Blame Lorannah. She gets to December, and she can't remember what she saw in the first half of the year. Or something. So she thought it might be quite nice to do a six month round-up, in much the manner or a yearly round-up, to make sure that the first half of the year doesn't get neglected when the blogosphere gets happy with awards. As I am a sucker for anything that gets me blogging without the commitment of writing regular reviews, I am ALL OVER THIS. So without further ado! Let's get intervalling!
Favourite new play - Mogadishu (Lyric Hammersmith)
If you didn't see this brilliant new piece from Vivienne Franzmann either in Manchester or London, then picture - if you will - The Children's Hour. Now, in your mind's eye, bring it up to date. Set it in contemporary London. Make it funny, vital, searing, chilling, and compelling. Cast the most terrifyingly assured young cast you can possibly get your paws on. Leave Matthew Dunster to work his magic (along with this blog's favourite sound designer Ian Dickinson). Done all that? Then lo! Mogadishu.
Favourite play revival - Flare Path (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Half-year after half-year, it seems there's always a Terence Rattigan play occupying this spot. But with good reason! This year, Sir Trevor of Nunn has done us all the honour of resurrecting this piece about a wartime love triangle. With a splendid set, projections that enhanced without distracting, sterling work from the supporting cast, and a dame-in-the-making performance from Sheridan Smith (no really!), the memories of this production will follow me happily for years.
Favourite Shakespeare production - Richard II (Bristol Tobacco Factory)
2011 is a REALLY good year if you're a fan of Shakespeare's Histories. Richard IIIs touring the country and occupying the Old Vic, Henry IVs taking up residence at the Theatre Royal Bath, a Henry V sneaking in almost at the last minute in Guildford, Michael Grandage's Donmar swansong Richard II, and even a sneaky Henry VI Part 1. Oh but they all have a lot to live up to if they want to even think about competing with the Tobacco Factory's crisp, clear, and heartaching production of Richard II with the delightful John Heffernan in the title role proving he is one of the finest young actors working today.
Favourite new musical - Betty Blue Eyes (Novello)
What can I say? I am a champion of the pig. The cast are accomplished, the songs are catchy, the choreography is great, the humour is just warped enough to be quintessentially British, even the fake pig is surprisingly adorable. My new year's resolution this year was to maximise theatre-going by only seeing each show once. This show made me break that resolution. And I don't care! It warms my heart simply knowing it exists - a new musical with an original score springing to joyous life in London's West End.
Favourite musical revival - Iolanthe (Wilton's Music Hall)
Sasha Regan has done it again! Her all-male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan shows continue to impress while increasing the possibility I'll never again be able to accept women in such shows. With a lovely framing device that tied the entire show together beautifully, this show had me grinning from ear to ear before the first notes had even been sung, and even drew a genuine tear or two. If she continues to do all-male G&S, you simply must not miss out!
Absolute number one best all-round production - Journey's End (on tour)
There were a couple of shows I could have put here, both as close to perfect in their respective genres as they could be, and I couldn't quite decide between them. But then I figured the other show will be getting a lot of attention later in the year, and so my absolute number one best all-round production for the purposes of this post is the touring production of Journey's End (which will be at the Duke of York's from July to September). The script remains as strong as it ever was. The cast are pitch-perfect. And David Grindley's production will break even the hardest heart. Simply breathtaking.