2016 Round-up – partial and prejudiced.


© Annabel Vere

© Annabel Vere, Ragtime company, Charing Cross Theatre

RECALLING the year past which is de rigueur for those of us who have spent too many nights in darkened rooms, I’m struck again by the richness and talent of so many shows I’ve seen, particularly in the smaller and off-West End and Fringe venues.

Vive la Fringe. With the demise of the repertory system, it is the fringe and alternative theatre that has stealthily and often in unrecognised ways provided the apprenticeship and forcing house in recent years for all that is best in our theatrical, cinematic and televisual life.

We take it so for granted, the unstinting hours, the passion, the labours of love, for little remunerative reward, that forms our cultural backbone.

© Marilyn Kingwill, Emily Houghton, Samantha Pearl and Grace Andrews

© Marilyn Kingwill, Emily Houghton, Samantha Pearl and Grace Andrews, Tomorrow I Was Always A Lion (Arcola); British company, Belarus Free Theatre director Vladimir Shcherban

So at the end of 2016, I’d like to pay tribute to all those unsung actors and backstage staff who never get the accolades, the rehearsal directors, the understudies, the stage managers and most of all the esprit de corps. How many productions have I seen this year and in recent years where the ballast and spring of a production has been supplied and kept steady by the ensemble and the chorus.

Here in no particular order are some of the productions and their stellar ensembles who have stirred, enthralled or provoked me. I thank them, each and every one for making my life that much richer for having seen them.

I should add that partial as I am to new work, this list is restricted to new plays only I’ve seen this year. Apologies for non-mention of the many excellent revivals (excepting Ragtime, my Musical of the year and Yael Farber for her dynamic revival of the great Lorraine Hansberry’s prescient, extraordinary Les Blancs at the National, my Best Director of the year ). I’m sure they’ll be covered elsewhere…

© Manuel Harlan, Fiston Barek (Dembe), Joe (Sule Rimi) , Faith Alabi (Naome), Jo Martin (Mama), Faith Omole (Wummie) in Chris Urch's The Rolling Stone

© Manuel Harlan, Fiston Barek (Dembe), Joe (Sule Rimi) , Faith Alabi (Naome), Jo Martin (Mama), Faith Omole (Wummie) in Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone

Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone at the Orange Tree
Anna Jordan’s Yen at the Royal Court
Owen Sheer’s Pink Mist at the Bush, up from Bristol
Stuart Slade’s BU21 at Theatre503
Leo Butler’s Boy at the Almeida
Rose Lewenstein’s Darknet at Southwark Playhouse
Nick Payne’s Elegy at the Donmar
James Graham’s Monster Raving Loony at Soho
Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand at the Tricycle
Mike Poulton’s wonderful Kenny Morgan at the Arcola
Mark Hayhurst’s equally fabulous First Light at Chichester
Neil McPherson’s Easy to be Dead at Finborough
Charlene James’s Cuttin It at the Royal Court
Owen McAfferty’s Unfaithful at Found111
Nathaniel Martello-Wright’s Torn at the Royal Court
David Greig’s The Kid the Arcola
Ella Hickson’s Oil at the Almeida
Elinor Cook’s Pilgrims at The Yard
Isango Ensemble from South Africa in A Man of Good Hope at the Young Vic
Mongiwekhaya’s I See You, another South African piece at the Royal Court

© Manuel Harlan, the company in Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know to be True, Frantic Assembly

+ Frantic Assembly’s Things I Know To Be True by Andrew Bovell at Lyric Hammersmith and touring

Belarus Free Theatre twice over: Burning Doors at Soho and later in the year at the Arcola, Tomorrow I Was Always A Lion, based on Arnhild Lauveng’s memoir

Finally, and not forgetting Katie Mitchell’s superlative Forbidden Zone at the Barbican, co-production with Berlin’s Schaubühne.

Thank you all.


Review published on this website, Dec 31, 2016