Year in Review: Matt Merritt’s top shows of 2016

In London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Touring by Matt MerrittLeave a Comment

2016 is nearly over, and while we’re looking excited to see what 2017 holds, it would be remiss of us not to reflect on the shows that have entertained us this year! Of course, for those of you who’ve already read our roundup of our favourite performances from 2016, some of our picks will come as no surprise, but here are the shows we’re still talking about.

Way back in May we were at Chichester Festival Theatre for Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, a play that seems all the more prescient considering the events of the year as people are ever more divided over what is right or wrong. Built around a powerhouse central performance from Hugh Bonneville the production shone because of director Howard Davies’ balanced view, never letting the production influence the audience’s interpretation of events.

The highlight of the Globe’s summer season was undoubtedly Caroline Byrne’s all-Irish production of The Taming of The Shrew. A show of two halves, the riotous humour of the first act giving way to a stark and depressing second half that seemed to suck all colour out of the sky and the stage – wonderful!

We managed to miss Titanic in its run at Southwark Playhouse, so when it was announced as the first in a new season of musicals at Charing Cross Theatre we made sure we were on hand to check it out – and how lucky we were, this superb production, which had taken the long way across the Thames via a stint in Toronto, was everything that we hoped for. A superb ensemble assembled by Danielle Tarento and directed by Thom Southerland made us laugh, cry and fail to rid ourselves of the tunes for weeks afterward! In fact, I’m humming Godspeed… as I type this!!

One of our favourite productions of the year was one we had no anticipation for and only booked to review at the last minute, nonetheless Florian Zeller’s The Truth was an absolute delight, brutally cynical and hilariously funny it was the perfect piece for the gorgeous Wyndham’s Theatre and proof that sometimes it’s good to go to the theatre with no expectations at all.

What can I say about Michael Strassen’s production of The Fix at the shiny new Union Theatre that I haven’t already? If we were doing awards this would be the show of the year and Lucy Williamson would probably be our best performer too but this was a total delight with every member of the cast playing their part to perfection and proving that good writing, strong direction and great talent are more important than big budgets! We’d heartily recommend checking out the interview Michael gave us back in August if you haven’t before – you can read it here.

In a year of consistently strong shows from the Royal Shakespeare Company the standout came, not from the bard himself, but a riotous romp through Jacobean London courtesy of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist. Playing out like a long lost series of Blackadder this was an out and out joy full of gloriously OTT performances.

Late in the year we thought we had this list settled, but a trip to the Mayflower Theatre left us with a last minute addition from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe who, along with Julian Fellowes, gave us a delightful new take on The Wind in the Willows. Heart-warming, silly and with tunes so infectious you’ll be humming them for months this production will be one to watch out for when it heads to London in 2017 – don’t be surprised if it ends up on our list again next year!

As always, we’d love to hear from you, so let us know which shows you enjoyed most this year and what you’re excited about in the months to come!

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Matt Merritt
Matt has been a theatre fan since childhood, regularly visiting theatres in his native Portsmouth and surrounding areas. He has been reviewing for some time, initially for local press outlets before starting his own site, Sitting in the Cheap Seats, in 2013. These days he can generally be found in the front row of the balcony in a theatre in the Southwest (or on trips to London), quietly thankful he is short enough not to notice the lack of legroom!
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Matt Merritt on FacebookMatt Merritt on RssMatt Merritt on Twitter
Matt Merritt
Matt has been a theatre fan since childhood, regularly visiting theatres in his native Portsmouth and surrounding areas. He has been reviewing for some time, initially for local press outlets before starting his own site, Sitting in the Cheap Seats, in 2013. These days he can generally be found in the front row of the balcony in a theatre in the Southwest (or on trips to London), quietly thankful he is short enough not to notice the lack of legroom!

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