Streaming ‘to become permanent feature of how audiences access theatre’

Tom Horton, PA
·2-min read

Online streaming of theatre performances could become a “permanent feature” of how shows are presented to audiences, according to the boss of a theatre publication.

Broadcasting performances online can help increase the reach of productions so they are seen by people who do not normally engage with theatre, WhatsOnStage chief operating officer Sita McIntosh said.

She was speaking ahead of the 21st annual WhatsOnStage Awards on Sunday, which will celebrate success in the theatre industry.

Coronavirus
(John Walton/PA)

A number of theatres including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic moved to staging online performances amid the coronavirus pandemic.

McIntosh told the PA news agency: “It was an emergency, it was a reaction to what was going on, but what it’s also thrown up is that people who couldn’t ordinarily access shows and can now, I think moving forward, we have got to incorporate that, we have got to use that as a way of increasing the reach of theatre.”

She added: “People want to see it live, I personally would always prefer a live experience of sitting next to somebody and feeling that palpable tension in the air.

“But once that show’s over and they have moved on to the next show, maybe there’s an option then to put that show out in a streaming version.

“Maybe it’s sold out or maybe you just live too far away, or maybe you can’t afford the price of physically being there, but you still have a chance to see it.

“That’s, I think, how we will move forward.”

Coronavirus
(John Walton/PA)

Sunday’s WhatsOnStage Awards will be hosted by actress Jodie Prenger and actor Tom Read Wilson.

It will feature performances from West End musicals and theatre shows.

McIntosh said the mood in the theatre industry is “really quite optimistic” after a difficult year ahead of the ceremony as there is now hope that theatres will be able to put on full programmes of performances before too long.

The virtual ceremony, which is being broadcast from the Turbine Theatre, can be watched at stream.theatre/WOSA2021.

Tickets for the ceremony cost £21.