It takes more than a writer and a few performers to make a play, so I try and keep an eye on the creative types as well. The perfect sound design can absolutely make a play, and who doesn't love a fantastic set? I'm working hard on developing opinions on and paying extra attention to the creative types who don't get as much credit as performers, but often deserve far more.
Favourite director - Laurie Sansom, Spring Storm (National Theatre)
I unfortunately missed out on the accompanying production of Beyond the Horizon, but this production of this early Tennessee Williams work, coming to the National straight from Royal & Derngate, Northampton, was just beautiful. It was one of the few productions worth going to the theatre in the first half of the year for, and I especially loved the way some of Williams's evocative stage directions made it into the performance. I hope to see a lot more of Laurie Sansom in the future!
Favourite designer - Robert Innes-Hopkins, Clybourne Park (Royal Court)
I didn't go head-over-heels for Clybourne Park like it seems the rest of the UK did, but I was completely enamoured of the fantastic set. The clean and tidy 1959 house of the first act was so incredibly decayed and broken down by the 2009 second act that I found it difficult to keep in my gasps of admiration. An absolutely spot-on perfect job!
Favourite lighting designer - Neil Austin, Passion (Donmar Warehouse)
I have a bit of a soft spot for Neil Austin's lighting. Whenever I've sat in my seat and thought to myself "wow, this really is incredible lighting", it invariably turns out to be Austin's work. He's continued doing fantastic work this year, and I found it difficult to choose just the one production, but I've gone with Passion. It's easy to use lighting to set the time or place of a scene, but in this production, Austin brilliantly managed to set temperature and mood as well.
Favourite sound designer - Terry Jardine for Autograph, Merrily We Roll Along and Company (Donmar Warehouse @ Queen's Theatre)
I loved the Sondheim concerts presented by the Donmar Warehouse at the Queen's Theatre. I was sat very far away from the stage, but I could hear every note perfectly. Considering they were one-off events, I wasn't expecting the concerts to be as fully polished as if I were seeing productions that were going to run and run, but the sound was just incredible. If you're producing a musical, you surely couldn't do any better than getting on the blower to Autograph.
Favourite music - Mark S. Bennett, As You Like It (Bridge Project @ Old Vic)
Mark Bennett's incidental music for this production was quite simply, without doubt, the finest music I have ever heard in the theatre, be it musical, play, opera, or other. I especially - but not exclusively - enjoyed the banjo.