The magic of theatre was truly alive in London on Saturday night, as the National Theatre presented a star-studded extravaganza in celebration of its 50th birthday.
The Guardian reported that thespians from British acting royalty, like Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, James Corden, Maggie Smith, Helen Miren, to name a few, all made appearances at the special event, which was broadcast live in the UK on BBC Two. Audience members were treated to vignettes from some of the 800 productions the National Theatre has produced over the years. Dench revisited a scene from “Antony and Cleopatra,” playing the Egyptian queen, one of the most revered performances of her decades long career. “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch performed a scene from Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead," and James Corden and Dominic Cooper reunited to perform a scene from "The History Boys."
Despite the National Theatre’s global acclaim, the theatre was born out of controversy. For years, many in the London theatre scene debated whether there was a place for a government-subsidized institution that would promote theatre that had been neglected by the commercial stage industry. Even the architecture of the building has come under scrutiny, with Prince Charles once comparing the building that houses multiple stages to a nuclear power station.
In spite of off-stage drama, the National Theatre has gone on to become one of the most valued and admired institutions in the UK. The theatre makes tremendous efforts to provide affordable theatre, offering £12 ($15) tickets to performances and broadcasting productions to cinemas in the UK and around the world, giving thousands of people access to groundbreaking theatre that they might normally have a chance to see.