The fosterIAN awards

fosterIAN (fos-tîr’ē-ən) – an award given for excellence in the theatre that I have witnessed.

For a long time, one of my life’s ambitions was to get the word ‘fosterian’ into the lexicon. I always thought it would be an adjective, like Thatcherite or Marxist, but I’ve now come to realise it is actually a noun, and hence we have the fosterIAN awards. 

Awarded annually, you can find all of the winners and nominees below in a searchable table format. An elite club of 12 are currently two-time winners, and nominations-wise, Josefina Gabrielle leads the list with five, Daniel Crossley, Andrew Scott and Imelda Staunton just behind on four. Continue reading “The fosterIAN awards”

10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

My 10 favourite shows of 2021

Just a little bit late… Here’s 10 of my favourite shows, both online and onstage but fully acknowledging that I saw a lot less than usual, I might actually have broken the back of this theatre obsession – it just took a global pandemic to do it…!

1. Anything Goes, Barbican
A joyous shot in the arm that felt like the perfect welcome back into the theatre this summer. Naturally, it is coming back next year to the Barbican and a UK tour but will it be led by the irrepressible Sutton Foster? You have to hope so as she was the epitome of Broadway class.

2. The Normal Heart, National Theatre
Almost unbearably moving, Larry Kramer’s 1985 loosely autobiographical play got a masterful revival from Dominic Cooke, making the most of the Olivier being in the round and blessed with a cast full of commitment and compassion.

3. Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre
Perhaps predictable for those that know me, but the four-way revival featuring Omari Douglas & Russell Tovey and Anna Maxwell Martin & Chris O’Dowd and Sheila Atim & Ivanno Jeremiah and Peter Capaldi & Zoë Wanamaker turned out to be a great way to revisit this play.

4. Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre
At least there’s a sense that they’re earning a bit of their hugely inflated ticket prices, as Rebecca Frecknall and Tom Scutt’s reinvention of the theatre is matched with a fearless reinterpretation of the classic musical which proves hauntingly effective.

5. What They Forgot To Tell Us (and other stories), BOLD Elephant
One of the more unexpected theatrical experiences of the year. I had no idea of what to expect and no real idea of why it moved me quite as much as it did. 

6. DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, Golden Goose Theatre
Gently immersive and quietly heartbreaking, this playful and powerful monologue really took me by surprise, totally captivating as Jack Sunderland’s emotionally broken Baz tries to chase the demons of both the past and present.

7. Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now
5 short stories of lockdown life in Nottingham turned out to be hugely affecting, featuring a wide range of the intimately human stories that make up a global pandemic and star performances from the likes of Frances De La Tour and Julie Hesmondhalgh.

8. Mum, Soho Theatre
Led by a scorching performance from Sophie Melville, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play took a sledgehammer to Insta-perfect narratives of new motherhood to offer up something of a nightmare of early parenthood. Absolutely exhilarating.

9. Gay Generations, White Bear Theatre
With a loose focus on older LGBT+ narratives, this double bill of new gay plays was quietly impressive and in the case of Michael McManus’ A Certain Term made me sob like a baby

10. Romeo and Juliet
The National led from the front in lockdown, able to parlay its resources into transforming its intended stage production of this teen tragedy into a deluxe filmed version with a delicious cast led by Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor.

The 2021 fosterIAN award winners

Best Actress in a Play
Sophie Melville, Mum

Best Actress in a Musical
Sutton Foster, Anything Goes

Best Actor in a Play
Omari Douglas/Russell Tovey, Constellations

Best Actor in a Musical
Eddie Redmayne, Cabaret

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Ayesha Dharker, The Book of Dust

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Carly Mercedes Dyer, Anything Goes

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Dino Fetscher, The Normal Heart

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Ainsley Hall Ricketts, A Chorus Line

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. Anything Goes, Barbican
2. The Normal Heart, National Theatre
3. Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre
4. Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre
5. What They Forgot To Tell Us (and other stories), BOLD Elephant
6. DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, Golden Goose Theatre
7. Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now
8. Mum, Soho Theatre
9. Gay Generations, White Bear Theatre
10. Romeo and Juliet

2021 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Sophie Melville, Mum 
There’s something about being completely wrong-footed by a production that is truly exciting. Though Mum had put its cards on the table, the sheer intensity of Melville’s utterly committed performance as a new mother completely swept me up as we raced headlong to that rug-pull. A performance (and a show) worthy of more attention.

