its frequent national tours and curriculum appearances, the play was originally staged in the round, as in the filmed version, but has subsequently been recreated for proscenium theatres.

The original cast included Luke Treadaway, Nicola Walker and Paul Ritter.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

19. The Last of the Haussmans – 11 October 2012 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Stephen Beresford. Directed by Howard Davies.

Rocketman himself, Taron Egerton‘s first ever stage performance and the first of many NT Live plays with Helen McCrory. Also starred Rory Kinnear and Julie Walters.

Previously an actor, The Last of the Haussmans was the first play written by Stephen Beresford. The set was so intricate, all the drawers had even been filled with everyday household items by set designer, Vicki Mortimer.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

20. Timon of Athens – 1 November 2012 (Olivier Theatre)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

Timon is believed to have been the only one of Shakespeare’s great protagonists who has no family or romantic attachments, and did you know it is unlikely the play was performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime?

Director Nicholas Hytner and actor Simon Russell Beale included an additional 300 lines of dialogue to complete this version.

Photo by Johan Persson

21. The Magistrate – 17 January 2013 (Olivier Theatre)

By Arthur Wing Pinero. Directed by Timothy Sheader.

John Lithgow played Posket in the uproarious Victorian farce. At the time, The Magistrate contained the greatest number of shots of any NT Live broadcast with a whopping 1,400 shots!

It is the role of the camera director on each capture to intricately design each shot and camera angle to give audiences the best seat in the house.

Photo by Johan Persson

22. People – 21 March 2013 (Lyttelton Theatre)

By Alan Bennett. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

At the time of release, People was the sixth Alan Bennett play to premiere at the National Theatre. This was the third collaboration between writer Alan Bennett, director Nicholas Hytner and actress Frances de la Tour.

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

23. This House – 16 May 2013 (Olivier Theatre)

By James Graham. Directed by Jeremy Herrin.

James Graham’s first NT Live production and his first play at the National Theatre – he was only 29!

The zingy ‘70s political drama started life in the Dorfman and then transferred to Olivier where we filmed it.

Cast included Gunnar Cauthery who has since been in Graham’s Olivier Award-winning new play Dear England as pundit Gary Lineker.

Photo by Johan Persson

24. The Audience – 13 June 2013 (Gielgud Theatre)

By Peter Morgan. Directed by Stephen Daldry. With Playful Productions.

Our first NT Live from the West End, and what a royal way to start. The show was the inspiration for The Crown, with Helen Mirren’s inspired casting as Queen Elizabeth II.

The Audience also included Paul Ritter as John Major, Nathaniel Parker as Gordon Brown and Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher.

Photo by Johann Persson

25. Macbeth – 20 July 2013 (Manchester International Festival)

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh. With Manchester International Festival.

The Scottish play was performed in a gorgeous, deconsecrated church (now home to the Halle Orchestra), filled with mud, lit by candles and with rain pouring throughout.

The immersive production – which took place during an unusual heatwave in Manchester – had a very short run with only 18 days of performances.

Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston played Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Photo by Johan Persson