Like it or loathe it, if you’re talking about theatre it’s pretty hard to look past Britain as the leading light. Whether you’re a committed theatre buff or you just wonder why so many Hollywood actors look at the UK stage with longing eyes, Played in Britain may be of interest.
It’s a pretty ambitious app, aiming to cover theatre in the UK from 1945 to 2010. Well-known thespian Simon Callow introduces the app in a little video snippet, starting things of in suitably classy fashion.
The app then runs through six key stages of the UK theatre scene’s development, starting with the post-war years, running through the revolutionary sixties and the liberated seventies and through to where we are now. Guardian critic Michael Billington chips in with a video introduction for each period.
Guardian critic Michael Billington gives us a neat overview of each period
Each of these six categories is represented by the significant plays of the time. Each play, in turn, is given a brief synopsis followed by critic reviews of the time from The Guardian and The Telegraph newspapers. There are also extracts from the original play text, as well as audio interviews with actors who have taken part in the various productions.
In terms of usability, Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays review for iPad looks sharp enough, but isn’t always intuitive to navigate. Getting back to the main menu when you’ve scrolled down one of the exceedingly long pages is a matter of either scrubbing all the way back up or flicking left or right to the next play, which resets the view to the top of that page. It’s hardly elegant.
Overall Played in Britain offers an interesting overview of the UK theatre scene over the past 60, but it’s tough to see who the audience for it is. Theatre fanatics will find it a little too dry and academic and lacking the vital essence of the plays themselves, while the uninitiated will remain unmoved as to the magic of the theatre.
Of course, theatre fans in the US and other English-speaking countries may well find this a valuable resource. It’s perhaps of most interest, though, to historians and students looking for an interesting new insight on modern Britain through theatrical eyes.
Well rounded overview of a sprawling subject; nice looking; set to grow
Expensive to unlock; fails to capture the magic of the performances themselves; a little too dry and academic
Price: Free ($11.99 full app unlock)