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”

10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2018

Flashes of excellence can be found in the midst of any production so this list celebrates some of those breath-taking and/or memorable moments that really made theatregoing enjoyably fun this year.

For reference, here’s my 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Being your hero!

No word of a lie, my happiest memory from inside a theatre has to be Knights of the Rose. Nothing about the overblown opening night (including real roses on the seat) prepared us for the moment someone broke out into Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’ in what had been heavily trailed as a rock musical. Kudos to the cast for continuing valiantly on, and thanks for the entertainment. Continue reading “10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2018”

2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations

As we move towards the year end, so award season gets into full swing and What’s On Stage have now revealed their nominations celebrating everyone who works in theatre apart from sound designers and musical directors. As ever, these awards tend to work around which fanbase can weaponise the strongest and so there’s lots of love for shows which might not necessarily be troubling many other shortlists…

Still, am liking the recognition for Milly Thomas and Dust, Es Devlin’s luminous set work for Girls & Boys, and Six and The Grinning Man getting into the cast recording category (though can’t quite work out how Come From Away fits into there as well…). And it’s a bit sad that the way their eligibility period works means that Hamilton comes up against Company, making the supporting actress/actor categories ridiculously difficult to choose between.

You can vote here until 31st January, and winners will be announced on 3rd March.

Continue reading “2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
WINNER – Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
WINNER – Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced

The clocks have gone back and so it’s time to start reflecting on the year gone by. And first out of the gate in terms of the major theatre awards, the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards have released their shortlist. Winners to be announced on Sunday 18th November at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

The expansion to five nominees feels like a good thing, making the lists feel a little less random, but I remain piqued at the differentiation between best actor/actress in a play and best musical performance, not least since it means no-one from Hamilton or Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is up for an individual nod, and Patti LuPone and Jonny Bailey end up robbed!

But that’s the joy of these things, they’re entirely subjective even when your panel consists of Henry Hitchings, Baz Bamigboye, Mark Lawson, Sarah Crompton and Matt Wolf. And I’m liking the love for Nine Night and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, wondering whether I should have made the effort to see Translations, and pondering whether I should be re-booking for Caroline or Change

EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS 2018 – SHORTLIST

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced”

Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End

“I couldn’t leave this place, not in my mind, not in my heart”

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End. And though the seats (and some of the sightlines) at the Noël Coward Theatre make it a little bit more of an endurance test over its near-seven hours of drama, the experience remains a truly soul-enhancing, life-enrichening thing.

All but one of the original cast have returned (Jack Riddiford stepping in for Luke Thallon who has turned to alternative Cock in Chichester), but none of the production’s magic has been lost. Indeed, for those who have seen it before, it is almost better second time round as the exquisite agony of knowing what is to come deepens so much of the first part. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre”

News: Cast for the West End transfer of The Inheritance announced

All but one of the original cast of The Inheritance will make the transfer into the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre

The ensemble cast of The Inheritance at the Noël Coward Theatre is now confirmed and will include: Hugo Bolton, Robert Boulter, Andrew Burnap, Hubert Burton, John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H Levine, Syrus Lowe, Michael Marcus, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Riddiford, Kyle Soller and Michael Walters. The main change is that Jack Riddiford joins the company in place of Luke Thallon who is going to be appearing in Chichester’s revival of Mike Bartlett’s Cock instead.

I absolutely adored The Inheritance when I saw it at the Young Vic and am glad that the brave decision to transfer this major new work into the West End has been made. It certainly deserves a bigger audience and I sincerely hope that they come – and why wouldn’t they, when you look at this lovely set of blossom portraits of the new cast by Johan Persson.

 

All photography by Johan Persson

 

Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic

An epic gay play for the 21st century – Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a must-see at the Young Vic

“A chain of gay men helping each other, loving each other, hurting each other, understanding each other”

It would be easy to focus on the fact that The Inheritance is long and yes, its two parts total up to nearly seven hours in the thankfully comfortable seats of the Young Vic. But they also sum up to a brave and epic piece of new writing from Matthew Lopez, taking a scalpel to contemporary gay life in New York, asking what does it mean to be a gay man today and just how much of that is owed to an inherited (and neglected) cultural legacy.  

Structurally, the play owes a curious debt to EM Forster’s Howard’s End, using it as a considerable inspiration for plot but also as a device to launch into its storytelling, which has an occasional tricksiness to it, pulling at the thread of the stories we wish we could tell rather than the ones we have to. That main story centres on Eric and Toby, a gay couple who have the foundations of their relationship rocked when the tenancy of their amazing apartment is terminated. As their lives reshape around new realities, new experiences, new challenges, they come to see how little of the world they really know. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic”

Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic

“Holy shit, Meryl Streep is here?”

I’m just going to write the one review to cover both parts of the The Inheritance but I wanted to flag up that if, for some crazy reason, the full seven hours of Mathew Lopez’s epic didn’t appeal, then you could do worse than sticking with Part One. For though it may not have any Vanessa Redgrave, it does contain a moment of pure transcendent beauty that left me weeping on the bus journey home, and so how could you possibly now resist?! Continue reading “Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic”

Review: Decade, Headlong at St Katharine Dock

“I get that it was…well, it is…a big deal for some people”

The tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre has and will receive a vast range of coverage through all sorts of media, but perhaps one of the most anticipated is Headlong’s new piece of site-specific  theatre, Decade. 19 writers, playwrights mostly and Simon Schama, have all contributed their own responses to the events of the 11th September, their brief purely to be a scene set in the last 10 years, and they have been woven together by director Rupert Goold and housed in a warehouse on St Katharine Docks. I hadn’t intended to see this show so soon, wanting to let the experimental stuff settle before making my visit, but I was forced to reshuffle my diary and in order to fit it in before October and still get one of the cheaper tickets, this was my only opportunity.

After passing through a security checkpoint where you are questioned and ticketed (I was mildly disappointed there was no full body search from my guard, Tobias Menzies), we’re then guided through to take our seats in a replica of the dining room of the Windows On The World restaurant, formerly on the top floors of the North Tower. It’s a quirky entrance that sets the anticipation levels high even if the whole process did take a little time to fully accomplish. Seating is around dinner tables with a large raised stage in the middle of the room and is unallocated though ‘waiters’ do take you a table once summoned by the Maître D’. (My top tip would be to try and get on the long bank of seats on the side opposite the bar as close to the middle as you can. Just before the lights went down, I was advised by our Maître D’, in this case it was the delectable Charlotte Randle, that I might want to move from my original seat to this new place as there’s a certain amount which happens on a balcony level but all on one side, and it would have been rather difficult to see from there. So thank you Charlotte!) Continue reading “Review: Decade, Headlong at St Katharine Dock”