Live in HD,
local host. The initial offering, on Thursday, Oct. 14, is A Disappearing Number, a production by the experimental theater company Complicite. Founded in 1983 as Théâtre de Complicité, the organization was heavily inspired by the French actor-educator Jacques Lecoq (whose influence, by the way, spawned a local presence in Santa Fe through Theater Grottesco). Complicite’s productions typically harness various artistic strands — including inspired use of technology — into a brilliant, interdisciplinary Gesamtkunstwerk. The group unveiled A Disappearing Number in 2007, and it was recognized with several awards, including the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award as Best New Play in 2008. The subject is arcane: the conception of advanced mathematical formulas. On another plane, however, it involves the historical story of two men who, in the 1910s, were connected through their attraction to pure mathematics: the impoverished but intuitively gifted Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and the Cambridge don G.H. Hardy, who struck up an unlikely friendship through those numerals and symbols.
The season’s ensuing productions are not less intriguing. On Dec. 17, Rory Kinnear, not yet a decade into his career, ascends the Everest of Hamlet, in a production by the National Theatre’s artistic director, Nicholas Hytner. (Block out the consecutive dates of Dec. 17 and 18 in your calendar immediately: you cannot hope to experience often the one-two punch of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Verdi’s Don Carlo, those immense and taxing masterworks.) Fela!, a high-energy amalgam of Afro-beat music, vivacious choreography, and Nigerian politics follows in January; then King Lear (with Derek Jacobi ranting at the storm) in February, and after that a new treatment of Frankenstein (in March) and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (with Zoë Wanamaker, in June). The NT Live productions have been consistently magnificent so far, and one of their secondary delights has been the care expended on intelligent introductions, supplementary features, and other entertainments that make up a part of each broadcast.
NT Live has an inherent advantage over The Met: Live in HD. It may be argued that some opera singers ought to be heard and not seen, or at least not seen in pitiless close-ups, when the muscular exertions of their vocal mechanisms take priority over any other concerns about appearance. For actors, on the other hand, moment-to-moment appearance is a central concern. They dominate the cameras in a way their operatic cousins often do not. What’s more, this series addresses what has been a regretted void in Santa Fe’s cultural scene. Since the city has failed to sustain a repertory-theater scene at a starry level, NT Live provides something essential to our community. The Met: Live in HD took a couple of years to consolidate its following, but by now the Lensic is reliably filled on Saturday mornings when the opera comes to town. NT Live seems not quite yet to have reached its tipping point, but by the end of this season it is likely to be embraced as the “latest big thing” for people who live a rich cultural life.