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Not replacing live theatre, but reinventing it! The Theatre Channel undoubtedly fills the void that has been ever-growing since March this year. It is unmeasurably lovely to see the stars, the producers and the wider teams be able to come together and do what they do best… put on a show. As the fundraising scheme so succinctly puts it (please, if you can, look this up and donate whatever pennies you have to protect the arts): the show must go on! And this innovation has managed to bring to light proof, that beyond today’s theatrical turmoil, the industry can, will and must survive.
To detail a little about how it all works, The Theatre Channel is releasing ten themed episodes showcasing all things theatre, beginning today (2nd October) and then roughly every month with a confirmed four being released this side of Christmas. Each episode features a variety of stars, performing unique numbers that give a cinematographic spin to stage performance. These are available to purchase and download at £12 per episode and, once bought, each instalment is yours to keep and re-watch for a lifetime. Effectively, Bill Deamer and his team have brought the West End directly into your homes.
Notably, The Theatre Channel has one thing firmly at its heart – the space. Everything is centred around The Theatre Café itself; what is in normal times the central London hub for the West End has now become the digital hub for theatre. As director Deamer describes, they intend to make complete and full use of the site – roof, loos, it’s all up for grabs – and Episode 1 certainly does not disappoint on this front.
Specifically in relation to this episode and whether it’s worth splashing the cash…? I say absolutely. The best way to describe this is as a true, classic treat. From ‘The Café Four’, made up of four triple threat West-Enders, to each featured star, the standard is honestly immaculate. A couple of standouts from this week include Coffee in a Cardboard Cup (naturally set in the café), Lucie Jones’ Maybe This Time (an undeniably iconic tune) and Jenna Russell’s The Ladies Who Lunch (as a Sondheim classic, masterfully and comically delivered). The Theatre Channel presents us with the whole range: badass rooftop showstoppers, satirical sarcasm, theatrical dreaming, groove and just a touch of cheese. Each number is unique as its own standalone performance and all of them evidence why these people are renowned within the industry. What is particularly exciting is the cinematography, particularly with the use of the gimbal camera enhancing movement and introducing formation challenges and angles entirely unique to this style of theatre. Episode 1 is truly full of delightful performances, with something there to appeal to everyone and definitely satisfying the cravings of all theatre fans right now. I cannot recommend this enough and I will myself be awaiting the next release with eager anticipation.
One final thing… importantly, as Michael England said today in the Q&A, let’s not devalue what it is that we do (or love). Theatre is an invaluable discipline and through innovations such as this one it will not only survive through adaptation, but absolutely flourish in the face of adversity!