Last week I was on a more timely schedule with rounding up lists of critics’ tips for the best theatre coming up this year. But in truth, as I’ve been organising the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards ceremony on 31 January, as well as working with My Theatre Mates’ to announce the Also Recognised shortlists soon after that, I’ve still been thinking a lot about what qualifies as the best theatre of last year.
I rounded up my personal choices in a recent blog and have enjoyed reading and publishing the scores of Year in Review blogs (nearly 30!) from My Theatre Mates colleagues in recent weeks. As an addendum, I’ve now rounded up critics’ round-ups in other publications.
Is there a consensus? The 2016 productions most likely to make it onto these year in review lists include:
- Yerma starring Billie Piper at the Young Vic
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
- King Lear starring Glenda Jackson at the Old Vic
the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy at King’s Cross
- A Streetcar Named Desire starring Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
- The Deep Blue Sea starring Helen McCrory at the National
- The Flick at the National
- Escaped Alone at the Royal Court
- Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
- Half a Sixpence, transferred from Chichester Festival Theatre to the West End
- Iphigenia in Splott at the National and on tour
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National
- Travesties starring Tom Hollander at the Menier Chocolate Factory and now transferring to the West End
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe
- BU21 at Theatre503 and now transferred to the West End
What else made the critics’ lists? I’ve summarised their picks below. Click through to read each in full.
Ann Treneman’s picks include: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Deep Blue Sea, Richard III, A Streetcar Named Desire (Exchange), Yerma, Angel, Groundhog Day, No Man’s Land, Travesties and Flowers for Mrs Harris.
What were the year’s most significant productions? Dominic Cavendish’s picks include: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Half a Sixpence and King Lear (Old Vic).
GUARDIAN > Michael Billington
Billington’s picks include: The Flick, Oil, Cyprus Avenue, The Glass Menagerie (EIF), King Lear (Old Vic), The Children, Don Quixote, A Streetcar Named Desire (Exchange), No Man’s Land, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
GUARDIAN > Lyn Gardner
Gardner’s picks include: the Donmar’s Shakespeare trilogy, The Hamilton Complex, Us/Them, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, Iphigenia in Splott, Men and Girls Dance, Yerma, People Places and Things, The Flick and Right Now.
GUARDIAN/OBSERVER > Susannah Clapp
Clapp’s picks include: Escaped Alone, the Shakespeare Trilogy, King Lear, A Man of Good Hope, London Stories: Made by Migrants, School of Rock, The Deep Blue Sea, Yerma, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Night Watch and A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer.
GUARDIAN > Readers
Numerous picks from readers across the country include: Yerma, The Suppliant Women, This Is Living, Iris, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Thon Man Moliere, Don Quixote, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Blackthorn, The Grinning Man, The Damned United, The Toad Knew and The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.
Critics Henry Hitchings and Fiona Mountford’s picks include: Yerma, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, This House, Iphigenia in Splott, Oil, Young Chekhov, Dreamgirls, Love, Cuttin’ It, Groundhog Day, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the Shakespeare Trilogy, Minefield, The Encounter, Half a Sixpence, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Guys & Dolls, People Places and Things, She Loves Me and Sunset Boulevard.
THE STAGE > Richard Jordan
Jordan’s picks, from the Edinburgh Fringe, London and beyond, include: Doubting Thomas, Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat, Diary of a Madman, The Glass Menagerie (EIF), Show Boat, Hamlet (RSC), The Flick, Les Blancs, Nell Gwynn and Blue/Orange. He also gives shout-outs to performers includign Charlie Stemp, Tracie Bennett, Andy Karl, Tyrone Huntley, Ralph Fiennes and Billie Piper.
THE STAGE: 145 shows that defined theatre in 2016
Joint chief critics Natasha Tripney and Mark Shenton both name their year-defining picks in compiling this mega list. Tripney’s include: King Lear, Henry V, the Shakespeare Trilogy, Yerma, A Streetcar Named Desire, Hamlet, The Tempest, Imogen, Minefield, The Hamilton Complex, Amadeus, Peter Pan, The Deep Blue Sea, Cleansed, The Children, Escaped Alone, Unreachable and BU21.
