It’s been an exciting year for theatre in the capital and, sadly, I only got to see 45, out of possible hundreds of fringe and large scale West End, shows. I have taken the time to look over my list of theatre, which I reviewed this year, and am delighted to confirm my review of the Best Theatre – the Trend Fem 2014 Awards – of the most memorable theatre of the year.
NOTE: I haven’t listed all the shows I’ve seen this year simply because it’s a long list. I’ve nominated a selection of the top shows for Trend Fem.
Best Musical Awards 2014: Dogfight – Review here
Best Shakespeare Award 2014: King Lear, National Theatre-Review here
Best Fringe Theatre Award 2014: Chicken Shop – Review here
Best West End Award 2014: Handbagged – Review here
Best Comedy Award 2014: The Play That Goes Wrong – Review here
Best Experimental Theatre 2014: How A Man crumbled – Review here
Best Script 2014: A Streetcar Named Desire – Review here
Best Show 2014: Orpheus – Review here
Best Theatre 2014: Rose Playhouse
Best Beautiful Theatre 2014: ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore – Review here
Nominations: Made in Dagenham, Miss Saigon, Memphis, Dogfight, Avenue Q, Sweeney Todd, Lion King
It was ridiculed for its wartime misogyny but I was too engrossed by its talented cast members, the dance choreography and, foremost, the best sing-along-songs to give a damn – I should have got the sound track! The Southwark Playhouse isn’t the largest of theatres, but it was suitably sized for this cosy experience full of emotions, laughs, physical excitement and memorable melodies.
Nominations: Richard III (Rose Theatre), Henry IV (RSC), Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC), King Lear (National Theatre), The Merchant of Venice (Almeida Theatre), Othello (Leicester Square Theatre), Lear (Union Theatre), Richard III (Greenwich theatre), Comedy of Errors (Globe), Julius Caesar (Globe) Othello (Riverside Studios)
It was incredibly tough to make a decision especially having watched so many of Shakespeare’s best works from top theatres – large and small-scale. They were all equally valuable and deserve the same creative credit. Some productions were made up of a few skilled cast members; some had master 14 roles, whilst others tried to catapult Shakespeare’s work to the 21st century with audacious eclecticism and kitschy staging, which is also prize-worthy. But the Best Shakespeare Award goes to King Lear at the National Theatre even if everything wasn’t perfect, in my opinion. Lear is one of my top, but not favourite, Shakespeare plays, in general, but the clever direction and precision acting made this psycho-thrilling drama one that stuck in my head.
Nominations Notes from Underground (Print Room), Ring Cycle (Scoop), Chicken Shop (Playhouse Theatre) Cinderella and the Beanstalk (SleepingTrees), Massacre of Paris (Rose Playhouse Theatre) Autobahn (Savio(u)r)
My editor emailed me saying that he needed someone urgently to review a show called Chicken Shop and, without much research into this bizarre title, I decided to give it some attention. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon and to my surprise, after the show, I came out a different person – I was shocked to see that there were only a handful of people with me in the audience. It was an absorbing and emotionally crushing play with a plethora of disturbed characters with secrets and peculiar struggles. The script was exceedingly gritty but never away from the truth. The suspense took audiences through corners and roads they would not have expected. I just hope that they show this play again, soon.
Nominations: Memphis, Made in Dagenham, Forbidden Broadway, Let The Right One In, King Lear, 1984, The Play That Goes Wrong, Handbagged, Lion King
When a fringe show manages to get the OK from major West End theatres to transfer, it is a blessing in theatreland; Handbagged deserved to be one of those productions as Jeff Rawles told me in an interview. I still have fond memories of the press night: being surrounded by celebrities, television personalities and tabloid critics. The show itself had us giggling, all night, until we wanted to throw up. It’s such an innovative idea; to showcase a satire of Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth reflecting on history via afternoon tea with a thrilling cast to add the icing on the cake (and scones.)
