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Theater comes to the screen

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-25 07:30

Anastasia Hille and Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese cinemagoers will soon have diverse offerings that go beyond films.

The new season of the theater live program, New Live in China, announced by Beijing-based company, ATW Culture, on June 20 will bring 58 productions from different genres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and France to cinemas across the country.

The highlights will be William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar featuring British actor Ben Whishaw, filmed by the National Theatre Live at the Bridge Theatre in London; the Olivier Award-winning Royal Court Theatre production of writer-director Martin McDonagh's Hangmen; the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's contemporary production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, featuring British actor Christopher Eccleston in the title role and Irish actress Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth; and Stage Russia's production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters with a cast who only communicate in sign language.

Since 2015, New Live in China, supported by the British Council, has been offered to Chinese viewers by ATW Culture, the main distributor of Britain's National Theater Live in the country.

And, so far, the project, known as NT Live, or National Theater Live, which was launched in June 2009 with the broadcast of the National Theatre production of Phedre, starring Helen Mirren, has broadcast numerous stage productions to cinemas around the world, including War Horse and Frankenstein.

The project first came to China in June 2012 when it broadcast Frankenstein, starring actor Benedict Cumberbatch, at Beijing's MOMA Broadway Cinema.

Meanwhile, popular NT Live productions, including Shakespeare's Hamlet featuring Cumberbatch in the title role, and No Man's Land, which has Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart share the stage, will return to cinemas this year. And, besides popular plays, New Live in China will offer opera and ballet productions to Chinese cinemagoers for the first time.

Audiences will be able to see five opera productions by the Royal Opera House Cinema, including Carmen, The Nutcracker and Tosca; and five ballets by the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, including Giselle choreographed by Akram Khan and designed by award-winning artist Tim Yip, Romeo and Juliet and La Traviata.

Among the other highlights are Tony Award-winning Broadway musical An American in Paris and French romantic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac.

According to Li Chongzhou, the CEO of ATW Culture, so far 76 theater productions in total from international distributors, such as NT Live, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Broadway HD and Stage Russia, have been screened at 58 venues in 24 cities across the country.

And, besides cinemas, 16 plays by Shakespeare's Globe have been aired online through iQiyi, a major online streaming platform in China, to enable viewers to get easier access to a theater experience.

"Broadcast allows audiences to watch theater being performed on the other side of the world," says Li. "And we are hopefully attracting a new generation of fans and bringing more theater productions to a movie screen near you."

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