Teaching Shakespeare at the Live Cinema Broadcast


  • Peter Kirwan Mary Baldwin University


live theatre broadcast, cinema, Shakespeare, performance analysis


Since the 2009 broadcast of the National Theatre’s production of Phèdre to cinemas worldwide, the availability of high-quality live theatre via digital relay has increased exponentially. Shakespeare has been a particular beneficiary of the explosion of live-streamed theatre, with productions initially broadcast direct to cinema screens, but increasingly available in schoolrooms, commercial DVD, and home computers, offering an invaluable pedagogic resource.

While much has been written about the aesthetic and technical properties of the live theatre broadcast as an art form, this article considers the affordances of the cinema broadcast as an event. Class excursions to a cinema offer a degree of similitude to trips to live in-person performance, replicating the qualities of collective viewing, ephemerality, and “eventness” which this article argues offer distinctive pedagogical opportunities. However, the unique conventions and grammars of the theatre broadcast require different analytical methods to in-person performance. This article, drawing on experience teaching cinema broadcasts on undergraduate and postgraduate modules, offers practical strategies for training students in reading theatre broadcasts in ways that preserve the eventness of the experience and help develop group literacy in the medium.

Author Biography

  • Peter Kirwan, Mary Baldwin University

    Dr. Peter Kirwan is an Associate Professor in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin University.

    He works widely on the textual, theatrical, and filmic history of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. His monographs include Shakespeare in the Theatre: Cheek by Jowl (Bloomsbury, 2019) and Shakespeare and the Idea of Apocrypha (Cambridge, 2015); edited collections include Arden of Faversham: A Critical Reader (with Duncan Salkeld; Bloomsbury, 2023), Shakespeare’s Audiences (with Matteo Pangallo; Routledge, 2021), The Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance (with Kathryn Prince; Bloomsbury, 2021), Canonising Shakespeare (with Emma Depledge; Cambridge, 2017), and Shakespeare and the Digital World (with Christie Carson; Cambridge, 2014).

    He has published numerous shorter pieces in journals and edited collections, and edited Doctor Faustus for the Routledge Anthology of Early Modern Theatre (2020).

    Dr. Kirwan is the general editor of Shakespeare Bulletin, the leading journal of early modern performance studies, and is currently preparing a new critical edition of The Winter’s Tale for the Arden Shakespeare. His blog, The Bardathon, is the longest-running review blog of Shakespeare in the world, covering over 650 productions since 2006 (and counting!).