Sky Arts Theatre Live

Sky Arts Theatre LiveWhile I was at Hay on Wye for the literary festival I was introduced to the world of Sky Arts. This is the Sky empire’s version of BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC 4 TV. It’s solid and considered arts programming across two channels and one HD channel. Ok some of you may scoff at the idea of Sky and the arts being used in the same opening paragraph. It’s been a bit hit and miss so far, but more and more hits. As broadcast sponsor of the festival there was a daily roundup with Mariella Frostrup and a quiz with Sandi Toksvig, so all good.

This led me to the website for SkyArts as I wanted to check out their future programming, I’d since found both channels hiding in the upper reaches of my digibox. Anyhow, I found the project Sky Arts Theatre Live – again a Sandi Toksvig project. Now I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time so had high hopes for this venture.

Here’s the premise. A published writer (who’s never written a play) is asked to write a new 27 minute play, they’re allowed one set and 4 actors. It will then be performed live, with a small audience in the thúdio (theatre/studio) and broadcast live at the same time. So no second takes and a restricted use of cameras and effects. Now legend has it that this hasn’t been done in the UK for nigh on 20 years, think Play for Today if you can remember that far back. It has however been done elsewhere, I can remember a West Wing where Alan Alda and Jimmy Smitts did the presidential debate in the last season live, actually twice, once for each coast.

I entered a competition for ‘opening night’ tickets and lo and behold found myself on the train out to to the wastes of Osterley.

Siobhan RedmondOverall it was really impressive, there were hesitant, seat of your pants moments but the poet Jackie Kay delieved a new and interesting 30 or so minutes of engaging and magical drama. I hope it will be a success and they’ll get a second season beyond the initial six.

As an extra bonus the first featured the brilliant Siobhan Redmond, who I’ve admired ever since Between the Lines.

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