My 10 favourite shows of 2018

And so here we are, at the end of another year where I broke the 300 show mark despite wanting to see less. (I had a very quiet December by my standards at least…) Now where’s the vodka stingers…?!

1 Pericles, National Theatre
Pretty much everything I want theatre to be, a rhapsodic, true celebration of community. From the joyous riffing on Shakespeare through song and dance to its over-riding spirit of bonhomie, it takes something this inclusive to show you how exclusive so much theatre can be.

2 Jellyfish, Bush Theatre
Sometimes, reviewing can’t help but be personal and Ben Weatherill’s minor-key masterpiece for the Bush touched me incredibly deeply, making me (re)consider so much of my own experiences. It has to come back, it just has to. 

Company, Gielgud Theatre
Marianne Elliott’s production was so much more than the gender-swap that led the headline, the smartness of her adaptation making the work speak to today in ways you might not have thought possible, and delivered by one of the best companies you could have hoped for. 

4 Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse
I was entirely seduced by the film so the opportunity to finally see the musical was one I wasn’t going to give up lightly, and the trip to Leeds was well worth it, I don’t think I cried in happiness this much at a finale in ages. I’d love for a tour to come back and visit more English venues.

5 The Inheritance, Young Vic/Noel Coward Theatre
It says something that I was willing to go back to what is probably one of the most emotional pulverising theatrical experiences of my life. And the Part 1 finale was possibly even better second time around, the highlight of an exceptional new landmark piece.

6 To Have To Shoot Irishmen, Omnibus Clapham
Coming completely out of left field, this play with songs was a devastatingly moving work that had me completely gripped. I won’t be missing any of Lizzie Nunnery’s shows in the future.

7 Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre
On a criminally scorching evening, Out of the Forest Theatre made me forget the heat for a hugely entertaining hour which I could have watched right again then and there.

8 Nine Night, National Theatre/Trafalgar Studios
Taking the Dorfman, and then the West End, by storm, Natasha Gordon’s passionate family drama was as educative as entertaining, as well as utterly enthralling by the relevatory final scenes.

9 Hadestown, National Theatre
I booked to see this a second time before I’d even gotten home from the first – it was that enjoyable. 

10 Sweat, Donmar Warehouse
Sneaking in at the last moment, this delivered the Christmas message you didn’t know you needed. Brutally affecting.

Shows 11-25 under the cut Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2018”

Review: Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre

A fearsomely talented company light up the stage of the Hope Theatre in Lizzie Borden meta-musical Bury the Hatchet 

“Your mama’s gone away and your daddy’s gone astray”

The story of Lizzie Borden is one that has proved endlessly fascinating for many people and has inspired many a work of art, with rock musicals, TV series and Hollywood films appearing this decade alone. Out of the Forest Theatre’s contribution to the genre comes in the form of Bury the Hatchet, self-described as a “true crime podcast meets bluegrass musical” and all sorts of fun with it.

Tried but acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother in rural Massachusetts in 1892, Lizzie’s destiny of apparently immortal infamy was set. And over the hour or so here, it is as much this that writer Sasha Wilson focuses on than the details of the case itself. So we re-examine the evidence that remains and speculate about possible motives, but we also probe into society’s fascination with uplifting notorious (alleged) criminals and with the genre of crime itself.   Continue reading “Review: Bury the Hatchet, Hope Theatre”

Review: Late Company, FInborough

“When you wake up in a cold sweat at night and you think someone is watching you, well it’s me. I’m watching you”

Guess who’s coming to dinner, Toronto-style. The table has been set at Debora and Michael’s oh-so-tasteful upper class home but the atmosphere is thick with tension as their guests are Curtis, the schoolboy who bullied their son Joel – who committed suicide a year ago – and his parents. The meeting has been arranged in order to try and achieve some kind of emotional closure but as it is revealed just how raw the wounds still are, there’s so much more to dig into than a bowl of seafood pasta.

The Finborough has long had a record of supporting Canadian writers and Jordan Tannahill certainly seems like one to watch. Directed with an unhurried and unfussy clarity by Michael Yale, Late Company blisters through its hot-button topics of cyber-bullying and teen suicide with real skill, presenting an even-handed look at the issues but what really impresses, is the way in which he drips revelation after revelation into his narrative to keep us constantly on the edge of our seats. Continue reading “Review: Late Company, FInborough”

Review: Muted, Bunker

“When I’m with you, normal rules don’t 

I have to admit that seeing pop-rock on the description of a show always gives me a little pause, my preference always tending towards a genteel piano and strings arrangement when it comes to my musical theatre. So it was a pleasure to discover that I really enjoyed Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin’s score for Muted, a musical previously known as After The Turn while in development by Interval Productions.

And it is a fascinating show too, with a book by Sarah Henley which unfolds around the story of Michael, a young musician on the verge of a big break whose life is shattered when his mother is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Rendered mute by the loss and under the care of his uncle, his life only begins to show signs of restarting when an ex-girlfriend comes to visit and we see just how much the death reverberated around this group of people. Continue reading “Review: Muted, Bunker”

Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park

“I watch women every Sunday tend a row of empty graves
Wives of men whose bodies never left company caves”

Another quickie as I continue to catch up with the openings I missed whilst on holiday. Receiving its European premiere here at the Park, The Burnt Part Boys continues the surprising number of musicals about mining (Floyd Collins alone would have scratched the itch, never mind Billy Elliot) and true to form, is musically really quite interesting. Chris Miller’s score folds in bluegrass and folk influences as befits its West Virginia setting and is certainly the strongest part of the show.

Mariana Elder’s book follows the impact of a tragic mining disaster on the hillside community of Pickaway – several men were killed and their bodies trapped underground but ten years later, news breaks that the mine is to be reopened, causing varied responses from the sons who lost their fathers. And particularly from brothers Pete and Jake, the former stealing some dynamite from his older sibling – now a miner himself – to force his own solution. Continue reading “Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park”