Theatre Review of 2013

Posted: January 1, 2014 in Theatre

As of midnight on 31 December, my visits to live performance plays and shows in 2013 total a record 179, not quite averaging one every other day, but pretty close. The total includes 67 on behalf of The Public Reviews and 23 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but does not include classical concerts and opera. It was a year of high quality theatre, but, setting an average of one truly great show a month, my Top 12 list for 2013, in alphabetical order, is:

Bracken Moor (Tricycle)

Ghosts (Almeida)

Let the Right One In (Royal Court)

Old Times (Harold Pinter)

Othello (National)

Peter and Alice (Noel Coward)

Sweet Bird of Youth (Old Vic)

The Audience (Gielgud)

The Color Purple (Menier)

The Pride (Trafalgar Studios)

The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic)

Titanic (Southwark Playhouse)

Lines between “West End” and “Fringe” can get blurred, but my favourite theatres continue be those that are not quite one nor the other: The National, apart from Nicholas Hytner’s brilliant Othello, had a rather disappointing year, showing how much the now closed Cottesloe had become its powerhouse; after a pedestrian start to Josie Rourke’s tenure, The Donmar Warehouse seems to be picking up momentum again and The Almeida, with Headlong’s Rupert Goold now in charge, is on a roll of hits. The Royal Court continues to nurture new writing and The Menier Chocolate Factory stages comedies and musicals of outstanding quality. Find of the year has been St James Theatre, an excellent venue with a knack for seeking out first rate productions. Commendations also for The Young Vic and the re-housed Southwark Playhouse.

Looking at productions that were undoubtedly “Fringe”, my favourite six were: Grounded (Edinburgh)Halbwelt Kultur (Jermyn Street), Jumpers for Goalposts (Bush)Quietly (Edinburgh)Skin Tight (Park) and The Herd (Bush).

Inevitably, the year included a few absolute stinkers; my dirty half dozen are: Much Ado About Nothing (Old Vic)Our Town (King’s Head), Port (National)Socrates and His Clouds (Jermyn Street)Steptoe and Son (Lyric Hammersmith) and WAG: The Musical (Charing Cross).

Turning to performances, my choices are: best in a play – Rory Kinnear (Othello) and Lesley Manville (Ghosts); worst in a play – James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave (both Much Ado About Nothing); best in a musical – Killian Donnelly (The Commitments) and Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple); worst in a musical – Tim Flavin and Lizzie Cundy (both WAG! The Musical).

Roll on 2014.

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