Honourable mention: Cush Jumbo, Hamlet 
If another Hamlet wasn’t necessarily what I was most excited for, the return of Jumbo to the UK stage was worth the wait, calling back to her days at the Royal Exchange as well as showing us all how intelligent an actor she is becoming.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Lava
Jessie Buckley, Romeo and Juliet
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Still Life
Lesley Sharp, Paradise

Best Actress in a Musical

Sutton Foster, Anything Goes 
And to think we were meant to have Megan Mullally…  No disrespect at all to Karen Walker but the breathless 10 minute song and dance routine that closes the first act is just spectacular and matched with the way Foster commands the stage, as a true Broadway diva, this was one of the highlights of the year.

Honourable mention: Linzi Hateley, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The song might say that any dream will do but for me, the return of ‘the’ narrator after 30 years was the tops. A real full circle moment and a truly special, unmatchable afternoon in the theatre.

Samantha Barks/Stephanie McKeon, Frozen
Jessie Buckley, Cabaret
Carly Mercedes Dyer, A Chorus Line
Alex Young, She Loves Me

2021 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Omari Douglas/Russell Tovey, Constellations
There were occasional moments when the multiple casts of Constellations felt like it might just be an experiment but in the Douglas/Tovey iteration, something magical happened as their chemistry electrified this most familiar of plays, making it sexier, funnier and more heartwrenching than ever before.

Honourable mention: Ben Daniels, The Normal Heart 
A titanic piece of acting in a blisteringly good production, all the more powerful for being on one of our largest stages. And despite the weightiness of the material and the size of that stage, Daniels filled it with the deepest of compassion. 

Charles Edwards, Best of Enemies
Dickon Farmar, Gay Generations
Josh O’Connor, Romeo and Juliet
Jack Sunderland, DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco

Best Actor in a Musical

Eddie Redmayne, Cabaret 
Jessie Buckley rightly got a lot of the attention upon the owning of the Kit Kat Club but I don’t think Redmayne’s reworking of the Emcee is anything to be sniffed at either. A creepily expressive and starkly defined journey towards darkness, such is his charisma that we’re practically skipping along with him.

Honourable mention: Noel Sullivan, The Rhythmics 
Far too few people will have gotten to see Sullivan lead this charming new musical but one has to hope he’ll be at the lycra-clad helm once again when it resurfaces.

Declan Bennett, Carousel
Adam Cooper, Singin’ in the Rain
Scott Mackie, The Off Key
David Thaxton, She Loves Me

2021 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Ayesha Dharker, The Book of Dust 
Ruth Wilson’s televisual take on Mrs Coulter is one of my favourite things in life so for Dharker to find an interpretation that complemented yet contrasted so effectively is quite something. Stunning costume work certainly helped but she located the perfect combination of compelling and chilling for me.  

Honourable mention: Norah Lopez Holden, Hamlet 
A fascinatingly different take on Ophelia that really worked by finding an affecting emotional truth to the character that I’ve rarely seen done before.

Liz Carr, The Normal Heart
Deborah Findlay, Romeo and Juliet
Anastasia Hille, Paradise
Gloria Obianyo, Paradise

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Carly Mercedes Dyer, Anything Goes 
Against the star wattage of Sutton Foster, Dyer more than held her own as gangster’s moll Erma, full of vocal confidence and scene-stealing comic timing. And she impressed mightily in A Chorus Line too, a standout year for this most exciting of performers. 

Honourable mention: Victoria Hamilton-Barritt & Rebecca Trehearn, Cinderella  
As I said at the time, we’d all be winners if the musical was called The Stepmother and the Queen. Two larger-than-life scene-chewing turns that give the show so much of its life.

