Great Performances

Benedict Cumberbatch Does Tom Stoppard For National Theatre 50th Anniversary

Britain’s National Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – much like several other well-known British institutions, including the Rolling Stones and, of course, Doctor Who. For those that don’t know, the NT is one of the UK’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company. It presents a varied program, staging everything from Shakespeare and international classic dramas to new and modern works by contemporary playwrights.

In honor of this landmark birthday for a national institution, a star-studded celebration was held last Fall and broadcast around the country. This once in a lifetime event featured excerpts from many of the plays and musicals put on by the National Theatre over the past fifty years, performed by a wide array of British acting greats, as well as loads of archival footage. And by "wide array", we mean basically every fabulous British actor you can think of - including Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Rory Kinnear, Christopher Eccleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peneleope Wilton, Andrew Scott and lots more.

'Great Performances' to Air National Theatre 50th Anniversary Celebration in February

Britain’s National Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – much like several other well-known British institutions, including the Rolling Stones and, of course, Doctor Who. For those that don’t know, the NT is one of the UK’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company. It presents a varied program, staging everything from Shakespeare and international classic dramas to new and modern works by contemporary playwrights.

Many of the British actors we all love have done stints at the NT, performing a wide variety of roles in various productions. And by many, we really mean pretty much everyone ever who works in British entertainment. Familiar faces like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and many, many more are all alumni of the National Theatre and clearly remain very fond of it.

Earlier this Fall, the BBC held an all-star gala event in honor of the 50th birthday of this cultural institution and the stars turned out in force to celebrate. The program was basically a dream for anyone who loves theater or has been any sort of fan of British television or film over the past couple of decades and we all were basically green with envy that we had to miss out on seeing this once-in-a-lifetime line-up for ourselves. Well, we can all turn a little less green – because the special is going to be aired in America.

Read on for more.