As we enter what we hope might be the final stretch of lockdown there’s still plenty of online entertainment around.
Find out how to become part of a ‘virtual’ audience for a top BBC TV or radio show. Join the likes of Dame Maggie Smith and Hollywood star Kathleen Turner for an online chat, or enjoy new musicals and plays from some of the top theatres around the country. You can watch operas filmed in the Royal Opera House – or a Kensington antique shop. There are free – and paid for – activities to keep the kids occupied during the holidays.
Pam O’Toole examines some of the options available – starting with a slew of St Patrick’s Day celebrations on Wednesday 17 March from London to Dublin to California.
Online things to do March 2021
by Pam O’Toole
St Paddy’s Day certainly won’t be the same this year, . No elbowing for standing space in the crowds around Trafalgar Square to hear the big St Paddy’s Day Concert. No big parades. No squashing into the Irish Centre in Hammersmith and queuing for ages for a pint before jigging along to live music. But there are other (virtual) options. Some of them local, some in completely different time zones. So open a can of Guinness and prepare to celebrate!
The London Irish Centre
The London Irish centre in North London is leading this year’s online events in the UK, with a livestream starting at 4pm on Wednesday with three hours of Irish storytelling, film, dance and music. The live show starts at 7pm, when presenter Angela Scanlon will host conversations with Irish celebrities. It wraps up with an Irish traditional music session with musicians playing from their homes.
Image above: a St Patrick’s Day baloon
The Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith
Our local Irish Centre just off Hammersmith Broadway has a series of musical events this week
And there’s a special traditional session, filmed in the Irish Cultural Centre, for the big day itself, which will be available to view from 16 March. See below.
St Paddy’s further afield
There’s a six day online festival with a wide range of events – and which has its own TV channel!
Image above: The Black Brothers
California – The Black Brothers
And from California come St Paddy’s Day gigs from The Black Brothers, Shay and Michael. They’re part of the musical Black Family, which also includes Mary, Frances and Martin, and has been described as “one of the most important musical clans in Ireland”. One of the two gigs at 11am Pacific (early evening our time), is clearly aimed at a European audience. One “pay what you can” donation (minimum $10) secures you tickets to both, although you’re unlikely to attend the second one, as it’s after midnight UK time. And yes, I’ve checked, and you CAN pay with a UK credit card. You can expect a rip roaring set from Shay and Michael. The set list and lyrics are available on their website.
Note: Because the US seems to have entered Daylight Savings last weekend, it looks as if California will be seven hours behind us, rather than the usual eight (at least until our clocks go forward later this month). But maths was never my strong suit – so check if you book!
Free on YouTube
If you haven’t come across the Letters Live series yet, I’d highly recommend it. These archive recordings from iconic venues like the Union Chapel and Freemasons’ Hall have star names reading brilliant letters; some touching, others absolutely hilarious. Most recently uploaded is a special compilation for International Women’s Day starring Olivia Coleman, Gillian Anderson, Daisy Ridley and Caitlin Moran. I laughed myself silly at Olivia Colman’s reading, just under 40 minutes in…
Note – adult themes make it unsuitable for children.
The Letters Live YouTube channel also has other archive events featuring readings from stars including Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Carr, Claire Foy, Sue Perkins, Jude Law and music from the likes of Nick Cave.
Shakespeare’s Globe/ Sam Wanamaker Theatre
Dead Poets Live: Black March
Award-winning actress Juliet Stevenson reads the works of Stevie Smith in a Dead Poets Live event to mark the 50th anniversary of Smith’s death.
Filmed in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, this one hour reading draws on Smith’s poems, prose and letters and includes her own illustrations. It features her most famous poem, “Not Waving, but Drowning”. Available on demand until 5 April. Free, but donations to The Globe gratefully received.
Image above: Telling Tales promotional artwork – Globe website
The Globe for children
The Globe Theatre online is offering Easter holiday Shakespeare events for children, ranging from storytelling to puppetry to workshops. Led by actors, directors and teachers, and catering for ages 3 -12+
Various dates from late March until mid-April. Prices from £20.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
For one night only on 31 March – a livestream rehearsed reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) and Golden Globe award nominee Rebecca Hall. Tickets £10 per household.
Dream (Free/ donation welcome)
The 50 minute production of Dream promises to be “a shared experience between remote audience members and the seven actors who play Puck and the sprites. You can choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or to watch the performance for free”
Images above: Pirates of Penzance promotional artwork
Stream has a raft of online offerings. Here’s my pick:
Musicals include a return of Sasha Regan’s barnstorming all-male Pirates of Penzance – a joyous evening’s entertainment. Highly recommended. 29 March -5 April. £18.
Frankie’s Guys brings together eight leading West End performers in a band voted Britain’s best tribute of 2020. Their celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is live-streamed from the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft.
See trailer here stream.theatre/video
BKYLN the Musical this play within a play is an urban fairy tale as told by a group of New York street performers. First performed in New York.
