Round-up of the 2017 fosterIANs

2017 Theatre

Best Actress in a Play
Hattie Morahan/Kate O’Flynn/Adelle Leonce, Anatomy of a Suicide

Best Actress in a Musical
Janie Dee, Follies AND Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music AND Josie Walker, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Best Actor in a Play
Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon

Best Actor in a Musical
Giles Terera, Hamilton

Best Supporting Actress in a Play 
Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Tracie Bennett, Follies

Best Supporting Actor in a Play 
Fisayo Akinade, Barber Shop Chronicles

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Jason Pennycooke, Hamilton

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Revlon Girl, Park
2. A Little Night Music, Watermill
3. Barber Shop Chronicles, National
4. Hamilton, Victoria Palace
5. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Crucible/Apollo
6. An Octoroon, Orange Tree
7. Follies, National Theatre
8. Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
9. Hamlet, Almeida
10. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate Factory

The 2016 fosterIAN awards

Pleasures were few and far between in 2016…

Round-up of the 2016 fosterIANs

Best Actress in a Play
Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart

Best Actress in a Musical
Jenna Russell, Grey Gardens

Best Actor in a Play
O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actor in a Musical
Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Jade Anouka, The Tempest

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Saayeng, Ragtime

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Peter Polycarpou, Scenes from 68* Years

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Julian Bleach, The Grinning Man

And my top 10 plays of the year:

1 Mary Stuart
2 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
3 Minefield
4 Escaped Alone
5 A Raisin in the Sun
6 Pink Mist
7 Steel Magnolias
8 The Grinning Man
9 Jess and Joe Forever
10 BU21

The 2015 fosterIAN awards

Round-up of the 2015 fosterIANs

Best Actress in a Play

Lia Williams, Oresteia

Best Actress in a Musical
Natalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham

Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer

Best Actor in a Musical
Giles Terera, Pure Imagination

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Daisy Haggard, You For Me For You

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Emma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
John Simm, The Homecoming

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Emmanuel Kojo, Show Boat

And my top 10 plays of the year:

1 Eclipsed
2 Oresteia
3 Lela & Co.
4 Little Shop of Horrors
5 hang
6 Radiant Vermin
7 Plastic Figurines
8 Hangmen
9 Kinky Boots
10 The Effect

The 2014 fosterIAN awards


My favourite shows of 2014 (worthy of a never-ending Capaldi gif)

1. A View from the Bridge, Young Vic
2. A Streetcar Named Desire, Young Vic
3. In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse
4. Here Lies Love, NT
5. Gypsy, CFT
6. Maria Stuart, Toneelgroep Amsterdam
7. Mr Burns, Almeida
8. Sweeney Todd, Tooting Arts Club
9. King Charles III, Almeida
10. The Wild Duck, Belvoir Sydney
11. Visitors, Arcola/Bush
12. Medea, Toneelgroep Amsterdam
13. Good People, Hampstead
14. Adler & Gibb, Royal Court
15. Free As Air, Finborough
16. No Barriers With Barriers
17. Dark Vanilla Jungle, Soho
18. Johnny Got His Gun, Southwark Playhouse
19. Made in Dagenham, Adelphi
20. Wet House, Soho
21. The James Plays, NT
22. Next Fall, Southwark Playhouse
23. My Night With Reg, Donmar
24. True West, Tricycle
25. The Silver Tassie, NT


Plays that made me dance with joy like Angela Lansbury (Blithe Spirit not included…)
1. A View From The Bridge
2. A Streetcar Named Desire
3. Maria Stuart
4. Mr Burns
5. King Charles III

Plays that felt like being smacked in the face with an arse
1. In The Vale of Awfulness (an extended theatrical tragedy in 4 parts – Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4)
2. The 21st Century Merchant of Venice (and not just because I got gay-bashed on the way home)
3. Venice Preserv’d
4. Daytona
5. Albion

Musicals as joyous as a zebra doing the running man
1. In The Heights
2. Here Lies Love
3. Gypsy
4. Sweeney Todd
5. Free As Air

Musicals as pleasant as being hit in the face with a door
1. Some Girl I Used To Know
2. Satan Sings Sondheim
3. I Can’t Sing
4. See Rock City…
5. Cats (harsh, but the news that Kerry Ellis will be the replacement Grizabella pushed me over the edge)

Round-up of the 2014 fosterIANs

Best Actress in a Play

Gillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire

Best Actress in a Musical
Imelda Staunton, Gypsy

Best Actor in a Play
Cary Crankson, The Saints

Best Actor in a Musical
Sam Mackay, In The Heights

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Vanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named Desire

