Theatres are doing a great deal to encourage youngsters to see live shows but if that’s not possible with budgets or transport, or just in practical terms, EDNA HOBBS has a tip for fellow English (and drama) teachers…

Looking for a Much Ado About Nothing clip to liven up a lesson, I stumbled upon this amazing site, an ‘aladdin’s cave’ of theatre, called Digital Theatre Plus. Essentially, it’s West End theatre in your classroom! Oh yes, and with a backstage pass and the pre- and post-production sessions thrown in… without the trauma of organising the trip. There’s Shakespeare – and I can recommend the Catherine Tate/David Tennant Much Ado About Nothing to keep Y9s and 10s enthralled – classics, new Writing, opera and musicals.

All with well-known actors students would recognise, all as performed on stage. Just looking at the selection makes me long for a week or two in bed to be able to watch them all.

Which brings me to the next big plus to this site: students can access the resource at home. So homework is taken care of; students can watch the rest of a Digital Theatre Plus production or the many ‘behind the scenes’ clips at home with a username and password. So simple, so stress-free!

You may, for example, pick specific scenes to show examples of body movement, as in Kafka’s Monkey, or show interpretative choices of actors in Shakespeare, asking students to interpret the same text in different ways.  Writing theatre reviews is another task made easy. Digital Theatre Plus films theatre whilst it is being performed in front of a live audience. It is not a film version, it’s not staged differently to accommodate filming and the audience is really there, reacting – no canned laughs!

Apart from Productions, there are sections entitled ‘making theatre’, ‘study guides’ and ‘teaching support’, all offering a richer experience of theatre than you’d get on the average, exhausting outing.  Drama and media students particularly benefit from the fascinating look at how the productions they’ve seen have been made. Students discover that a passion for arts and theatre can lead to careers in not just acting, but also production, design, directing, sound and lighting. Ideally, Drama, Media and English departments should take out a joint subscription, because there is so much for each of these subjects. Subscription may seem expensive, but not once you tot up what you get for the money. There are different packages available starting from an easily affordable £360 annually. Though they are priced from May to April, you can take yours out from when it suits.

This is a bold idea in its infancy. At present there are only 18 productions available, but new productions are added all the time. It can’t be too long before the teachers’ needs are met and An Inspector Calls, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night etc., are added to the repertoire. If this company keeps an eye on what schools need as well as introducing teachers and students to what’s on in the West End, it will be a long running hit in the classroom.

Hats off gentlemen, Bravo and standing ovations, I say!

Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing has now been added to the list of productions. Digital Theatre Plus work with leading theatre organisations to capture theatre in high-definition and from multiple camera angles to screen in classrooms.  For more information visit or call 020 7734 1802