22 March – 4 April.
Scaramouche Jones with Shane Richie of EastEnders fame taking on the role made famous by Pete Postlethwaite. This play follows the extraordinary fortunes of one man, shaped by the tides of 20th century history. It’s from Ginger Quiff Media, which recently streamed Dame Maureen Lipman as Rose and Juliet Stevenson in Little Wars – both highly recommended productions. 26 March -11 April. £18
Documentaries on the making of theatrical shows include In the Company of Actors which follows Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving in New York as they prepare to open in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Hedda Gabler. £3.99
Images above: The Velveteen Rabbit promotional artwork
Grimmz Fairy Tales The traditional stories get a hip hop spin. Suitable for ages 8+. On demand until 31 March. £15.
Pongo’s Party The children’s show is now streaming online, featuring Justin Fletcher as the voice of Pongo the Pig. Available on demand until 31 March. £12.99
The Velveteen Rabbit About the love that grows up between a little boy and an old fashioned Christmas gift. On demand until 31 March £15.00.
A Splinter of Ice
Political drama, set in Moscow in the final years of the Cold War. British novelist Graham Greene meets his old MI6 boss, Kim Philby, Britain’s greatest spy – and traitor.
Starring Oliver Ford Davies, it’s penned by Ben Brown, whose award winning West End play Three Days in May inspired the Oscar-winning film, Darkest Hour. Filmed onstage at the Cheltenham Everyman. Tickets £20.
15 April – 31 July
Four theatrical monologues starring Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave and Adrian Scarborough. The Evening Standard reckons Barnes’ monologues are “even better than Alan Bennett’s.”
I like the sound of A True Born Englishman, starring Adrian Scarborough. Billed as a “world premiere”, it tells the story of a footman at Buckingham Palace who decides, after 30 years, to spill his secrets…
Duration: around 20 minutes per monologue. Tickets £7.50 per monologue (or you can opt to buy a package). Until 31 July.
Image above: Inside the Royal Albert Hall
Emilia, the triple Olivier award- winning play, is running again on Original Theatre until 31 March. It’s based on the story of Emilia Bassano, said to be the first woman in England to assert herself as a poet back in Shakespearean times, and who was possibly the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The subject matter may sound a bit dry, but Emilia is a joyous experience and its all-female cast an inspiration. Payment is what you can afford – anything from £5 up.
Royal Opera House
This filmed version of Mozart’s comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro, is available to stream on demand until 4 April for just £3.
Opera in a Kensington Clock Shop!
FREE Grange Park Opera has no less than 19 free events online in what it calls its “Interim Season”. Its latest offering, available from 20 March, is Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole. It was filmed in and around an antique clock shop on Kensington Church St. Watch this trailer for a behind-the-scenes look at the filming process, including shots of the famous Sally Clarke’s deli and café.
Free theatrical offerings
The Theatre Royal Bath is offering the farce “What the Butler Saw” by Joe Orton as an interim show during lockdown, starring Rufus Hound. A co-production with the Leicester Curve Theatre, it’s a filmed version of a stage production.
Note: What the Butler Saw was not originally intended for online streaming. The sound is a bit quiet – but the theatre has helpfully provided subtitles
Image above: Watermans Brentford
Local online offerings
Watermans in Brentford is offering Myths and Adventures from Ancient Greece.
Free. Available online until 15 April
See a trailer here.
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
The Orange Tree is launching its first live streamed performances – a series of world premiere short plays by six emerging and established writers. The plays tell stories of “estrangement and loneliness, connection and redemption, despair in confinement to hope found in life outdoors”. The first tranche of three plays run from 25-27 March, the second from 15-17 April. They can be watched separately – or save 20 per cent when you book them all at the same time.
Early Bird tickets only £10 until 18 March.
Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
Films, yoga and drama club
Riverside is offering three independent films which have received rave reviews – the award-winning animation Away plus Falling, and Luxor. Riverside receives part of the rental income from these films.
Plus it’s offering yoga classes every Tuesday at 10am and Cat’s Whiskers, an adult drama club for the over-50s. These classes are free, but donations are welcome.
Fane continues to offer some top-notch names “in conversation” online, rolling on until the autumn. If you’re very quick you can catch Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. tonight, 16 March ( once purchased, available to view for a week), book slightly ahead for Dame Maggie Smith and Kathleen Turner or Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi in April, or way ahead for a Hollywood actor Stanley Tucci, live-streaming from the London Palladium in October.
From 24-31 March, Fane is also offering Black Matters, a musical event with Giles Terera, Olivier-award winning star of Hamilton. It’s a cycle of songs inspired by the view from Terera’s Soho apartment during lockdown.
Join a virtual BBC audience
The Beeb’s looking for people to join the (virtual) audience for live or pre-recordings of a wide variety of TV and radio shows. You have to register your interest and audience members are then selected by random ballot. Radio shows on offer include Jay Rayner’s cookery show Kitchen Cabinet, Punt and Dennis in The Now Show, Gardeners’ Question Time or The Blame Game.
You can even have the chance to be part of BBC TV’s Red Nose Day/ Comic Relief events, for which you have to leave your computer camera on to allow the Beeb to record your reactions. Note – you’ll have to be VERY quick off the mark to apply to join the TV Comic Relief/ Red Nose Day events – registration for these closes on 16 March at midday!
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