Year in Review: Carole Woddis’ top 20 new plays of 2016 (with special praise for the Fringe)

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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.

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…

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

Plus, also:

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.

 

Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She has contributed to other websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and now blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.
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Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She has contributed to other websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and now blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.

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