Quarantine is a boring business. Unless you happen to be a creative genius and can find inventive new ways to entertain yourself, there’s not much to do. Personally, I’m not a creative genius. I struggle to find motivation on a daily basis, and even if I became suddenly inspired, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to pick up a pen and write another King Lear.
Yes, as it turns out, Shakespeare wrote one of his most acclaimed plays in quarantine. The Bard was stuck at home with nothing to do but write a bloody great play. For some, lockdown might be the perfect opportunity to do so yourself, but if like myself you’re lacking in creative genius, watching some Shakespeare might be a safer bet. Who knows, Macbeth might spark some inspiration?
Believe it or not, if you have the desire to watch some Shakespeare during these trying times, then it’s relatively easy to do so. Before lockdown started we all made the move home, and theatre has definitely followed suit. The Royal Shakespeare Company (through BBC’s Culture in Quarantine on BBC iPlayer) has given the world access to eight of its fantastic productions. Whether you’re a regular theatre-goer, a Shakespeare fanatic, or simply want something to watch other than Tiger King, you can head over to BBC iPlayer and watch any or all of the following: Macbeth; Hamlet; Romeo & Juliet; The Merchant of Venice; Othello; Much Ado About Nothing.
If none of those are to your liking then look no farther, because BBC iPlayer also currently hosts two of the Globe’s productions of Shakespeare plays – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest. As if that wasn’t enough already, the Globe is also making six productions available on Globe Player for free. You can watch Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and The Merry Wives of Windsor for free on a two-week rotation. The current play available for free is Romeo and Juliet, and is available until the 4th May 2020.
With Shakespeare occupying the spare bedroom, it’s hard to see how we can make room for any more theatre in our lives. However, needs must, and National Theatre has given us the gift of six fantastic plays via YouTube. Similarly to the Globe, National Theatre has put their plays on a one week rotation, with a new play starting every Thursday night at 7pm. Unfortunately you’ll have missed productions of One Man Two Guvnors and Jane Eyre, but you can still catch the others. The stream of Treasure Island sadly expires tonight, when a brilliant production of Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Greig begins its weekly takeover. Other plays in upcoming weeks include Frankenstein (starring Benedict Cumberbatch), and Anthony & Cleopatra (starring Ralph Fiennes).
So it seems quarantine does have its perks. Instead of paying extortionate prices for tickets and sitting in the same uncomfortable position for 2+ hours, we can watch our favourite plays from the comfort of our own homes. Other free theatre productions have been and gone online, and more are sure to follow, so keep your eyes open! And don’t forget, as students at the University of York we have access to Digital Theatre Plus and Box of Broadcasts, so by all means explore and get watching!
Featured Image by National Theatre