It's that time again! For the fourth year running, I have yet to develop any real critical faculties, but I just about have the energy to dress up in ridiculous costumes, so here comes my top 15 for the year 2018! I've managed a total of 156 theatre trips this year, across three countries, in cities as diverse as London, New York, Amsterdam, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, and erm... Newbury, so I think I'm doing okay. I'll probably cut back on the overseas trips a little in 2019 though.
15. Sylvia (Old Vic)
I was very fortunate to go to a reasonably late performance of this one so actually got to see the entire show and I really LOVED what I saw. Don't let anyone tell you it's some kind of British sub-Hamilton affair, it's just about the most London thing I've ever seen in my life and I look forward to its return.
14. Beginners (Unicorn Theatre)
Just a really beautiful thing. Just a really really beautiful thing.
13. The Inheritance (Young Vic)
Okay, it had its flaws, which prevented it from getting much higher in my list, but it was still a great day out; funny, moving, with an devastatingly beautiful finale to Part 1 and an incredible performance from Kyle Soller.
12. Emilia (Shakespeare's Globe)
When a play leaves you wanting to burn the world to the ground so you can be a part of growing it anew and getting it right this time, then the playwright has probably done something right.
11. Twelfth Night (Young Vic)
I don't think it's great for Shakespeare that the best Shakespearean productions this year have been hacked down to half the usual length and stuffed with songs, but it's great for audiences. What a great production for Kwame Kwei-Armah (who got me an extra point at the National Theatre Christmas quiz!) to kick off his reign with.
10. The York Realist (Donmar Warehouse)
Look, I like weird stuff, but I also like really quietly beautiful plays. You don't need flash when you've got such perfect emotional truth.
9. Six (Rose Theatre Kingston)
What an unexpected joy this was! Catchy as hell and incredibly witty, I can strongly recommend you pencil this one in for your 2019 if you haven't seen it already.
8. Hadestown (National Theatre)
I suspected I might enjoy it. I was right. Love me a good folk tale, love me some catchy jams, love me some Amber Gray, love me this damn show.
7. Company (Gielgud)
I don't think there's anything I can say that hasn't already been said better by cleverer people. Believe the hype. Even if it does occasionally feel like a personal attack.
6. Fun Home (Young Vic)
It's funny, I enjoyed it on Broadway, but it didn't really get to me until I saw it at the Young Vic. I don't know what the difference was, but it really blew me away this year, so on the list it goes!
5. SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical (Palace Theater)
The world needs more pure and good shows like SpongeBob SquarePants. Don't be put off by the fact it's SpongeBob, this show was as wonderful a piece of theatre as anything else I've seen this year and totally justified my repeated transatlantic journeys.
4. The Jungle (Young Vic)
It takes a lot to get me out of my seat at the curtain call, but this production managed it. Even though I was basically sitting on the floor. Yeah, it all sounded a bit worthy and preachy and slum tourismy, but it was also a genuinely good piece of theatre, an important watch for that reason as much as - if not more so - for any of the others.
3. Oklahoma! (St Ann's Warehouse)
I was grossly mis-sold how sexy this production was. It was EXTREMELY sexy and also felt in many ways absolutely tailor-made for me. I'm extremely glad I saw it twice, I'm extremely glad it's going to Broadway, and if we can get a cast recording out of the deal, then I'll never want for theatre content ever again. If I had to find something wrong with it, I'd say that the chilli needed some cumin. That's it, that's all I've got.
2. Pericles (National Theatre)
I STILL DON'T KNOW WHY I BOOKED THIS but it turned out to be the best spontaneous booking decision all year, up there with all-time greats Flare Path and The Kitchen Sink. Finally the National Theatre felt like it actually belonged to the nation and it is frankly criminal that this warm, inclusive, beautiful production only ran for three performances.
1. Summer and Smoke (Almeida)
I mean, I'd love to say something about how much this incredible production has meant to me this year, but honestly I just start crying even thinking about it. You have until 19th January to not miss out forever.
Hero of the year
I don't have one single hero this year, so I'd like to declare that my hero of 2018 theatre is "women". Whether being quietly motivational as hell like Tamara Harvey's #workingmum tweets, or enabling my multiple New York trips while working her ass off as critic and editor like Nicole Serratore, or proving that the Olivier is a perfectly workable space when given to the right director like Emily Lim and Rachel Chavkin, or kicking ass all over the West End like Rebecca Frecknall, Patsy Ferran, Marianne Elliott, Rosalie Craig, the cast and band members of Six, or owning Broadway like Tina Landau, and all the other brilliant creatives working on our stages this year, women are just generally brilliant and we are truly blessed by them all.
Stinker of the year
A Very Very Very Dark Matter (Bridge Theatre)
It would be great if established playwrights could be held to the same standards as emerging playwrights and be sent away with a red pen when they turn in a play that isn't really up to snuff. No emerging playwright would have got away with such a lazy, incoherent, pointlessly offensive work as this, and it's to the shame of everyone involved that it got as far as being put in front of an audience.
I have mostly self-enabled this year, but I can definitely recommend you make friends with someone who can provide you with an Elizabethan ruff at a moment's notice and without asking any awkward questions. If you want to see any of the pictures better, they have all been heavily filtered courtesy of my Instagram, and I shall see you again next year!