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Hottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online

Chris Wiegand Stage editor
·39 min read

The Secret Society of Leading Ladies

Choose your own musical theatre lineup with this neat concept by the Barn theatre’s Ryan Carter, allowing the viewer to curate a concert from a selection of showtunes sung by different performers. There are bangers and ballads from musicals including Into the Woods, Waitress and Chicago. So you might follow leather-clad Allie Daniel’s Mean Girls number with Kayla Carter’s gingham-sporting Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. There must be a hellish spreadsheet behind it all, but the result is a breezy bit of fun for anyone missing musicals. The barnstormer is Natalie Kassanga in the role of Coco from Fame. Available until 7 March.

Love in the Lockdown

Rachael Stirling and Alec Newman star in Clare Norburn’s pandemic romance, told in a series of episodes on YouTube. Stirling plays a musician and Newman is cast as a playwright; as well as embarking on a relationship their characters are collaborating on an adaptation of The Decameron. There’s music from soprano Norburn’s ensemble the Telling and a cameo from Jon Culshaw as Boris Johnson. Episodes released on YouTube from 4 March to 23 May.


Jack Holden stars in his own one-man play set in Soho in the 80s against the backdrop of the Aids crisis. Directed by Bronagh Lagan and filmed at Shoreditch Town Hall, with an electro soundtrack from John Elliott, it is inspired by a true story Holden heard while he was volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBT+ listening service. On Stream.Theatre from 15–25 April.

The Great Gatsby

Bristol’s Wardrobe Ensemble and Wardrobe theatre celebrate their 10th anniversary with a two-woman retelling of F Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz-age classic. Tamsin Hurtado Clarke and Jesse Meadows star in director Tom Brennan’s production, designed by Katie Sykes. You’ll have to mix your own cocktails. 1-31 March.

Teddy Bears’ Picnic

Last summer, the enterprising Engine House Theatre made York’s Rowntree Park their stage for a season of outdoor productions, including this family show performed by Cassie Vallance. Designed for the over-threes it comes with a make-your-own-teddy-bear video to keep you busy after it’s over. 26 February to 7 March.

One Hand Tied Behind Us

The Old Vic celebrates International Women’s Day by rereleasing, from 1-4 March, a selection of the monologues curated by Maxine Peake in 2018 to mark 100 years since the Representation of the People Act. The pieces are written by Peake, Ella Hickson, Kit de Waal and Jeanette Winterson. There are also two new monologues, available from 8 March: standup Kiri Pritchard-McLean’s Putting a Face On is about gaslighting and stars Susan Wokoma, while Regina Taylor’s Aisha (the black album) traces the history of black women’s political power and is performed by Jade Anouka.


Richmond’s Orange Tree theatre makes its first venture into livestreaming with half a dozen short plays performed in its auditorium. The first three, written by Deborah Bruce, Joel Tan and Joe White, focus on the theme of “inside” and will be online 25–27 March. A second trio, by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Zoe Cooper and Kalungi Ssebandeke, look at life “outside”, from 15–17 April.

Musicals: The Greatest Show

With dozens of stars and thousands of spotlights, Sheridan Smith hosts a celebration of musical theatre at the London Palladium. Smith performs Don’t Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl, the queens of West End smash-hit Six perform in the balcony and there are songs from Dear Evan Hansen, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Dreamgirls and more, plus Nicole Scherzinger (in rather fabulous earrings) beams in from LA with a brilliant rendition of Never Enough from The Greatest Showman. Available all year on BBC iPlayer.

Barnes’ People

He is best known for The Ruling Class but many of Peter Barnes’s plays are overdue a revival; so here’s an attractive proposition from Original Theatre Company and Perfectly Normal Productions. It’s a set of four monologues Barnes wrote for Radio 3 in the 1980s and includes True Born Englishman, about a Buckingham Palace footman, which was never aired by the BBC and now gets its world premiere. Filmed on stage at the Theatre Royal Windsor, the monologues are performed by Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave and Adrian Scarborough. Streaming until 31 July. Read the full review.

The Band Plays On

Sheffield Theatres presents “stories of solidarity and survival from the Steel City” written by Chris Bush and accompanied by new versions of songs by some of Sheffield’s best musicians. Filmed at the Crucible theatre, the show stars Anna-Jane Casey, Maimuna Memon, Sandra Marvin, Jocasta Almgill and Jodie Prenger. Available 15-28 March.

Crips Without Constraints: Part Two

Graeae’s Crips Without Constraints was one of the best series of lockdown shorts in 2020 and the company is back with a new set of five videos by disabled writers and directors. All of the films are captioned and audio-described. On Thursdays, accompanying vodcasts are released to explore the themes in that week’s play. The first film, How Do You Make a Cup of Tea? by Kellan Frankland, stars Harriet Walter and Mandy Colleran. In the vodcast, the actors Nadia Nadarajah and Sophie Stone discuss casting and authenticity in theatre. Later videos star Naomi Wirthner, Julie Graham and Sharon D Clarke. Available until 23 May. Read the full review.

The Color Purple

Leicester’s Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome remount their soaring 2019 musical based on Alice Walker’s landmark epistolary novel. This concert version is again directed by Tinuke Craig and stars T’Shan Williams as Celie, the young woman who writes letters to God about the abuse she has experienced. Until 7 March.


In Lolita Chakrabarti’s new play two men meet at a funeral and their family lives become entangled. The Almeida’s production, directed by Blanche McIntyre, designed by Miriam Buether and starring Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani, was due to open for socially distanced audiences at the Almeida at the end of January but was live-streamed instead. It’s now available on demand from 3-9 March. Read the full review.

Wild Time

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the Shakespeares that’s done to death but you’ll have never encountered it quite like this. Rose Biggin and Keir Cooper have created a theatrical novel from the play, promising “humour, mythology and erotic acrobatics on an astronomical scale”. If you purchase a conull