Following another review in The Saturday Paper, I looked up online a play that is part of the UK’s National Theatre At Home subscription streaming service.
The play I was interested in is All Of Us, which tells the story of Jess, a woman who is a therapist, has a doctorate in psychology and has cerebral palsy. In the course of the play, her independence, ability to work, and overall quality of life is severely and negatively affected by government reviews calculated to stop disability fraud.
The lead role is performed by Francesca Martinez, who wrote the play and has CP herself. She is supported by a cast that includes several disabled actors in the roles of other disabled characters. More details, including a one minute trailer are at https://www.ntathome.com/products/all-of-us.
NT At Home gives subscribers access to filmed live performances of plays like this for an annual fee of $189.95 a year or $18.95 a month. At first, I thought the price was prohibitive but then I compared it to buying a book or an album, so I thought I’d give the monthly access a shot. At worst, I’d have paid nineteen bucks to watch what sounded like an interesting play, relevant to my work and life.
Having now watched All Of Us, I’d make three points.
The play is brilliant. I think it is probably the best written, performed and produced piece I’ve ever seen about living with disability, and I’ve seen – and even been in – quite a lot. It pulls no punches in accurately portraying life for disabled people: employment, accommodation, sexuality, independence, discrimination, ableism – it’s all there. It’s funny, sad, horrifying, bitter, inspirational, despairing and immensely moving. It’s like Australia’s horror stories of the NDIS and Robodebt rolled into one. It’s theatrically innovative and dynamic in its writing, design, production and performance. It alone was completely worth the monthly subscription fee (it’s also possible to rent just one play for 3 days for $14.95).
The play was superbly filmed. This is not the old single camera at the back of the theatre. The production values of the filming well matched the quality of the play and the performances. In that sense, the video was as well directed as the play.
I now have access, for a month, to all the other National Theatre productions on offer. They each have a limited time of availability and currently include Kit Harrington in Henry V, Jodie Comer in Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle, Gillian Anderson in All About Eve, Ralph Fiennes in Antony & Cleopatra, Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart in Pinter’s No Man’s Land, Angels in America, Under Milk Wood, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Amadeus and many, many more. All are available with captions and many with audio description or British Sign Language.
I don’t know that I’ll go for the annual subscription – it’s a lot of cash in one go – but I can see myself taking up a monthly sub every few months to binge on some excellent British theatre, or renting an individual play that takes my fancy, especially if the productions are as brilliant as All Of Us.