2009 Best Play/Best Musical

Best Play

The Roman Tragedies, Barbican
On paper, it shouldn’t have worked: 6 hours of 3 Shakespeare plays back-to-back performed in Dutch, but this was one of the most exhilarating theatrical experiences one could have imagined. Genuinely innovative: using live-video footage effectively and creatively, inviting the audience onto the stage to watch from sofas there, but supplemented with acting of a first-rate degree, often so good you didn’t even need the surtitles to understand what was being said. On top of that, it made three of Shakespeare’s longest plays feel fresh, new and directly relevant to issues of the nature of democracy in our world today: it must come back!
Honourable mention
Our Class, National Theatre
One of the most important new plays written in recent years: a painful, brutal account of the horrors perpetrated in wartime but also of how those actions continue to reverberate through the years and most importantly a reminder of what humans are capable of when caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Beautifully staged, hauntingly acted, this is a play that will remain with me for a long time.

Arcadia, Duke of York’s
Cock, Royal Court
A Streetcar Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse
When the Rain Stops Falling, Almeida

Best Fringe* Play
Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2Sam Peter Jackson’s dark comedy managed the rare feat of being exactly that: both dark and comic in the right measure and in plentiful supply. In the intimate space of the Trafalgar Studios basement, the rapid-fire quips left me constantly in stitches whilst the manipulative, duplicitous plot raised questions about the celebrity-hungry world in which we now live, a play which has improved in my estimation since seeing it.

Honourable mention
The Spanish Tragedy, Arcola
It is well-established that fringe theatre is generally more daring and able to take creative risks than the West End, but rarely is it done with such elan and style as by this Mitchell Moreno-directed version of The Spanish Tragedy. Utilising elements of Japanese puppet theatre and video sparingly enhanced this sparse production to a new level, and a range of inventive ways to suggest the extreme levels of gore found a strange beauty amongst all the horrific death.
Frank’s Closet, Hoxton Hall
The Last Five Years, Duchess
The Pietà, St John’s Piccadilly
Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall

Best Musical
Hello, Dolly!, Regents Park Open Air Theatre
As happy and delightful as musicals can get. Completely old-school and refreshingly free of any postmodern ironic touches, I saw this outdoors on a unseasonably cold, rainy late August night and it filled me with such warmth and joy I could have sat right through it again (though perhaps with a blanket!)

Honourable mention
La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse Theatre
Run a close second with Priscilla, but any musical that can tempt me back time after time (3 trips for me this year) has to be acknowledged. With some canny casting decisions that kept audiences coming back and regular changes to arrest any flagging numbers, this musical remained a delight for me. A happy, proud show but with as sweet a love story at the centre of it as ever you will see. Such a shame that it is now closed but I hope it does well on Broadway.
The Last Five Years
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Sister Act
Sweet Charity

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