Shenton’s picks include: Lazarus, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Nice Fish, Dreamgirls, Side Show, Aladdin, School of Rock, Grey Gardens, The Adding Machine, The Burnt Part Boys, Groundhog Day, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jekyll and Hyde, Show Boat, The Truth, My Family, Travesties, Boy, The Flick, Yerma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Les Blancs, Amadeus, The Deep Blue Sea, Faith Healer and Blue/Orange.
Matt Wolf’s picks include: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Cuttin’ It, Cyprus Avenue, Escaped Alone, Iphigenia in Splott, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sheppey, Travesties, Uncle Vanya and Yerma.
Gary Naylor’s picks include: I Loved Lucy, Orphans, The Awakening, Orca, Firebird, BU21, Cargo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titanic, Ragtime, Wonderful Town, Soho Cinders, Floyd Collins, Peter Pan, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Another Night Before Christmas.
A YOUNGER THEATRE
Team picks include: Yerma, Swan Lank/Loch na hEala, Half a Sixpence, She Loves Me, Thorn, The Mountaintop, The Island Nation, The Emperor, Little Shop of Horrors and Fool for Love.
MY THEATRE MATES
Nearly 30 different round-ups of productions, performances, theatres and more from Mates including Ian Foster, Carole Woddis, Susan Elkin, Jonathan Baz, Caroline Hanks-Farmer, Emma Clarendon, Emma McWilliams, Kristy Stott, Laura Kressly, Matt Merritt, Shanine Salmon, Simon Parris, Vicky Anderson – and me!
BRITISH THEATRE: Top 5 musical performances of 2016
Douglas Mayo’s picks, from the West End and Broadway, are: Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard, Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, the cast of Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre, Amber Riley in Dreamgirls and Cynthia Erivo in The Colour Purple.
THE STAGE: Mark Shenton’s top 10 new UK musicals in 2016
Mark’s picks for NEW musicals are: Groundhog Day, Flowers for Mrs Harris, Dreamgirls, Grey Gardens, The Adding Machine, A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, School of Rock, Lazarus, The Buskers Opera and Motown.
THE STAGE: Mark Shenton’s top 10 musical revivals of 2016
Mark’s picks for musical REVIVALS are: Jesus Christ Superstar, Ragtime, She Loves Me, Floyd Collins, Show Boat, Guys & Dolls, Into the Woods, Sunset Boulevard, The Last Five Years and Allegro.
NEW YORK TIMES
We’re still thinking about the searing performances, challenging stagecraft and oddball experiments that make theatre anything but a safe space. Times writers, editors and critics single out moments to remember.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Lots of excellent revivals, several impressive new plays, two terrific new musicals—most of them produced off Broadway or out of town: That’s the shorthand story of theatre in America in 2016.
BEYOND THE SHOWS
THE STAGE: The year in news
A month-by-month rundown of the biggest theatre news headlines of 2016, including major changes at ATG and Stage Entertainment, broken Harry Potter embargoes and Emma Rice’s departure from the Globe.
THE STAGE: The year in obituaries
Paying tribute to some of the industry’s celebrated figures who died in 2016, including Alan Rickman, Louise Plowright, Arnold Wesker, Peter Shaffer, Edward Albee, Howard Davies, Michael White, Robert Stigwood and Dario Fo.
Mark Shenton’s top 10 London venues of 2016
Mark’s top theatres of the year are: the National, Menier Chocolate Factory, Young Vic, Old Vic, Southwark Playhouse, Almeida, Donmar Warehouse, Open Air Theatre, King’s Cross Theatre and Savoy Theatre.
2016: a gender-blind year
Niall Palmer celebrates gender blind performances from Glenda Jackson, Harriet Walter, Angela Smimmo, Craige Els, Paul O’Grady and Anna Francolini.
Top 10 theatre books of 2016
Dom O’Hanlon’s top reads include: The Secret Life of the American Musical, On Broadway, Alan Bennett: Keeping On Keeping On, Hamilton: The Revolution, and British Musical Theatre since 1950.
NOW TAKE THE QUIZ
EVENING STANDARD: Theatre quiz of the year
How closely were you paying attention? What’s your score on theatre 2016?