Rev Stan’s Theatre blog recently turned 10 years old. My first post was 18 April 2010, it took a couple of weeks before I was to post again but the marker was in the sand. I had lots of ideas for fun theatre nerdery to celebrate but the lockdown has clipped my wings a little bit as many of them involved actually be at the theatre.
But not to let a decade of theatre bloggery go by without marking the occasion, to kick things off, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite play for each year I’ve been blogging. It has been fun revisiting my best-of lists but absolute agony narrowing each list down to just one, as you will see. I’m still not 100% happy but here goes:
2010 – I initially chose The Pride, Lucille Lortel Theater, New York which saw Ben Whishaw make his Broadway debut alongside Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough but then I realised that technically I saw that in February 2010 before Rev Stan’s Theatre blog was born. So I’ve reluctantly decided it doesn’t count.
So my second choice is Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre. It’s a play that set the benchmark for uncomfortable humour and one which I regularly reference when talking about superb dark comedies.
2011 – Jeez, this was a tough one. This was the year I saw Jerusalem, Much Ado with Tennant and Tate and Collaborators, National Theatre to name just three. But with much soul-searching I’m going to choose Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket because it was so beautiful and warm and sad and I’ll always remember Sheridan Smith’s trembling bottom lip and a brilliant early performance by Matthew Tennyson. Saw it more than once too.
Starting to wonder why I decided to do this. I mean how am I supposed to choose between Constellations, Curious Incident and Cillian Murphy in Misterman. Aaargh. OK as you pressed me Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, National Theatre mainly because I’ve ended up seeing it several times since and the puppy peed on the stage the first time I saw it.
First play on my best-of list for the year was Mojo. Easy I thought. Then I scanned down and saw Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus, Orpheus at BAC, Sea Wall at the National Theatre and the Cripple of Inishmaan. *Cries for a bit* Right I’ve decided, I’m going to have to go with Mojo at the Harold Pinter though because I did see it 9 times and it’s the play I would go and see if I had a time machine.
It was the year we had A View From the Bridge and A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, as well as The Nether, Royal Court but I’m going to have to go with My Night With Reg at the Donmar Warehouse because it was beautifully bittersweet – and another play I saw more than once. I’m also proud of the fact that I got the cast to sign a playtext for Poly’s Birthday that year.
So I’m having to dismiss Cheek By Jowl’s a-mazing Russian Measure For Measure (it’s available to stream via Barbican website) and Hangmen, Royal Court and A Song From Far Away, Young Vic and Bakkhai, Almeida just to name four. Did I mention it’s painful? I’m going to go for The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios and not just because James McAvoy rode around the stage on a unicycle wearing just pants and cowboy boots.
This is cruel. 2016 was a rare year because it had a bumper crop of plays with female protagonists – Mary Stuart, Yerma, Deep Blue Sea, Rotterdam… It was also the year I saw three different Ivo Van Hove plays including The Crucible in New York which had a stellar cast in its own right. Not to mention seeing Blackbird with Michelle Williams. It was also the year of first seeing Paapa Essiedu’s Hamlet which is one of my all-time favourites. Whichever I choose I feel like I’m letting down the rest of the sisterhood. But choose I must. So I’m going for Ruth Wilson’s superb Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre directed by Ivo Van Hove.
It was the year of The Ferryman, Royal Court and Andrew Scott’s Hamlet but my immediate gut reaction when scanning my best-of list for the year was An Octoroon at the Orange Tree. I saw it again when it had a much-deserved transfer to the National Theatre. It is a superb, rich and clever play and I said at the time: “It is brutal and funny. It is playful, challenging, ridiculous and deadly serious.” I’ve run to see plays by Branden Jacob-Jenkins ever since.
Jeez, this is another really tough year. I went to Edinburgh and saw some superb fringe but it was also the year of Summer and Smoke, Almeida, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar, A Monster Calls, Old Vic (haven’t cried that much in the theatre), Nine Night and The Great Wave both at the National but in the end I had to give it to the play which I gave my first ever (and so far only) six stars to Notes From The Field, Royal Court. A play so powerful (and uncomfortable) that at one point I was stood up singing Amazing Grace along with the rest of the auditorium.
Final agonising choice. I loved Hansard and Downstate was a brilliantly uncomfortable and funny watch (both NT), Present Laughter (Old Vic) was just sublime and then there was All My Sons, Old Vic with that cast but in the end, it came down to a choice between Tom Hiddleston et all in Betrayal and James McAvoy in Cyrano de Bergerac (a great year for Jamie Lloyd). And I’ve changed my mind about 5 times but…Cyrano, no Betrayal, no Cyrano OK Betrayal, it’s Betrayal at the Harold Pinter.
So what do you think of my choices?
Missing theatre during lockdown? I’ve compiled a list – updated weekly – of some of what is on offer to stream.
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