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

Your reminder that Anything Goes is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Looking for something to watch in festive limbo time? You can’t go far wrong than this Barbican Theatre smash hit production of musical classic Anything Goes which has been immortalised for our pleasure. There’s not much more to say about it that I didn’t cover in my original review and I’m so happy that I can now watch and rewatch the happiest 10 minutes of theatre I saw all year long over and over again (the amazing song and dance routine to the title track that closes Act 1 in case you were wondering).

Review: Anything Goes, Barbican

Sutton Foster soars in this superlative revival of Anything Goes which almost justifies the ticket prices at the Barbican

If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose”

There are several things that can take your breath away in this simply fantastic production of Anything Goes, whether the jaw-dropping rendition of the title track that closes the first act or ticket prices that top out at £175 (the Barbican’s seats may be comfortable but that is pushing it…). Fortunately, the rest of the house isn’t quite as eye-wincingly steep (though full disclosure, I was treated by the kindest aunt 😉) and the joyous swells of Kathleen Marshall’s production mean you’ll find it hard to feel short-changed.

Like many a show of its time, the plot is an entire trifle – Timothy Crouse & John Weidman fashioning a new book from PG Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse’s original – suffice to say it covers any manner of madcap antics on an ocean liner. Those antics are mainly there as a framework on which to hang some of the best songs ever written as we delve deep into the Cole Porter songbook for some musical heaven. Throw in a Broadway production that has already won multiple Tonys and also snag its leading lady who won of those, and job’s a good’un. Continue reading “Review: Anything Goes, Barbican”

News: National Theatre adds five new productions to streaming platform National Theatre at Home

The National Theatre has today announced the latest productions to be made available on its National Theatre at Home streaming platform. Launching today, Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams, the Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge directed by Ivo van Hove with Mark Strong and Nicola Walker, and Rufus Norris’ production of Everyman with Chiwetel Ejiofor will be available for all audiences worldwide to stream. Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein and Sonia Friedman Productions’ Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch will also be available for audiences outside the UK and Ireland. Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds five new productions to streaming platform National Theatre at Home”

News: Anything Goes – new casting and dates announced

One of the all-time greatest musicals Anything Goes, today announces it will open this summer at London’s Barbican Theatre from Friday 23 July for a strictly limited 12 week season until Sunday 17 October. This year’s must-
see musical will star Emmy & SAG Award winner Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) who is making her West End musical debut as Reno Sweeney, and Tony, Olivier & BAFTA Award winner Robert Lindsay (Me & My Girl, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Moonface Martin. They will join Evening Standard Theatre Award winner Felicity Kendal (The Good Life), also making her West End musical debut as Evangeline Harcourt and leading West End musical actor Gary Wilmot (Chicago, London Palladium Pantomimes) as Elisha Whitney. Tickets are on sale now.

The producers are also delighted to announce that Samuel Edwards (Les Misérables / Wicked), who is one of the UK’s most exciting young musical theatre actors, will be performing the role of Billy Crocker. Completing the principal cast is Nicole-Lily Baisden (The Book of Mormon / Let’s Face The Music) as Hope Harcourt, Carly Mercedes Dyer (West Side Story/Chicago) as Erma and Haydn Oakley (A Christmas Carol / An American in Paris) as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Further casting will be announced soon. Continue reading “News: Anything Goes – new casting and dates announced”

10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2019

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

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

Crying with laughter at the VAULT

I don’t think I have laughed so much and so helplessly for a long time as I did with improv group Sorry.

Jessica Hung Han Yun’s extraordinary lighting in Equus

Ned Bennett’s production of Equus had so much to commend but it was Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting work that really stood out for me Continue reading “10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2019”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: As You Like It, RSC at the Barbican

I find much to enjoy in Kimberley Sykes’s production of As You Like It for the RSC at the Barbican, particularly Lucy Phelps’ epic Rosalind

“Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly”

The critical reception for Kimberley Sykes’ production of As You Like It for the RSC was a little lukewarm this summer, all 3 stars and grudging praise. But I found myself really rather seduced by its many charms, as it opens the winter residency for them at the Barbican. And in Lucy Phelps, a Rosalind full of big dyke energy for the ages. Read my four star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Topher McGrillis
As You Like It is booking in rep at the Barbican until 18th January

Nominations for the 2019 Black British Theatre Awards

Creatives Group

BEST DIRECTOR FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Lynette Linton; Sweat: Gielgud Theatre
Roy Alexander Weise; Nine Night: National Theatre
Nancy Medina; The Half God of Rainfall: Kiln Theatre

BEST PRODUCER
Tobi Kyeremateng; Babylon Festival: Bush Theatre

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER 
SPONSORED BY HARLEQUIN FLOORS
Rachael Nanayonjo; Sleeping Beauty: Theatre Royal Stratford East
Alesandra Seutin; Boy Breaking Glass: Sadlers Wells
Shelley Maxwell; Equus: Theatre Royal Stratford East Continue reading “Nominations for the 2019 Black British Theatre Awards”