Monday, 3 January 2011

2010 retrospective - the productions

2010 has been a quiet but nice year. I've seen 80 different productions this year - 63 plays, 12 musicals, and a small handful that defy such neat categorisation. Personally, it has been great. I saw almost everything I wanted to see, only missing out on a couple, and my average ticket cost came in at a hair under £10 per show. Artistically, it has been a bit of a slow-burner; there were a couple of gems sneaking into the first half of the year, but things didn't really pick up and become properly exciting until at least June. At which point, they most certainly did pick up and become properly exciting! So without further ado, my favourites for 2010.

Favourite new play - Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare's Globe)
It's not that I don't enjoy the wonders that the Royal Court provides, but when it comes to the new play that pleased and impressed me the most this year, I'm going with Howard Brenton's take on Henry VIII's most notorious wife. It was probably the play I was least looking forward to at the Globe, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was genuinely interesting and unexpectedly funny. Charmingly performed and very pretty to look at, this was one of the year's unanticipated highlights for me, and I look forward to its return in 2011.

Favourite play revival - After the Dance (National Theatre)
If you saw this production, I'm sure I don't need to tell you why. For those who missed out, it was simply stunning. Rattigan's largely-forgotten play itself may have been nothing surprising, but the production was absolutely exquisite. Thea Sharrock should be praised to the hills (and roll on Cause Célèbre at the Old Vic!), and the cast were unforgettably heart-breaking and brilliant in equal measure.

Favourite Shakespeare production - Romeo and Juliet (RSC)
There was a lot of competition for this category, but I've gone with Rupert Goold's brilliantly bold production of Romeo and Juliet. It was sexy, it was dangerous, it was passionate, it was hilarious, it was gorgeous, and I loved it unashamedly. I've always throught the eponymous hero was a bit of an idiot, but Sam Troughton managed to present a Romeo worth dying for, while Mariah Gale, whose intelligence can sometimes stand in the way of her performance, was perfect as a young teenager on the cusp of adulthood.

Favourite new musical - Love Story (Duchess Theatre)
Another wholly unexpected delight! I was terrified going into the theatre that this would be an awkward, mawkish, over-sentimental affair. Sentimental it may be, but awkward and mawkish it is not. This musical is small but perfectly formed - the two leads and their respective fathers convey an absolute wealth of emotion (even though the role of Oliver Barrett III is underwritten), and the music is beautifully performed by the exclusively string-playing musicians. And! A DELICIOUS-smelling pasta dish is cooked LIVE ON STAGE.

Favourite musical revival - Passion (Donmar Warehouse)
Passion is a very difficult musical to love. The music is not the usual easy listen that one expects of a musical, and none of the lead characters are especially likeable for themselves. Therefore it is a testament to the incredibly strong company and the brilliant production that I found myself more emotionally damaged moved by this than almost any other production I've seen this year.

Absolute number one best all-round production - King Lear (Donmar Warehouse)
WOW. From the play itself, to the set, to the lighting and sound, to the cast members as individuals, to the cast as an ensemble who work together to present a single cohesive world, I could find absolutely no fault in this production. Even the Fool was brilliant. Sir Derek Jacobi is absolutely spine-tingling in the title role. I absolutely adored it and will carry it carefully in my memory for years to come.

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