When theatres were closed by the Government in March this year, Original Theatre Company’s second tour of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art was shut down before it had opened. As the company was rehearsing on stage at the time, Original Theatre Company decided to film the whole production and then released it online on 26 March for two months. This became the start of a highly successful year of online productions for the company.
Original Theatre Company has now decided to re-release the film of The Habit of Art, starring Matthew Kelly and David Yelland and directed by Philip Franks, on Thursday 3 December until Sunday 28 February. The company will, at the same time, launch part one of a three-part documentary, Home Made, which tells the story of how the company responded to the closure of theatres and went on to create to date four new online productions as well as the filmed versions of The Habit of Art and The Croft, which had also been touring when theatres were closed.
The Original Theatre Company was operating with no Arts Council support, relying solely on box office takings. With theatres closed and their tours of The Habit of Art and The Croft cancelled, they were facing financial ruin. They were determined to meet financial commitments made to actors, stage managers and suppliers, and find a way to survive.
Original Theatre Company’s online productions to date include the critically acclaimed lockdown productions of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong Online, Louise Coulthard’s Watching Rosie and the new commission by Torben Betts, Apollo 13: The Dark Side of The Moon. The Haunting of Alice Bowles is a new supernatural thriller by Philip Franks, adapted for the first time from the M.R. James chilling short ghost story, The Experiment, which will be available to watch via originaltheatreonline.com from 7.30pm on 17 December 2020 until 28 February 2021.
Using behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive interviews with the cast, crew and creatives, Home Made, directed by filmmaker Elijah Grant, tells the story of an unforgettable year in the life of a touring theatre company. Against the backdrop of national lockdowns, show closures and an industry on the edge, Home Made explores how Original Theatre adapted and survived and, in doing so, created ‘a new form of theatre’.
From filming The Habit the Art on the cusp of national lockdown to recreating Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong in actors’ bedrooms, to the challenges of filming zero gravity on iPhones for Apollo 13, this unique documentary is a love letter to theatre and the desire from audiences and freelancers across the country to continue making it and watching it against all the odds.
The Habit of Art is available to view from 3 December 2020 – 28 February 2021.