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 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
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