The Revlon Girl, ParkGetting to revisit this show after attending a reading a couple of years ago was an enormous privilege. And knowing in advance what it was going to do made it all the more achingly poignant in its study of life after Aberfan, I didn’t cry like that in another theatre all year long, I didn’t ovate like that either. One to watch out for should it ever return.
A Little Night Music, WatermillMaybe I’m biased – this is where the blog gets its name from after all – but Paul Foster’s production at the gorgeous Watermill Theatre was masterly. Actor-musicianship at its best, Josefina Gabrielle elevating ‘Send in the Clowns’ to the gods, a sexy man in uniform…what more do you want from your Sondheim?!
Barber Shop Chronicles, NationalA show that utterly transformed what it felt like to sit in the Dorfman. I could watched two hours of the pre-show entertainment in all honesty, it was so entertaining, but Inua Ellams’ study of black masculinity was a vital piece of writing
Hamilton, Victoria PalaceIf I hadn’t seen it on Broadway this would probably have been #1. As it is, the gap between this top 4 was infinitesimal and there’s no doubting that Hamilton is an extraordinary success that will hopefully live long at the newly refurbished Victoria Palace.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Crucible/ApolloWhilst I’m delighted it is doing so well in London, it felt important to see this show in Sheffield, its spiritual home as well as its literal setting, new musical theatre writing that is forward-thinking in so many ways, not least its presentation of diversity.
An Octoroon, Orange TreeAnd speaking of diversity, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins made us all think a lot harder than we’re used to about race and how it is presented on our stages. A triumph for the Orange Tree and the deserved recipient of a NT transfer in the summer.
Follies, National TheatreThe head-dresses! The costumes! Every aspect of the design!The Dee! The Quast! The Staunton!This may not be a perfect show but this was the perfect production of it.
Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker PlayhouseEmma Rice bade farewell to the Globe in the most Emma Rice-ish way possible, with a glorious new musical that brought sound, light and chocolate-making into the Sam Wanamaker like never before (and probably never again!).
Hamlet, AlmeidaA thought-provoking, modern interpretation that showed Robert Icke (after last year’s Mary Stuart) really establishing his place as one of our most exciting, innovative directors. Andrew Scott wasn’t bad either…
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate FactoryI really thought this warm-hearted British musical would have given the Menier another West End transfer but apparently it wasn’t to be. A real shame as it was really rather good.Shows 11-25 below the cut
- Yank! A WWII Love Story, Charing Cross
- Girl From The North Country, Old Vic
- a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), Royal Court
- The Ferryman, Royal Court
- King Lear, Minerva
- Frankenstein, Brockley Jack
- Trestle, Southwark Playhouse
- Little Women the Musical, Hope Mill
- The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York’s
- Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange
- Beginning, National Theatre
- Caroline or Change, Minerva
- Network, National Theatre
- The Life, Southwark Playhouse
- Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Wyndham’s
And my least favourite shows…
The unthinking cultural insensitivity of Thoroughly Modern Millie
The baffling West End bow for The Mentalists
The well meaning but misguided cancer musical Happy Ending
The show that did exactly what it said on the tin, The Trial
and the best worst thing I saw, Flames, the show that made me laugh the most, though I really don’t think it was their intention
And just to recap, here’s the top 25 shows, plays and musicals combined, for 2010.
2. You Me Bum Bum Train
3. Palace of the End
4. Love Love Love
5. After the Dance
6. Once Upon A Time at the Adephi
7. Love Story
8. Les Misérables
9. All My Sons
11. Salad Days
12. Holding the Man
13. Broken Glass
14. The Man
15. The Drowsy Chaperone
16. Legally Blonde The Musical
17. Henry IV Part I&II
18. The Glass Menagerie
19. State Fair
21. The Road to Mecca
22. Clybourne Park
23. Richard III
24. The White Guard
25. Romeo & Juliet (RSC)
This won’t really be a surprise to anyone who reads this blog as Nina Raine’s Tribes is one of those plays that will surely stay with me forever, with its immense personal resonance to my own experiences, some beautiful staging ideas, an incredible ensemble and as perfect and sympathetic a representation of the issues it covered than one could have hoped for. This was theatre at its best: thought-provoking, highly emotional and truly life-changing.
2. You Me Bum Bum Train
As brilliant an introduction to immersive theatrical experiences as one could have hoped for. Booked on a random whim without knowing anything about it, this was one of the most fun things I have ever done, yet the moments before I entered into this world were ones of genuine fear as I really had no idea whatsoever to expect and was terrified at the prospect of getting into the wheelchair that started the journey. Keep an eye out for their next adventure, it will be definitely worth it.
