I am somewhat amazed that today was the first time I have attended any NTLive or similar screening. I guess the reason is that live theatre allows you to choose where to look on stage - whereas any broadcast version is going to be filtered by decisions made by the screen director. For me, that is a crucial difference - but thankfully it did not particularly spoil my enjoyment of this impressive production of a very important play.
Kushner's play is both epic and domestic in scope. The themes are huge - tackling the early days of the AIDS crisis, life in Reagan's America, climate change and many, many other vital issues. However the canvas is mainly small scale - small scenes played out in offices and homes, hospital rooms and New York streets. It is a massively ambitious script and one that has always satisfied me on a whole range of levels. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important scripts of the past 30 years.
Marianne Elliot's production does more than justice to the script. She draws out some extraordinary performances from the cast of 8 and sustains audience engagement throughout the 220 minute run-time. Scene transitions are smooth and there are some wonderful unexpected moments which delight and shock in equal measure.
The strength of the production is in the cast. I had reservations about the casting of Andrew Garfield as Prior - but he is a revelation. I can imagine it being an award-winning performance. Russell Tovey impresses as the buttoned up Joe Pitt - conveying his inner torment with great subtlety. Nathan Lane is brilliant as Roy Cohn, just as Denise Gough shines as Harper. The whole cast deliver top notch performances.
For all the positives of the production and the performances, my experience at the Phoenix was less than perfect. They had technical issues throughout and there were many moments when the noise of the adjacent screening of Dunkirk permeated through the walls. They are about to start a major refurb so hopefully these issues will be addressed as part of that. Kudos to the management for acknowledging the problems and providing patrons with free ticket to a future screening.
Anyway, I will probably not be as reluctant to attend a future Live event - they do offer a great way to see major productions you otherwise would have to miss.