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Jenna Russell, Urinetown

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Joe Caffrey, Wet House

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Jason Pennycooke, Memphis

The 2013 fosterIAN awards

Another bumper year of theatregoing draws to a close and the inevitable task of list-making comes upon us. So here’s my top 10 productions of 2013, my favourite shows from a year where I saw over 300, illuminated with a few silly gifs (some with tenuous connections to the shows) which have been borrowed with love from here.
Full of the kind of invention that British directors so rarely bring to the stage, this glorious version of Ingmar Bergman’s epic played successfully with form and character to create the type of breathless experience that was utterly addictive. I booked to see it again within minutes of leaving and then went to Amsterdam to see the company again.

Full of laughter and tears, warmth and poignancy, Wells created another cracker of a play to mark him as one of our most noteworthy new playwrights. And though hugely important addition to the gay canon in its tale of (not quite so) straightforward teenage romance, its appeal remains universal.

Apparently some people didn’t like it, but within minutes of the show starting I knew I was seeing something special that fitted my tastes perfectly. A score unafraid to be complex, a fairytale unafraid to be different, a lead performance to cherish for a lifetime. 

A corker of a play that seemingly came from nowhere to utterly steal the heart. An unlikely friendship between a psychologically scarred soldier and a disabled girl scout proved to be one of the most moving experiences in a theatre all year long and scandalously played just a handful of performances in its limited run.

AKA the moment when Lucy Ellinson broke through, which ironically would most likely sit awkwardly with her and the kind of intimate theatrical experiences in which she excels. But there was no denying the impact of this monologue featuring her as a soldier struggling with the morality of drone warfare.

One of the most exciting new pieces of new writing this year, spearheading something of a movement in London theatres putting on plays about China. Here, Lucy Kirkwood juxtaposed the economic journeys of China and the USA whilst examining the institution of photojournalism in thrilling style. 

To think how close I came to staying in bed rather than going to see this is terrifying. But fortunately I was urged out of my pit into the bearpit of the Globe to see one of the funniest Dreams I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few, 4 this year alone) but one which also brought new insights into the play.

Regent’s Park was truly alive, with the sound of Rachel Kavanaugh’s superlative production of this most classic of musicals. Old-school down to its very heart but sparklingly fresh performances from Charlotte Wakefield and Michael Xavier keeping it utterly delightful.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not Ibsen’s greatest fan so it tends to take something remarkable to help me over that particular hump. And Richard Eyre managed that with his adaptation for the Almeida, doing away with the interval and teasing from Lesley Manville one of the performances of her career. 

As delicate and beautiful as the snowflakes that fell on the stage, this version was a masterclass in adaptation, borrowing from several different incarnations of the story yet still managing to fashion something that could only ever have been theatrical. Wach out for its rumoured West End transfer.

As for my least favourite plays of the year, it didn’t feel like there were too many out and out stinkers. That said, I exercised the right of the swift exit perhaps more often than usual, leaving at the interval at a small number of shows that really weren’t doing it for me. But for the shows I wish I’d left at the interval, Wag! The Musical, Geek! A New Musical, Fair Em and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas probably rank up there, but Raving takes the prize as the single most objectionable piece of theatre I saw all year. 
And here are my favourite performances of the year.

Best Actress in a Play

Marianne Jean-Baptiste, The Amen Corner

Best Actress in a Musical

Rosalie Craig, The Light Princess

Best Actor in a Play

Philip Duguid-McQuillan & Jamie Samuel, Jumpers for Goalposts

Best Actor in a Musical

Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Linda Bassett, Roots

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Leigh Zimmerman, A Chorus Line

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Kit Orton, The Hired Man
And that’s enough of that. Here’s to 2014.

The 2012 fosterIAN awards

Best actor in a play
Luke Treadaway, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Best actor in a musical
Simon Russell Beale, Privates on Parade

Best actress in a play
Kate O’Flynn, Lungs

Best actress in a musical
Carly Bawden, My Fair Lady

Best supporting actor in a play
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night

Best supporting actor in a musical
Michael Xavier, Hello, Dolly!

Best supporting actress in a play
Niamh Cusack, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Best supporting actress in a musical
Clare Foster, Merrily We Roll Along

Best play
My Fair Lady

2012 – a gif-tastic review

It’s the end of the year 
so now it is time to take stock for a life without year-end lists can hardly be a life worth living (I think it says that in the blogger handbook somewhere…) 

So, 2012 saw me see 274 in the final analysis and after some not inconsiderable thought, here is an attempt to make some sense of it all from the sublime Photobucket to the ridiculous Photobucket.

