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The National Theatre, London, has established a wonderful method to reach a greater audience by broadcasting live performances to cinemas around the world. I was fortunate to live in one of the four German cities included in this programme. On January 17, 2013 Arthur Wing Pinero’s farce "The Magistrate" was broadcast, starring John Lithgow.

"The Magistrate" is set in Victorian London. When the widowed Agatha Posket (Nancy Carroll) meets a respectable magistrate (John Lithgow) and agrees to marry him, she knocks five years off her age. In consequence, her 19-year-old son, Cis (Joshua McGuire), is made to pass for an unusually forward 14-year-old.

And this has unfortunate repercussions when the smoking, gambling Cis takes his upright stepfather for a dinner to a slightly shady hotel only to find his mother and aunt turning up at the same establishment. A police raid on the place forces the magistrate to make a narrow escape. When he turns up at court the next morning, battered and bruised, he has to pass judgement on his partners in crime which turn out to be his wife and sister-in-law.

I’ve known John Lithgow from the comedy show "Third Rock from the Sun", which I enjoyed very much. He didn’t disappoint my expectations on stage. He was outright funny in the role of the Magistrate with perfect timing for the punchlines. Nancy Carroll was also wonderful as the wife who ends up in distress by her own doing.

The stage design was marvellous. The four sets were arranged like a pop-up book and there were musical interludes while the stage was switched to the next set.

During intermission a short film was shown about the rehearsals and preparation of the play. While that offered interesting background information, it also showed parts from the second act, which gave way a bit of the surprises yet to come. There was also wine and snacks offered in the lobby during intermission just as if you were really attending the theatre. Overall, a great opportunity to experience British theatre without having to travel.

The next play that will be broadcast live is Alan Bennett’s "People" on March 21, 2013. I’ll probably go again.


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