This feels like a moment; I haven’t been able to do a best of theatre list since 2019 because of ‘you know what’. It’s been huge fun revisiting the plays I’ve seen – nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.
1. The Collaboration, Young Vic
Synopsis in a sentence: Andy Warhol’s star is waning, and young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s star is rising; they have nothing in common but are persuaded to collaborate.
From my review: “I was gripped in the presence of two great artists and gripped by their stories. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, and if I felt compelled to tap my toes at the start, by the end, I was on my feet, and that’s something I rarely do.”
The play is now on Broadway, and look out for a film version (an actual film, not a filmed stage version).
2. Henry V, Donmar Warehouse
Synopsis in a sentence: The wayward Prince becomes King and has to prove himself to his country and foreign powers.
Not going to lie, Kit Harington surprised me with his performance in this.
From my review: “This is a powerful production of Henry V. Harington’s nuanced, often quiet and considered Henry V perfectly highlights the complexity and often contradictory nature of the character and the role of leadership.”
3. The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre
Synopsis in a sentence: A woman has a final phone call with her lover, who is getting married the next day.
From my review: “It hasn’t gone down well with all the critics, but I thought it was mesmerising and gripping. Hats off to Ruth Wilson.”
4. Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre
Synopsis in a sentence: A lesbian choir get a coveted spot on the main stage at Pride, mainly because they are the only lesbian choir to apply.
From my review: “It is a funny, interesting and occasionally challenging play that had me walking out of the theatre with a big grin on my face. And that is a big win.”
5. Age of Rage, Barbican Theatre
Synopsis in a sentence: A three hour 45-minute epic which tracks the fallout of the Trojan wars as told through six Greek tragedies.
Was theatre even back until Ivo Van Hove had staged one of his epic productions?
From my review: “This is a production that pounds the senses. The sights, sounds and sometimes even the smell of smoke. It is a very physical play; even the tender moments have an urgency, a frantic pleading or passion, a desperate energy to them.”
Synopsis in a sentence: Konstantin fights for freedom from his dull life and for the attention of Nina, who has eyes only for successful writer Trigorin.
Another example of director Jamie Lloyd’s genius in dialling down the emotion, making it a still play he amplified the emotion.
From my review: “This is The Seagull as a tragic love story turned up to the max. I loved this production (can you tell). It opened up new avenues in what is a familiar play and took a fresh approach to what you’d expect to see on a big West End stage.”
Synopsis in a sentence: Having a night out in Soho’s gay bars and clubs when you think it will be your last.
From my review: “Wit, humour, fun and uplifting moments mix with the grimier, grimmer and heartbreaking, all of which are set against a backdrop of music that matches and enhances each moment… It is brilliant, a bitter-sweet celebration in some senses, superbly written and performed.
Synopsis in a sentence: The circumstances and repercussions of a horrific event.
From my review: “Monster deals with some tough topics, some of which might be triggering… However, it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to shock for the sake of it but rather to give food for thought…Brilliantly written and performed, it is a gripping and powerful play.”
Synopsis in a sentence: The last few years of Queen Mary of Scotland’s turbulent reign as seen through the eyes of one of her closest advisors.
From my review: “I thought Mary was a gripping piece of theatre, not just about politics and religion but the power and prejudice of the patriarchy. The disadvantage she faces because of her sex is writ large throughout.”
Synopsis in a sentence: A liberal literature professor’s life in Germany in the lead-up to and during the second world war.
From my review: “It is a demanding play… And it’s a profoundly thought-provoking play… Good was definitely worth the wait, one of the most interesting plays I’ve seen in a while.”
And finally, an honourable mention has to go to Eureka Day at the Old Vic theatre for making me laugh so much it hurt.
What do you think of my list? Which plays have made your ‘best of’ for 2022?
Happy New Year 🎭
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