Spotlight on the National Theatre Collection

From The National Theatre Collection Website.

The National Theatre Collection is a fantastic platform featuring 40 recorded productions ranging from Greek classics to literary adaptations. You have all the staples with Macbeth, Othello, The Cherry Orchard to name a few, as well as some of the National’s more recent hits such as Barber Shop Chronicles. A further 10 titles have come to the platform in February. 

Many of these productions have accompanying written and filmed learning resources that include rehearsal diaries, archive materials and interviews with cast and creative team. 

When studying a play, one of the main problems I find is trying to visualise the performance. You may be able to understand the play from a literary standpoint, but since theatre is a visual medium, something is lost when trying to analyse a play solely from its script. 

Another thing I always hated was trying to find primary and secondary sources that tie into your argument and analysis, often leaving you trawling through the library catalogue in the hopes of finding something that relates to the themes you want to discuss. 

I would often find myself skimming through books in the hope the author mentions the theme I wanted to discuss in reference to the play I was analysing, only to reach the end with neither being mentioned together. 

The National Theatre Collection helps solve and alleviate many of these problems. 

Everything you need to critique and understand the plays, from an academic perspective, is all in one place. A vast number of the plays within the catalogue have accompanying supplementary material, which really allows you to delve deeper into the plays. 

The recordings of the plays are fantastically produced and help to capture some of the atmosphere of the performances that you would have had in the audience. This in turn helps you to visualise how certain scenes play out as well as the use of direction, set design, lighting and costume, all elements that you simply do not get from just reading the script. 

Once you have clicked on a play, the additional learning resources are located just underneath the viewing window, giving you a central location to engage with these materials without having to fish around and search for them. In addition, to the left of the viewing window you have a breakdown of the ‘Genre and Form’, ‘Period (First Performed)’, ‘Themes’, and ‘Setting’, with these categories not only providing more insight into the context of the play but enabling you to click on them to find other plays which are similar to the specific subcategory and thus further providing you with a point of comparison. 

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Under this category breakdown is a list of related content, making it even easier to collate your sources and research in one place, as well as a link to more learning resources. Lastly, there is a full cast and crew list so that you can refer to specific individuals should you want to comment on an actor or an aspect of the creative design within your analysis. 

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For instance, Othello features an interview with the director Nicholas Hytner in which he discusses the various themes of the play and some of the decisions taken in adapting the play for a contemporary audience. 

In addition, there is a character breakdown of Iago and Othello by their respective actors, discussing some of their interpretations of the characters they portray. 

Lastly, there is also a feature on ‘Emilia and Desdemona: Women in Othello’, another incredibly useful thematic reference material for analysing the plays, particularly if you wanted to do a feminist reading of the production.  

All these resources have accompanying transcripts with them which makes referencing really easy as you can directly quote from the transcript. 

As a comparative literature student, this platform is great for visualising various plays as well as providing a launch pad to discuss wider themes of comparison with other plays through the ‘Subjects’ section. The platform boasts a couple of the plays we study from Brian Friel’s Translations for ‘The Scene of Learning’ to Romeo and Juliet for ‘To Be Continued: Adaptations of Global Literary Classics’, and with the National Theatre constantly adding to the catalogue, the options available to you will only become greater. 

No matter whether you are a literature student, drama student or just someone who wants to watch quality theatre, this platform is fantastic for everyone. 

So how do you access all this for free using your QM login?

  1. Go to Google and search National Theatre Collection
  2. Click on the link from the website Drama online library or alternatively follow the link here:
  3. Once on the page, click on the Pantheon symbol in the top right corner titled ‘Log in’
  4. Under ‘Helpful Tips’ click on the link to ‘Shibboleth Login Page’
  5. Type Queen Mary University of London into the institution search bar then you will see the familiar QMUL log in portal
  6. Once you’ve done that, you are set to browse the collection to your heart’s content. If a play has additional resources, it’ll appear underneath the viewing window.

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