3. Palace of the End
A stunningly affecting evening of three monologues about Iraq that was rarely easy viewing but vitally important and intensely compelling: a triumph for the Arcola.
4. Love Love Love
Mike Bartlett proving himself as one of the most interesting playwrights in the UK and tackling current issues with an incisive touch and one of the best ears for sharply observed dialogue.
5. After the Dance
Classy National Theatre production of this relatively unknown Rattigan play with a great ensemble, great dresses and whetting the appetite perfectly for the centenary of his birth in 2011.
6. All My Sons
7. Holding The Man
8. Broken Glass
9. The Man
10. Henry IV Part I & II
Just missing out…The Glass Menagerie, The Road To Mecca, Clybourne Park
1. Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi
An unexpected pleasure and one of the few times that I deliberately booked to see a show for a second time within the month. Phil Wilmott’s show was an exuberant experience, full of hummable tunes, fantastic choreography and a moving storyline bringing laughs and tears, this was sheer delight for me and perfectly suited to the Union Theatre, a real force on the South Bank and genuinely challenging the Menier for the go-to theatre for exciting and interesting musicals.
2. Love Story
A rarity in the West End in being a new British musical and a classy, understated and simply gorgeous one at that. Taking the well known story and fashioning a string-laden chamber musical out of it and featuring some stunning singing, great chemistry between its leads and onstage pasta sauce making (whilst singing), it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible so book your tickets now!
3. Les Misérables
A fantastic makeover of an old favourite that was surprisingly effective and a fitting tribute for its 25th anniversary celebrations.
A curious little Canadian musical about Edgar Allan Poe which was eerily atmospheric and utterly captivating: deserves to be brought back by the Barbican.
5. Salad Days
6. The Drowsy Chaperone
7. Legally Blonde The Musical
8. State Fair
10. Midsummer [a play with songs]
The Roman Tragedies, Barbican
On paper, it shouldn’t have worked: 6 hours of 3 Shakespeare plays back-to-back performed in Dutch, but this was one of the most exhilarating theatrical experiences one could have imagined. Genuinely innovative: using live-video footage effectively and creatively, inviting the audience onto the stage to watch from sofas there, but supplemented with acting of a first-rate degree, often so good you didn’t even need the surtitles to understand what was being said. On top of that, it made three of Shakespeare’s longest plays feel fresh, new and directly relevant to issues of the nature of democracy in our world today: it must come back!Honourable mention
Our Class, National Theatre
One of the most important new plays written in recent years: a painful, brutal account of the horrors perpetrated in wartime but also of how those actions continue to reverberate through the years and most importantly a reminder of what humans are capable of when caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Beautifully staged, hauntingly acted, this is a play that will remain with me for a long time.
Arcadia, Duke of York’s
Cock, Royal Court
A Streetcar Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse
When the Rain Stops Falling, Almeida
Best Fringe* Play
Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2Sam Peter Jackson’s dark comedy managed the rare feat of being exactly that: both dark and comic in the right measure and in plentiful supply. In the intimate space of the Trafalgar Studios basement, the rapid-fire quips left me constantly in stitches whilst the manipulative, duplicitous plot raised questions about the celebrity-hungry world in which we now live, a play which has improved in my estimation since seeing it.
The Spanish Tragedy, Arcola
It is well-established that fringe theatre is generally more daring and able to take creative risks than the West End, but rarely is it done with such elan and style as by this Mitchell Moreno-directed version of The Spanish Tragedy. Utilising elements of Japanese puppet theatre and video sparingly enhanced this sparse production to a new level, and a range of inventive ways to suggest the extreme levels of gore found a strange beauty amongst all the horrific death.
Frank’s Closet, Hoxton Hall
The Last Five Years, Duchess
The Pietà, St John’s Piccadilly
Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall
Hello, Dolly!, Regents Park Open Air Theatre
As happy and delightful as musicals can get. Completely old-school and refreshingly free of any postmodern ironic touches, I saw this outdoors on a unseasonably cold, rainy late August night and it filled me with such warmth and joy I could have sat right through it again (though perhaps with a blanket!)
La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse Theatre
Run a close second with Priscilla, but any musical that can tempt me back time after time (3 trips for me this year) has to be acknowledged. With some canny casting decisions that kept audiences coming back and regular changes to arrest any flagging numbers, this musical remained a delight for me. A happy, proud show but with as sweet a love story at the centre of it as ever you will see. Such a shame that it is now closed but I hope it does well on Broadway.
The Last Five Years
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert