2018 Theatre Round-up

Posted: December 29, 2018 in Theatre

2017 was a vintage year and 2018 was hardly a disappointing follow-up, posing the difficult problem of what to leave out of any list of favourites. Two great musicals opened towards the end of 2017 and, as I saw them early in 2018, they are up for consideration here. I continued with my policy of avoiding regularly performed classics, including many Shakespeares, although I relented for Antony and Cleopatra (National) and Romeo and Juliet (RCS), both of which were outstanding, and a special mention has to be made for the National Theatre’s extraordinary Pericles, which only ran for three performances for logistical reasons, but which gave me my most magical theatre evening of the year.

It was another great year for the National, particularly in the Dorfman, but the Almeida remained London’s most exciting theatre, with a string of innovative and imaginative productions. The following represent my personal favourites, with no suggestions that they were the best (or worst() of the year.

 

FAVOURITE PRODUCTIONS

1. The Inheritance (Young Vic/Noel Coward) Close to seven hours, split over two plays, this could well have been judged as a pale imitation of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, but I saw it early in the year and it has matured in my mind like a good wine and I now think that it could be even better than its illustrious predecessor.

2. Summer and Smoke (Almeida/Duke of York’s) Seeing a wonderful new play is exciting enough, but discovering an almost forgotten masterpiece equals it. Tennessee Williams’ haunting account of a love affair that can never be fulfilled deserves to stand alongside his greatest works and this production does it full justice.

3. Company (Gielgud)  Sondheim reinvented by Marianne Elliot with gender switches that work so perfectly that we question how the show could ever have been done any other way.

4. The Lehman Trilogy (National) American history explored and the American dream exploded in Sam Mendes’ exquisitely paced production of a new play by Stefano Massini/Ben Power.

5. John (National) Annie Baker’s follow-up to The Flick is no less dazzling, moving at a snail’s pace, but digging deep into the human psyche.

6. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo) That rare thing – a British musical that deserves to have everybody talking about it.

7. The York Realist (Donmar Warehouse) A beautifully low-key revival of Peter Gill’s reminiscences of his own involvement in the York Mystery plays and a mismatched love affair with a local farmer.

8. Caroline or Change (Hampstead/Playhouse) Sharon D Clarke unforgettable in Tony Kushner’s musical about racial inequality in America’s Deep South.

9. Ulster American (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh) David Ireland’s blistering comedy, exposing our hidden prejudices and blowing apart many of the rules of political correctness.

10. Hamilton (Victoria Palace) Lin Manuel Miranda’s eagerly-anticipated Broadway musical is slick, ground-breaking and highly entertaining, but perhaps not quite as great as some would have us think.

 

FAVOURITE PERFORMANCES

Female lead in a play – Patsy Ferran (Summer and Smoke)

Female supporting in a play – Frances Barber (An Ideal Husband)

Male lead in a play – Kyle Soller (The Inheritance)

Male supporting in a play – Freddie Fox (An Ideal Husband)

Female lead in a musical – Rosalie Craig (Company)

Female supporting in a musical – Patty Lupone (Company)

Male lead in a musical – John McCrea (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie)

Male supporting in a musical – Jonathan Bailey (Company)

Ensemble in a play – The Inheritance

Ensemble in a musical – Company

 

OTHER FAVOURITES

New play – The Inheritance (writer: Matthew Lopez)

New Musical – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (book & lyrics: Tom MacRae, music: Dan Gillespie Sells)

Director (play) – Stephen Daldry (The Inheritance)

Director (musical) – Marianne Elliot (Company)

 

LEAST FAVOURITES

1. Knights of the Rose (Arts) A no-brainer for the top spot, but memories of the howls of laughter in all the wrong places on press night bring some compensation.

2. Nina’s Got News (Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh) A debut play by comedian Frank Skinner and, on this evidence, he needs to stick to the day job.

3. The Messiah (The Other Palace) Desperately overlong and desperately unfunny Christmas “comedy”.

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