Emily Barnett-Salter, A Chorus Line
Kaisa Hammarlund, She Loves Me
Joanna Riding, Carousel

2021 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Dino Fetscher, The Normal Heart 
A play that was almost too much to bear, a legacy so vital to remember, a removal of a sock seared into my brain. Fetscher’s Felix flirted wonderfully, felt deeply and fought magnificently in a production and performance that I won’t forget anytime soon.

Honourable mention: Pip Carter, The Book of Dust
Rewarding such malevolence onstage almost feels wrong but Carter winds his way around Bonneville’s appalling behaviour with a dangerous almost seductive charisma.

Syrus Lowe, Best of Enemies
Daniel Monks, The Normal Heart
Lucian Msamati, Romeo and Juliet

Luke Norris, The Normal Heart

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Ainsley Hall Ricketts, A Chorus Line 
In a show all about the ensemble, it almost feels churlish to pick out individuals but the heartfelt beauty of Paul’s monologue is measured out so powerfully here. It helps that Ricketts is such a sensational dancer too. 

Honourable mention: Robert Lindsay, Anything Goes 
Predictably, Robert Lindsay does what Robert Lindsay always does but as Anything Goes’ Moonface, there’s a perfect marriage of character and persona that teeters just on the right edge of cheesiness.  

Stewart Clarke, Be More Chill
Andy Coxon, She Loves Me
Elliot Levey, Cabaret
Obioma Ugoala, Frozen

fosterIAN awards 2021

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlaySophie Melville, MumCush Jumbo, HamletRonkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Lava
Jessie Buckley, Romeo and Juliet
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Still Life
Lesley Sharp, Paradise
Best Actor in a Play
Omari Douglas/Russell Tovey, ConstellationsBen Daniels, The Normal HeartCharles Edwards, Best of Enemies
Dickon Farmar, Gay Generations
Josh O'Connor, Romeo and Juliet
Jack Sunderland, DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAyesha Dharker, The Book of DustNorah Lopez Holden, HamletLiz Carr, The Normal Heart
Deborah Findlay, Romeo and Juliet
Anastasia Hille, Paradise
Gloria Obianyo, Paradise
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayDino Fetscher, The Normal HeartPip Carter, The Book of DustSyrus Lowe, Best of Enemies
Daniel Monks, The Normal Heart
Lucian Msamati, Romeo and Juliet
Luke Norris, The Normal Heart
Best Actress in a MusicalSutton Foster, Anything GoesLinzi Hateley, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatSamantha Barks/Stephanie McKeon, Frozen
Jessie Buckley, Cabaret
Carly Mercedes Dyer, A Chorus Line
Alex Young, She Loves Me
Best Actor in a MusicalEddie Redmayne, CabaretNoel Sullivan, The RhythmicsDeclan Bennett, Carousel
Adam Cooper, Singin' in the Rain
Scott Mackie, The Off Key
David Thaxron, She Loves Me
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Carly Mercedes Dyer, Anything GoesVictoria Hamilton-Barritt & Rebecca Trehearn, CinderellaEmily Barnett-Salter, A Chorus Line
Kaisa Hammarlund, She Loves Me
Joanna Riding, Carousel
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalAinsley Hall Ricketts, A Chorus LineRobert Lindsay, Anything GoesStewart Clarke, Be More Chill
Andy Coxon, She Loves Me
Elliot Levey, Cabaret
Obioma Ugoala, Frozen

The 2021 fosterIAN nominations

Behold the 2021 fosterIAN award nominations, recognising the acting performances that stood out for me, the ones that made me sit up, and sometimes stand up. Obviously last year was a bust but I feel like I saw enough online and onstage new content to revive this celebration of theatrical performance.

As ever, I have used the label ‘best’, the categories should really be considered ‘favourite’ as that is what the fosterIANs (fos-tîr’ē-ən) are – my favourites out of the however many shows it was that I saw. Results to come in the next couple of days. Continue reading “The 2021 fosterIAN nominations”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”