Flashes of excellence can be found in the midst of any production so this list celebrates some of those breath-taking and/or memorable moments that really made theatregoing enjoyably fun this year.
Being your hero!
No word of a lie, my happiest memory from inside a theatre has to be Knights of the Rose. Nothing about the overblown opening night (including real roses on the seat) prepared us for the moment someone broke out into Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’ in what had been heavily trailed as a rock musical. Kudos to the cast for continuing valiantly on, and thanks for the entertainment.
Jude Christian and Bethany Wells pushing the Gate wide open
Christian’s production of Trust blew me away with its off-the-wall invention of this German play, Bethany Wells’ design completely redefining the theatrical space and as we slipped from sleep masks to tequila shots, economic theory to the Pet Shop Boys, I couldn’t help but be exhilarated.
Finally unlocking the VAULT
For the first time, I had a properly fantastic experience with the VAULT festival. Whether it was my choice of shows or a general hoik in quality, or the simple fact that I limited myself to one multi-show day a week, I caught some hugely exciting theatre from Tumulus to Glitter Punch to Bicycles and Fish to the primal roar of I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream – this felt like a year when the VAULT really found its purpose.
Es Devlin’s turquoise cloud for Girls and Boys
So much about Girls and Boys was so good but the design work was superlative. Es Devlin’s turquoise fantasia with its shifting orange elements, overlaid at each scene change by a brief glimpse of ‘normality’ courtesy of Luke Halls video. A sumptous but entirely meaningful feast.
Immersive theatre done right
Too many shows whack on the labels immersive and site-specific as mere marketing techniques, but David Jiang’s production of Ming Ho’s Citizens of Nowhere? managed both those things effortlessly. Placing us in the foyer of the Southbank Centre and utilising headphone technology, an amazing sense of intimacy emerged out of the hustle and bustle. Keep your eyes open for the show’s return in a Chinese restaurant next year.
More rosette-making immersive goodness
And on a similar theme, I loved what O’Neill/Ross did in Suffragette City – their interactive suffragette experience which managed to blow my tiny little mind about how the patriarchy will defend even me when trying my best to be an ally.
“You can never go back to before” – or can you?!
The choice to go back to a show can be a tricky one for a critic but there was no mistaking the joy in returning to 42nd Street after Bonnie Langford had joined the cast. For me, it made all of the pieces of this musical finally click together and work better than ever before. Clare Halse deserves more recognition than she’s gotten too.
The rise of the fan favourites?
Something interesting to observe, particularly where new musicals are concerned, has been the rise of strong fanbases for shows that haven’t necessarily gotten much critical acclaim. From Eugenius to Six to Heathers and even Bat out of Hell, it has been instructive to see people getting passionately behind the shows they want rather than letting star ratings necessarily guide them.
Celebrating the NHS in theatre and in song
The Greatest Wealth saw the Old Vic celebrate 70 years of the NHS with a series of specially-commissioned monologues, the climax of which was Seiriol Davies’ utterly gorgeous The Nuchess, a musical tribute which got down to the simple purity of Aneurin Bevan’s great idea.
All the tears. All of them.
And rounding off this list, the end of Part One of The Inheritance has to be one of the most profoundly moving I’ve ever experienced in a theatre. Exquisitely perfect.