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Drama Online: Where All the World's a Stage

Containing collections of filmed live performances from leading theatres such as the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe, Drama Online is created and curated to transform your classroom experience of theatre.

Following a trial during the Circuit Breaker period, NIE Library subscribed to Drama Online which includes access to several video collections vital to the learning experience in theatre and drama.

We reached out to Assistant Professor Marcus Tan from VPA for his insight and expert opinion on how resources on Drama Online can benefit students and supplement classroom learning.

A Substitute For Live Theatre Performances

The suspension of live performances due to COVID-19 has become a hindrance to theatre and drama students whose courses require that they examine live performances. Asst Prof Tan explains that attending a live performance after instruction will be a striking experience for students who are then able to interpret theatre with “(new) learned eyes” now that they are able to “analyse performance with frames they have learnt in class”, which in itself is “a significant part of their learning experience”.

Considering current circumstances, Asst Prof Tan thinks that the availability of full, high-quality recordings of renowned productions on Drama Online has proven to be “an invaluable teaching tool”.

All That Glisters is Not Gold

Complimentary video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo may be the universal tried-and-true video platforms used to discover videos of all kinds. However, YouTube and Vimeo as alternative sources prove to be “an inferior experience” compared to the professionally shot video recordings available on Drama Online, especially as complimentary video platforms “never contain the full run of any performance; it’s only ever able to give a ‘glimpse’ of what the full performance is like.”

So, what content is noteworthy on Drama Online?

We asked Asst Prof Tan what's of note on Drama Online and below is his shortlist of highlights:

  • Older broadcasts from the “National Theatre Live” series which were recorded for archival purposes are now available in The National Theatre collection.

  • An archive of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) past live productions

  • The critically acclaimed production of ‘Frankenstein’, directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch

  • The award-winning British Television film series, ‘The Hollow Crown’ featuring a star-studded cast such as British actors Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Judi Dench

  • For those who are not keen on Shakespeare plays, ‘The Cherry Orchard’, ‘Medea’ and ‘Frankenstein’ from the National Theatre Collection are Asst Prof Tan’s personal picks. If you love ‘Frankenstein’, Drama Online offers two versions, both of which are highly recommended.

For the average drama and theatre student, many of the videos on Drama Online are either difficult to obtain or expensive to purchase. More importantly, access to complete, live recordings of world-class performances from U.K., U.S. and parts of Europe is a rare treat for our students who will greatly “benefit from all the characteristics of viewing a video at one’s own time, including re-watching scenes or sequences. This is surely useful when analysing performances for research and writing.” The transcription function on the platform also allows users to track and analyse performances with greater ease.

Besides theatre students and lecturers, the video content will be very helpful to those in Literature and Humanities courses. For theatre aficionados, they can now stream and enjoy “some of the most notable performances in recent times” from the comfort of their own homes.

At present, NIE Library has subscribed to eight video collections on Drama Online: National Theatre Collection, Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen 1 and 2, Stage on Screen, The Classic Spring Oscar Wilde Collection, The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy on Screen, The Hollow Crown series, and The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Live Collection.

View the clip below for the complete list of performances available.

With performances ranging from comedies to tragedies; solo to epic; historical to contemporary, there are plenty of stunning plays to discover on the platform for anyone who enjoys theatre.

Additional Resources on Theatre and Drama

In addition to Drama Online, students and researchers may also find the following databases useful:

Academic Video Online (AVON) is a multi-disciplinary video database with over 67,000 streaming videos curated for educational use. Its Theatre Channel contains over 900 videos and video samples on performing arts.

Digital Theatre Plus (NTU Subscription) is another video library that compliments Drama Online’s collections as “there are video[s] of other world-class productions such as Complicite and Simon McBurney’s A Disappearing Number in the archive”.

JSTOR (NTU Subscription) is a digital library for scholarly journal titles, books and primary sources. NIE Library currently offers access to the Arts and Sciences I-V Collections, which includes 26 scholarly journal titles and over 1,000 academic books on the performing arts. This is a “‘go-to’ database that all theatre students should be familiar with”.

Start streaming our newest collections of world-class theatre performances by accessing Drama Online here.

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