Nominations: Cinderella and the Beanstalk, The Play That Goes Wrong, Handbagged, Forbidden Broadway, Avenue Q, Shakespeare in Love,
It was said to be similar to Noises Off (which I haven’t seen). It has all the slapstick comedy and euphemisms you wouldn’t expect from a serious play. Guaranteed to make audiences jolly with all the nooks and crannies of TV programmes Monty Python and Blackadder. You don’t have to like these shows to enjoy this comedy play – anyone can laugh at this shambolic display. As mentioned in my review, it’s like watching a very bad school play but on a bigger stage done professionally. At the interval the fun and games don’t stop – the director runs after cast members who queue up for ice cream!
Nominations: Marion Deprez, How A Man Crumbled, Briefs: The second coming, The Merchant of Venice Best Show of the Year
I don’t like clowns but I wasn’t sure what physical theatre was. I wasn’t familiar with the Mimetic Festival either, which was tucked behind Waterloo station. How A Man Crumbled is one of those turn-your-head-to-the-side shows to understand it. I scratched my head and thought ‘what the f*** is going on?’ but the incredible things Clout Theatre were doing in this warehouse space were visually addictive. It was somehow sophisticated – perhaps for a particular market. It was weird, zany, provoking and disgusting, but my mind was challenged. Who wants to see boring theatre all the time any way?
Nominations: Notes on Underground, Massacre of Paris, Three Sisters, Chicken Shop, A Streetcar named Desire, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Accolade
The Young Vic sold out very early on from the beginning of the production. I was lucky enough to get a cinema ticket to see the encore before the production ended and I’m glad that I managed to see it. Gillian Anderson was amazing – of course! – and the dialogue was eye-piercing, which left a memorable impressions in my mind. Those Southern bell accents, the complexity of human nature and its sexual relationships. Although a long play, every second was moving. The marvellous cast looked emotionally exhausted by the end of it. I salute, with an imaginary glass of bubbly, to them and the production team for introducing an interesting update of Tennessee Williams’ breath taking work.
Nominations: Dogfight, Notes from Underground, Henry IV, Accolade, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, The Play That Goes Wrong, A Street Car named Desire, Orpheus, King Lear, Chicken Shop
I received an email with a beautiful drawing of a production called Orpheus and having just reviewed the opera (Orfeo and Eurydice) I was curious to see what the Battersea Arts Centre had install. To my delight, it was more than I could ask for (in a good way). It was a cross-fertilisation of genres: cabaret, classical music, opera, acting, jazz and Shakespearean staging plucked out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a dingy Parisian bar set in the 1900s. The smell of cooked camembert still resonates in my mind as well as the Édith Piaf renditions. Some people loved Orpheus so much that they went again, and again, and again – and I don’t blame them. When it shows again I’m going to get a hot ticket and take all my friends with me.
Nominations: Union, Adelphi, Noah Coward, National, Rose Playhouse Theatre, Southwark Play House, Old Vic, Kings Head Theatre, Almeida, PlayTheatre
My opinion is based on the shows I have seen and my own personal experience of their customer service. Perhaps it is slightly biased but this theatre has been attentive and have shown some of the best Elizabethan plays that I wouldn’t have known about unless they had showcased them. An excavation area behind them, said to be the very earth that Shakespeare walked on, is a hidden gem, (despite not having enough heaters). It encases cast members running to the end of the cave, singing glorious arias, running to-and-fro and chucking blood (confetti) at each other as well as projecting some of the most scintillating music from classical and modern genres. If you haven’t visited yet, what are you waiting for? Lots of shows are coming up in 2015. I can’t wait for Othello in summer – my favourite Shakespeare play!
Nominations: Orpheus, The Merchant of Venice, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare in Love
The Sam Wanamaker is beautiful, in its own right, but there was something that Michael Longhurst brought to this crystal jewel box with this Elizabethan play. It’s visually stunning and aesthetically a pleasure to watch, which teleports you back in time. The candlelight is romantic even if one would think the incestuous storyline would sully the overall ambiance – luckily for us, this wasn’t the case.
CONGRATULATIONS PRODUCTION TEAM: WELL DONE!
Thank you for the Entertainment and Best Theatre for 2014