In total, I have reviewed 193 productions during 2014 (64 of these for The Public Reviews), 28 in Edinburgh, six in New York, one each in Stratford-upon-Avon and Chichester and the rest in London. I have listed 12 (one a month average) with 8 runners up; these are shows that I have seen in the United Kingdom between 1st January and 31st December 2014 (i.e. New York is excluded). Inevitably I missed some shows that could easily have been contenders; for example Gillian Anderson’s Streetcar…(ticket mix-up), The National’s James Plays (just too sick of hearing about Scotland by the Autumn to be bothered), and Sondheim’s Assassins (a treat awaiting in the first week of the New Year). In alphabetical order, the productions are:
A View from the Bridge (Young Vic/Wyndhams Theatre from 11 February 2015)
City of Angels (Donmar Warehouse)
Electra (Old Vic)
Good People (Hampstead Theatre/Noel Coward Theatre)
Gypsy (Chichester Festival Theatre/Savoy Theatre from 28 March 2015)
Henry IV Parts I & II (RST Stratford-upon-Avon/Barbican Theatre)
King Charles III (Almeida Theatre/Wyndhams Theatre)
My Night With Reg (Donmar Warehouse/Apollo Theatre from 17 January 2015)
Sunny Afternoon (Hampstead Theatre/Harold Pinter Theatre)
The Crucible (Old Vic)
The Nether (Royal Court/Duke of York Theatre from 30 January 2015)
Wolf Hall/Bring Up The Bodies (RST Stratford-upon-Avon/Aldwych Theatre)
Bringing the number up to 20, honourable mentions go to: A Taste of Honey (National Theatre, Lyttelton) Behind the Beautiful Forevers (National Theatre, Olivier), Clarence Darrow (Old Vic), Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse), Hope (Royal Court), John (National Theatre, Lyttelton), 1984 (Almeida Theatre/Playhouse Theatre) and Other Desert Cities (Old Vic).
Not a single one of the above 20 opened directly in the West End (unless the National and the Old Vic are regarded as such, which is debatable). This further demonstrates how the West End is, year by year, becoming more of a constipated giant, unable to purge itself of immoveable long runners that draw in tourists and coach parties. Both Lloyd-Webber and Mackintosh preferred to use their theatres to revive their own hits from the 80s, rather than to take chances on new shows and, even more depressingly, the wonderfully inventive Scottsboro Boys is soon to be replaced by a revival of a mind-numbing juke box “musical”. Of the small number of brand new productions starting life the West End in 2014, most seemed to be either star vehicles or limp adaptations of hit films, whilst the queue of shows waiting to arrive from Broadway, off-West End and the regions grew longer. For me, the best policy has become to ignore the uncomfortable, outdated West End and focus on off-West End where, generally, productions are fresher, theatres are smaller with more modern amenities and tickets are cheaper. Also, a New Year resolution will be to spend more time exploring the best of regional theatres.
BEST FRINGE PRODUCTIONS
Again, the best 12, in alphabetical order:
As You Like It (Southwark Playhouse)
Away from Home (Jermyn Street Theatre)
Damn Yankees (Landor)
Donald Robertson is not a Comedian (Traverse 2, Edinburgh)
In the Heights (Southwark Playhouse)
Invincible (Orange Tree/St James Theatre)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Park Theatre)
The Pass (Royal Court Upstairs)
Therese Raquin (Finborough Theatre/Park Theatre)
Unfaithful (Traverse 1, Edinburgh)
Wot? No Fish!! (Battersea Arts Centre)
Honourable mentions: Cuckooed (Traverse 1, Edinburgh/Tricycle), Fully Committed (Menier Chocolate Factory), Horizontal Collaboration (Traverse 2, Edinburgh), Obama-ology (Finborough Theatre), The Distance (Orange Tree), The Me Plays (Old Red Lion), The One (Soho Theatre), We Are Proud to Present… (Bush Theatre).
Male in a play: a tie between Richard Armitage (The Crucible) and Mark Strong (A View from the Bridge). Honourable mentions: Peter Egan (Other Desert Cities), Tom Hiddleston (Coriolanus), Ben Miles (Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies), Antony Sher (Henry IV Parts I & II) and Kevin Spacey (Clarence Darrow).
Female in a play: Imelda Staunton (Good People). Honourable mentions: Deborah Findlay (Coriolanus), Kate O’Flynn (A Taste of Honey), Billie Piper (Great Britain), Kristen Scott Thomas (Electra) and Lesley Sharp (A Taste of Honey).
Ensemble in a play: My Night With Reg
Male in a musical: Robert Lindsay (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). Honourable mentions: Rufus Hound (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Tim Rogers (Carousel) and Michael Xavier (The Pajama Game).
Female in a musical: Imelda Staunton (Gypsy). Honourable mentions: Julie Atherton (Therese Raquin), Lara Pulver (Gypsy) and Scarlett Strallen (Candide).
Ensemble in a musical: City of Angels
New (to the UK) play: The Nether by Jennifer Haley
New (to the UK) musical: In the Heights
Director (play): Ivo van Hove (A View From the Bridge)
Director (musical): Josie Rourke (City of Angels)
LAST AND VERY MUCH LEAST…
My dirty dozen for this year were: Elephants (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs), Flowers of the Field (White Bear Theatre), Keeping Up With the Joans (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh/Greenwich Theatre), Little Revolution (Almeida), Mr Burns (Almeida), Only Our Own (Arts Theatre), Ring (Battersea Arts Centre), Satan Sings Mostly Sondheim (Jermyn Street Theatre), The Glass Supper (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs), The King Must Lie (White Bear Theatre), Things We Do for Love (Richmond Theatre) and This May Hurt a Bit (St James Theatre).
Apart from that last section, 2014 has been a great year. ROLL ON 2015!