Monday, 3 January 2011

2010 retrospective - the performers

Having not seen a great deal of musicals, I've decided to lump all actors together into one category, and same for actresses. I'm also not differentiating between performances in lead roles or supporting roles; if someone's amazing, then they're amazing no matter how much they had to do! So instead of shortlisting and categorising and ultimately awarding, I have instead simply listed my top 5 actors and my top 5 actresses this year (with a couple of strays down at the bottom).


Top 5 Actors

5. David Thaxton, Passion (Donmar Warehouse)
What can one say about a leading man gifted with a wonderful singing voice and the talent to convincingly portray the emotional journey of an army captain who slowly falls in love with a grotesque and obsessive invalid? There have been some great performances from men in musicals this year, but none more so than this one.

4. Tom Goodman-Hill, Earthquakes in London (National Theatre)
Whatever faults it may have had, I loved Earthquakes in London. I loved its ambition, I admired its scope, and I was particularly impressed with the fantastic performance from Tom Goodman-Hill as Colin, downtrodden unemployed husband to Lia Williams's cabinet minister. He brought real heart to the piece and was a joy to watch.

3. Sam Troughton, Romeo and Juliet (RSC)
I've never really taken to Romeo. He's a bit of an idiot. But Sam Troughton imbued him with an energy and passion that was a privilege to watch. The infamous balcony scene in particular, instead of being overplayed with a more traditional romantic reverence, was genuinely exciting and joyful, and not without the awkwardness and humour that comes with the giddiness of falling in love.

2. Adrian Scarborough, After the Dance (National Theatre)
Not content with a small but scene-stealing role in The Habit of Art, Adrian Scarborough also made a damn good effort to make off with After the Dance too - and very nearly succeeded! - with his brilliantly humorous and deeply moving performance as the parasitic houseguest gifted with devastating insight.

1. Roger Allam, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (Shakespeare's Globe)
On my birthday, the Globe announced that Roger Allam would be playing Falstaff in this epic two-parter. I instantly declared that news to be the greatest birthday present I have ever received, and I was right. A sub-par Falstaff can be absolutely deadly to a production; Allam was the finest damn Falstaff I can possibly imagine. He captured the extroverted elements of the character beautifully, but excellently played the inner concerns and latter fragility too.

Top 5 Actresses

5. Anna Maxwell Martin, Measure for Measure (Almeida)
While critics seemed enthralled by Rory Kinnear's cerebral Angelo, I was far more impressed with Anna Maxwell Martin's fragile yet powerful Isabella. It is in many ways a difficult play, but she absolutely cracked it, and with impeccably beautiful verse-speaking throughout.

4. Gemma Arterton, The Master Builder (Almeida)
I don't know if I fully understood The Master Builder, but I do know that Gemma Arterton was utterly magnetic as the somewhat-unhinged Hilde Wangel. She was also terrific in The Children's Monologues at the Old Vic (and she's more than a little bit stunning to look at too).

3. Emma Williams, Love Story (Duchess Theatre)
Her absolute commitment to the role of Jenny, her wonderful chemistry with her co-workers, and her beautiful singing voice come together to make Emma Williams in Love Story the single greatest performance I saw in a musical for the entirety of 2010. Not only can she sing, act, and tug on the heart-strings, but she can cook at the same time too!

2. Michelle Terry, Tribes (Royal Court)
Having proven her comedy credentials, it came as something of a surprise to see Michelle Terry in a dramatic role at the Royal Court. Her utterly truthful portrayal of a young woman losing her hearing was both devastating and mesmerising, and marks her as an actress who is surely destined to accomplish great things.

1. Nancy Carroll, After the Dance (National Theatre)
She simply broke my heart. She's one of the most brilliantly versatile actresses working today, and her performance as Joan was so emotive and in-depth that I genuinely well up merely remembering it. I look forward to anything and everything she does from this point on.

Special commendation - Barnaby Kay
For always being solidly reliable and hugely watchable, no matter what the overall quality of the production may be.

To watch in 2011 - John Heffernan
Having turned in solid supporting performances at the National and won over touring audiences with his performance in Mike Bartlett's Love Love Love in 2010, he's now off to Bristol to play the lead role in Richard II at the Tobacco Factory. Only great things can possibly come from this man, so watch this space!

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