Growing global discontent has been the hallmark of 2018, and 2019 is looking even worse. The last few years have marked a rise of the far-right, but theatremakers in opposition are letting audiences know it from the stage. Some of the best shows of this year show anger, fear, uncertainty or simply let the world know that enough is enough – it’s time for a fairer, more peaceful society that pays homage to all of its people.
10. Trust, Gate Theatre – this post-narrative attack on capitalism compels throughout with its excellent ensemble and design concept
9. Girls & Boys, Royal Court – Carey Mulligan’s performance of Dennis Kelley’s script is a stark confrontation of male violence that both surprises and angers
8. I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, Battersea Arts Centre – As BAC rises from the fire’s ashes, Bryony Kimmings overcomes a personal hell to make this mature, reflective show on trauma and parenthood
7. Nine Night, National Theatre – British and Jamaican cultural differences meet at a nine-day wake in this moving and unexpectedly funny play snapshotting modern Britain
6. Blackthorn, Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the power of social class is poignantly examined through the relationship of two children in a remote village whose lives have very different trajectories
5. Beginners, Unicorn Theatre – a rainy holiday becomes a fantastical adventure when kids get involved in this piece that honours young people’s imaginations and views of the world
4. Queens of Sheba, Edinburgh Festival Fringe – four black women celebrate their blackness and call out racism and misogynoir in this vital show that deserves to be required viewing
3. A Girl in a School Uniform (Walks into a Bar), New Diorama – the apocalypse has come and women are disappearing, but the script says a lot more about what women endure in the current patriarchy
2. An Adventure, Bush Theatre – This intimate, epic journey depicts one couple’s lifetime of compromise, migration and, well, adventure
1. Gundog, Royal Court – sharp, painful and angry characters force the audience to live the suffering they do in this biting, clever look at rural poverty
Honourable Mention: Three Sisters at the Yard – though too white in its feminism, this is a stunning example of how to reinvent and deconstruct the classics. More please, but make it intersectional.