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U.K.’s National Theatre to Broadcast Live Performance to Theatres

Jacob Coakley • Theatre Buzz • September 16, 2009

Michelle Terry as Helena, Oliver Ford Davies as The King Of France and George Rainsford as Bertram Photo by Simon Annand

LONDON— Marianne Elliott's highly-acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well at the National Theatre in London will be filmed live October 1 and broadcast by satellite to cinemas worldwide. All’s Well is the second play in the pilot season of NT Live, the National’s initiative which launched in June with the hugely successful broadcast of Phèdre with Helen Mirren, which was seen by 50,000 people in 19 countries around the globe.  All’s Well will be the first play broadcast from the largest of the National’s three theatres, the Olivier, with its fan-shaped auditorium and open stage.

“The hugely enthusiastic reaction of audiences around the world to the NT Live broadcast of Phèdre was thrilling,” says NT Director Nicholas Hytner.  “I’m confident that we have pioneered a new genre: not quite live theatre, certainly not cinema, but an exciting approximation of the real thing whose potential reach is limitless. It means we can reach tens of thousands of people in addition to our work in London and on tour.”

Set against a background of sexism, snobbery and a battle between the generations, All’s Well That Ends Well turns fairytale logic on its head in a wondrous, bittersweet story.   The feisty but lowly Helena falls in love with Bertram, a haughty count.  To gain his hand she is set a string of impossible tasks.  Even if accomplished, they can hardly guarantee his love.  He refuses to bed her and yet says he’ll only be hers if she bears his child; and he lusts after another.  Nevertheless, our heroine, whether wisely or no, refuses to give him up. The cast is led by Oliver Ford Davies (as the King of France), Clare Higgins (the Countess of Rossillion), Conleth Hill (Parolles), George Rainsford (Bertram) and Michelle Terry (Helena).

NT Live performances are filmed live at the National Theatre in high definition and broadcast via satellite to over 330 cinemas and performing arts centers around the world, live in Europe and some U.S. cities, and time-delayed in countries further afield. The performances at the National are nominated in advance to allow cameras greater freedom in the auditorium.  NT Live screenings in international venues, including the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia and Europe, are supported by Travelex, the world’s foreign exchange and business payments specialist.

The next two plays in the pilot season will be Nation, based on a novel by Terry Pratchett, adapted by Mark Ravenhill, to be filmed on January 30, 2010 (tickets on sale from September);  and Alan Bennett’s new play The Habit of Art with Michael Gambon, Alex Jennings and Frances de la Tour, on April 22, 2010.

For a list of participating locations and ticket information visit

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