Kaisa Hammarlund and Zubin Varla. (Photos by Marc Brenner)

Happy New Year, Everyone…

Okay, I’m late to the party, but as you may have noticed I’ve been making the most of my time out to get ‘adult’ shit done since November. Officially, I’m a 34 year old Quality Assurance Manager for a media agency that has moved into a lovely flat in New Malden, and as many of you will know the act of packing, unpacking and living in a place filled with brown boxes is far from ideal. Dealing with house moving chores and all that set-up-your-direct-debit palaver is the stuff of real, sorted adults and I’m barely clinging onto the tip of the iceberg. Unofficially, I’m still getting a handle of what I’m planning to achieve with my opera/theatre blog in 2019. It’s had a major holiday. (Hey, she needed it.)

I need to be frank with you, though. Bloggers, far and wide, rarely admit this, but frickin’ hell it’s hard work maintaining the life of a so-called ‘influencer’. (I’m only citing what a few followers have said I was #justsaying.) Where do I begin? There’s the Twitter battles to monitor, the unwillingness to stand back and say something that will no doubt offend someone else, keeping tabs on the hottest shows in town, getting a ticket before they are sold out, arriving at the theatre on time, replying back to theatre companies and PRs, deciding how to review and report, etcetera, etcetera. In my particular case, it’s tough figuring out which questions to ask interviewees and, eventually, edit their material for my podcast series, let alone hold down a full-time job at the same time. Phew!

My ‘Theatre’ favourites in 2018

So, let’s get to it, shall we? I can only speak on behalf of the theatre performances I saw in 2018. My final count came down to a measly 62 shows put together. They were a combination of shows I managed to see on an official press capacity while the majority of other shows I paid good money to see. A common theme that jumped out at me the most included how diverse and outspoken these pieces of work were. New formats of writing seemed critical, bolder and louder, and opinions which would otherwise have been shut out a few years ago were all up for discussion in a post-show Q & A.

We have become a generation of talkers, debaters, and emoters. Social media has furthered this, so let’s keep going, talking about valid subjects this year and beyond. This includes casting, critics’ wars, female writers, equal opportunities – no matter what race or colour you are – and more.

(My reviews of the below shows can be found by double clicking the highlighted titles.)

Outstanding shows include The Great Wave at the Dorfman Theatre, Rasheeda Speaking by Joel Drake Johnson at Trafalgar Studios, Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night at the Dorfman Theatre (that is currently undergoing a West End transfer), Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the Gate Theatre, as well as Eugenius at the Other Palace theatre. (My interview with Liam Forde can be found here.) While these productions looked at different geographical regions and a range of unique periods of history, they were crafted to give insight into a world that once had no place for open discussion or controversy. Eugenius: The Musical is a special case, however. I enjoyed it more for its individuality, inspiration and 80s nostalgia. 2018 was also the year I finally got to see the ‘feel-good’ show Everybody’s talking about Jamie. I shall never forget the moment its lead actor John McCrea spoke the words ‘Fuck Trump’ at the end of a performance on the day the POTUS was apparently in town.

Heightened voices also spread to the Royal Court and Bridge Theatre with Dennis Kelly’s Boys & Girls, performed by Carey Mulligan, and Elizabeth Strout’s My name is Lucy Barton, acted by Laura Linney. Not only was it a first time to see these stage and film award-winning actors, but it was also a delight to hear intelligently drawn out stories with fine detail by brilliant writers.

Shakespeare dominated my 2018 viewing as well. Othello at the Globe was a first for me. To see Mark Rylance as Iago was a somewhat interesting experience. I have a particular obsession for Shakespeare’s Othello (as well as Verdi’s Otello) simply because of the ‘fucked up’ drama the Bard beautifully produced. From seeing Rylance as a sheepish and vulnerable CEO in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One to a silly, light-witted Iago didn’t have me leaping for joy. I like my Iago mean, cruel and filled with competitive blood. Dreams of seeing Ian McKellan as King Lear came through finally after half a day spent trying to find a ticket on the Duke of York’s (theatre) broken website, and meeting Bryan Cranston after his last ever performance of The Network at The National was defiantly secured with a stellar selfie. And most of all, I shall not forget the triumphant production of Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre and their innovative stagecraft.

West End was on fire too with Sea Wall at the Old Vic. People were happy to pay a lot of money to hear the short performance by Andrew Scott, and he was as good as people had said he was. I was the few who missed out on his 5-Star rated performance as Hamlet at the Almeida. I felt I didn’t need to feel guilty anymore after crying bucket loads to this. The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre may have left Aidan Turner and feline adorers satisfied, but I celebrated it more for its hilarity. And A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at The Wyndham’s Theatre might have to be the play of the year for me. I praise Lesley Manville and the way her performance made the audience and I feel as soon as we lifted ourselves from our seats. A certainly deep and pensive feeling. (My interview with Rory Keenan who performed the role of Jamie Jr. Tyrone is available here.)

Other shows which made my theatre-viewing thrilling in 2018 included Fun Home at the Young Vic, The Gronholm Method at the Chocolate Factory, The Phlebotomist at the Hampstead Theatre, Mischief Movie Night at the Arts theatre, Hamilton at the Apollo, Red at The Wyndham’s Theatre, The King and I at the Palladium, and 42nd Street at the Theatre Dury Lane.

That’s all folks! Join me next time for my 2018’s Opera faves. See ya!