2012 was the year in which love and science proved to be unlikely but extremely effective bedfellows… Photobucket …whether in Nick Payne’s Constellations or Lucy Prebble’s The Effect.
There’s much to love and hate about the Barbican, so many elements can frustrate and delight in equal measure but primarily in 2012, it was all about the womenPhotobucket Tempting both Cate Blanchett and Juliette Binoche onto their stage had me at hello and closing my eyes at ticket prices in order to get as close as possible to 2 bona fide screen goddesses.
There’s always disagreements about theatre… Photobucket …but this year saw it move to another level as a tranche of the upcoming theatrical writing establishment tried to convince critics (and audiences) that they were wrong about Three Kingdoms. For what it’s worth, I went to Florence for my birthday when it was on. See also: In The Republic of Happiness.
There’s prolific, and there’s prolific. And then there’s Simon StephensPhotobucket Everywhere you turn, there’s a new Stephens play or adaptation appearing – the man’s recent workrate has been incredible, at least the upcoming Port at the NT is a revival.
Unreserved seating continues to be a bugbear:Photobucket  its return to the Young Vic for The Changeling was most unwelcome, it makes getting into the Bush a nightmare.

I feel like I’ve cried more in the theatre this year.
Photobucket  This is just a feeling rather than a statistical truth, but there have been several occasions where I have come close to absolutely just losing it. Lovesong at the Lyric, Constellations at the Duke of York’s, Curious Incident at the NT, Propeller’s Winter’s Tale, all left me unable to speak at the end for fear of just bawling. And I have to mention Laura Howard’s performance in Lost In Yonkers at the Watford Palace which although most everyone found some humour in, I thought to be one of the most quietly devastating things I’ve seen all year.

Once again, the best UK musical theatre (and in some cases, it was absolutely sublime) happened outside of the West End, whether on the London fringe or beyond the M25. Photobucket
My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly!, Crazy for You, Gypsy, Boy Meets Boy, Victor/Victoria and Salad Days

The thought of seeing any of these again Photobucket
Jesus Christ Superstar, Troilus and Cressida, The Sunshine Boys, Farewell to the Theatre, Bingo, Making Noise Quietly, The Conquest of the South Pole and The Duchess of Malfi.

Hmm, let’s put these in the West End… Photobucket
Yes Prime Minister, Written on the Heart, Volcano, What The Butler Saw

And the nadir of my theatregoing yearHero at the Royal Court. Rarely have I been so angry and annoyed by a piece of theatre and its sheer irresponsibility. I was tempted to go the post-show talk just to ask… Photobucket
Very disappointing indeed.

2011 in brief summary, including 2011 fosterIAN awards

So here’s the round-up of my favourite acting performances from the last 12 months and a few stats about my theatre-going. I made 332 trips to the theatre in total where I saw: 238 plays, 76 musicals, 31.5 Shakespeares (Double Falsehood if you’re wondering about the .5), 10 cabarets, 4 operas and 4 dance pieces  (altogether 17 of these were revisits to productions I’d already seen). For a year which started off with me resolving to cut down on theatre, not a bad haul! 2012 will see me see less, I’m sure of it…

Best Actor in a Play Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankenstein

Best Actress in a Play Eve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

Best Supporting Actor in a Play Ryan Sampson, The Kitchen Sink

Best Supporting Actress in a Play Alexandra Gilbreath, Othello

Best Revival The Tempest (Cheek By Jowl)

Best New Play The Kitchen Sink

Best Actor in a Musical
Bertie Carvel, Matilda

Best Actress in a Musical Imelda Staunton, Sweeney Todd

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Daniel Crossley, Singin’ in the Rain

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical Samantha Spiro, Company

Best Musical Revival Singin’ in the Rain

Best New Musical Matilda

And because people always want to know…
My least favourite shows of the yearGovernment Inspector and Juno and the Paycock have the unenviable distinction of being the first shows in ages that saw me leave at the interval. And of those I saw through to the bitter end…
Keeler was the absolute worst, with The Invisible Man, Moonlight, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, The Knot of the Heart and yes One Man Two Guvnors as runners-up.

2010 in summary, including 2010 fosterIAN awards

So 2010 is very nearly over and I can honestly, hand on heart, say that I managed to see every single play that I wanted to see this year…all 271 of them. It was a mostly highly enjoyable experience, although writing about all of them came close to tiring me out on a couple of occasions…I might try to see a bit less in 2011 but we’ll see, I’m not sure I’ll be able to cut down!

