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Arts & Culture

Spotlights fail National Theatre in ‘Collaborators’

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

The good news is that the National Theatre Live's broadcasts of selected theatrical performances — analogous to the Metropolitan Opera's popular broadcasts in HD — have now arrived in San Antonio. Broadcasts are generally one-night stands on Thursdays at Regal Entertainment's Fiesta Stadium (12631 Vance Jackson) and Cielo Vista (2828 Cinema Ridge) locations for $20 a pop. Upcoming performances beamed "live" from Britain include new productions of some glorious classics — The Comedy of Errors and She Stoops to Conquer, among them — as well as premieres (Nicholas Wright's Traveling Light, comes to the Alamo City on February 9). The bad news is that National Theatre Live is still working out the kinks. Last Thursday's broadcast of The Collaborators — penned by Trainspotting script scribe John Hodge — was the first to be broadcast from the smaller Cottesloe Theatre where the production was performed in the round on Bob Crowley's angular, constructivist set. Unfortunately, the tight spotlights necessary for a successful black box production don't work well for film. Even for a cloak-and-dagger narrative about art and politics under Stalin, this was a murky broadcast, to the point of frustration. And that's a shame, because the play's an intriguing fantasia on the collaboration — in all sorts of senses — between dissident author Mikhail Bulgarov and megalomaniac Stalin, who leans on Bulgarov to compose state-sponsored art in exchange for artistic and personal freedom. There's excellent work by Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale as the artist and the tyrant, respectively, and Nicholas Hytner directs with brio (with plenty of dark, absurdist touches, in keeping with Bulgarov's own style). But you can't enjoy what you can't discern, and here's hoping that this spring's broadcasts from National Theatre's larger proscenium stages are as illuminated as they are illuminating. For more information, see:

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