Sunday, 1 January 2017

Theatre of the Year 2016 - Good and Bad!

Top and Bottom of the year.

In 2016 I saw 38 plays.  It should have been 41 but for the being poorly scrubbed three off of my calendar.  I'll never know if Rattigan's Ross, First Light or Father Comes Home From the Wars would have made my top ten - from reading the plays I feel that First Light may have done but as this was a new play for 2016 I don't rule out the chance of a revival...

Let's start with the duds of 2016, not too many of these but they really were stinkers.

  •  Breakfast at Tiffany's heads the pack here.  Way to ruin a good film and a good book  in one hit.  The cat however was amazing!
  • Doctor Faustus was the other play I really, really disliked this year, although in its favour it started early and was short!

There were others that I found unmemorable but these were the two that I actually regret spending money on. The outings themselves were nice, and for one of them it was great to catch up with The Upstartwren but the shows themselves were dire.

Now for the nicer part. My top shows of the year, in no particular order:

  • Lawrence After Arabia - not as deep and detailed as Rattigan by any means but a play that left me curious and wanting to find out more about Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw.

  • Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins - this fitted in so well with my studies and the research I'd undertaken into Terry that it was a delight, and Atkins gave a tour de force performance.

  • Pride and Prejudice - not a book I'd read before seeing the play but the condensed version and retention of so many of the lines made this a delight to watch (and I've since read and loved the book).
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona - so much of this production could have made it unbearable but in the end it was very cleverly handled and some of the terrible misogyny mitigated by the actions of the female characters. I'm not sure I'd like all of my Shakespeare updated like this but for me this was a delight.
  • The Boys in the Band - a perfect comedy in so many ways but also a deeply dark and disturbing play. Not a weak link in the cast and made up for the dreaded words "rail replacement bus."

  • Madama Butterfly - I'm not 100% certain that updating of the opera by 50 years worked or was needed but once I'd got over this it was a sublime evening at the theatre.
  • Jess and Joe - months after seeing this I can still close my eyes and replay much of this short, perfect, two-hander. I really hope that it is rewarded at award time as it was just brilliant.
  • Merchant of Venice - this comes close to being my favourite play of 2016 as well as 2015. A case where rewatching a great peice of theatre was as good the 2nd time.  The ending still broke me.

Plays that nearly made this list were Pericles and The Tempest from the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the start of the year (but *not* Cymbeline!) and also Boys will Be Boys.

What I find interesting is that in a year where I went to the Globe so little 3 of their productions are still in my top lists with another 2 only just missing out...

It has been harder to pick my best of lists this year, I don't know if I am getting harder to please or if I just didn't see the right shows... apart from the two stinkers I pretty much enjoyed everything, or parts of everything, when I saw it - less just stands out now at the end of the year.  I'm looking forward to seeing what 2017 brings.

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