What I particularly loved this year was the reaffirmation of the strong ensemble in so many plays. After a lot of recent kerfuffle about big stars dominating the West End, it was gratifying to see shows like All My Sons, After the Dance, Broken Glass, Clybourne Park, Tribes, all doing so well with fantastic group efforts and quality acting across the board rather than relying on star names.

No one venue really stood out above others as being the best this year, rather most theatres had a range of successes and duds. It is fashionable to acclaim the Royal Court and downstairs they did have a lot of success but we shouldn’t forget that upstairs had a much more variable level of quality and with prices going up to £20 up there, it might lose some of its must-see quality for me, although the news that Colin Morgan will be appearing in Our Private Life is good news. The National Theatre as ever ran the gamut from the dire (for me at least) Danton’s Death, Love the Sinner and Or You Could Kiss Me through the middling to the strong (Spring Storm, Hamlet) and the magnificent, After the Dance, The White Guard and Earthquakes in London.

The Arcola mixed it up something crazy as per usual but with some great successes and I am excited to see them in their new home; the Old Vic had a seriously unimpressive year but the Young Vic was much more exciting; the Finborough had an interesting year celebrating its 30th anniversary; the Donmar Warehouse largely underwhelmed me this year, just Red and Helen McCrory saving it and even the Almeida disappointed a little after a strong 2009 but the Barbican came up trumps more often than not with an exciting programme of esoteric productions, I particularly loved Song of the Goat and TR Warszawa’s efforts, pushing the boundaries of what I normally see and offering great chances to see European companies.

Musicals-wise, I was largely very disappointed by the big arrivals: Love Never Dies, Hair, Passion, none of them stirred me whether due to overhype or just poor quality, but it was a year of discovery for fringe musicals which were in plentiful supply and of the highest quality. The Union Theatre is really establishing itself as a place to watch, as is Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Legally Blonde was a great addition to the West End, I hope it continues to have legs afer Sheridan Smith’s imminent departure. I Sondheimed myself out, seeing the vast majority of the productions, many for the first time, and finding myself increasingly detached from his deliberate cerebralism: a surprise to me as much as anyone!

So before I summarise the winners of the second annual fosterIAN awards, I thought I’d take a leaf from the Guardian’s book and list some of my highlights from the year in general: let me know some of yours.
1.  The entirety of the Celebration of Kate McGarrigle concert: not strictly theatre but anyone who has seen one of their family concerts will tell you they are as theatrical as any group of people if not more! A fitting tribute to a talented singer, beloved mum/sister/aunt/friend and a testament to her enduring success as a songwriter. Rufus and Emmylou singing I Eat Dinner, Lisa Hannigan’s every note and Martha’s tear-jerking Proserpina were particularly special and we live to regret that it was not filmed.
2. Getting to clamber through an oversized air duct and then crowd surf, but with people concerned for my health and safety in You Me Bum Bum Train: exhilarating beyond belief! But other immersive experiences like the all-night Hotel Medea, Cart Macabre and finally getting to go through the Pale Blue Door also provided a great introduction into the ways theatrical boundaries can be pushed.
3. Rediscovering my love for both Les Mis and Avenue Q albeit in different ways, but both up there in my all-time favourite musicals and it was so nice to be reminded just why that is. 
4. Entering the Cottesloe for Earthquakes in London to see one of the best reinventions of that space I’ve ever seen.
5. Mike Bartlett in general.
6. Anton Stephans and Hannah Waddingham filling Cadogan Hall with a simply sensational rendition of Jason Robert Brown’s Coming Together as part of Stephans’ concert Grateful.

7. The intense emotion of seeing the best representation of life as a deaf person onstage in Tribes: a truly humbling moment for me, almost too much to bear in a public theatre as the lovely woman sat next to me the first time I saw it will attest.
8. And last but by no means least, all the lovely lovely people I have met through this blog and Twitter who have really made the whole blogging experience even more worthwhile. I’ve loved your feedback, you kept my spirits going when they threatened to flag, provided moral support in low moments and been excellent drinking and theatre buddies in general: y’all know who you are and I look forward to seeing you again soon and indeed meeting some of you for the first time.

Summary of the 2010 fosterIAN awards

Best Play

Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Love Love Love

Best Actress in a Play
Michelle Terry, Tribes

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Robin Soans, Palace of the End

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Rachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Best Musical
Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi

Best Actor in a MusicalSam Harrison, Salad Days & Avenue Q

Best Actress in a MusicalTracie Bennett, End of the Rainbow

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Michael Xavier, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Hannah Waddingham, Into the Woods

Leading Man of the YearElliot Cowan