Giving The Experience

By Kevin Gibbons

I’ve known my friend Paul for 28 years. He’s is far and away my closest friend. He also has very eclectic interests and tastes. So finding a birthday present for him every year can be extremely challenging.

Because of our shared interest in Historical European Martial Arts, in the past, I have given him books and even historical weapons. Unfortunately, his collection of both has become large and specialized, that finding appropriate items is now very challenging.

This year, a friend and I decided to try something different. Paul has always enjoyed Tom Stoddard’s 1966 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The 1990 film was our introduction to both Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. I received an advertisement that the British National Theatre was distributing a video of a live performance of the play, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. This was a recording of the live play being performed at the historic Old Vic Theatre in London. Here was a chance to see one of his favorite plays, with world-acclaimed performers, in one of the most celebrated theaters in the world, all for the price of a single movie ticket!

We agreed on a date for a showing at the Landmark Aquarius Theater in Palo Alto (an historic venue in its own right) and reserved our seats for a Sunday afternoon showing. The movie/play started with a “behind the scenes” tour led by Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. You could feel their excitement and reverence at the opportunity to perform on such a famous stage. We saw the details of the old building, inside and out, learned about the rehearsal process, the staging, even the costuming. Then it was time for the show!

As I said, this was a filming of the actual play. We saw the audience arriving, taking their seats, the curtain going up and then watched the play from the equivalent of the best seats in the house. The filming was unobtrusive and really captured the angles and views as if you were in the audience.

A quick check of the Old Vic website indicates that premium seats go for about $160 each. Then factor in air fare to London, hotel and food! However, our tickets cost us only $14 each. Even paying for lunch and beers at Paul’s favorite local brew pub kept this at an incredible bargain!

England’s National Theatre Live started in 2009, broadcasting and recording live theatre productions from a variety of UK theatres. These are world-class productions, with major stars. Benedict Cumberbatch starred in live versions of Hamlet in 2015 and Frankenstein in 2011.

The productions are aired at movie theaters all over the world. In the US, you can find them at art house theaters, although sometimes, major chains will show certain events if they think the actors are popular enough to justify the expense.

Check out the upcoming shows at National Theater Live and find a participating theater near you.

Other venues also offering similar features include:

And remember, when thinking about gifts for people, sharing experiences and time together is often more valuable than the most expensive sword or fighting manual.