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.

Review: Assisted, Golden Goose Theatre

Alexa who? Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted takes an amusing and assured look at the growing role AI takes in our lives, playing at the Golden Goose Theatre now

“Don’t shout at her, she’s not a person”

Hey Siri, can you write this theatre review for me? No? At the moment, voice assistants have their limitations but in a time of extraordinary technological progression and a wide-ranging societal embrace thereof, Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted, presented as part of the Golden Goose’s EMERGE2021 festival of new theatre, poses the question about how far they could, or should, go.

Jordan has got himself a next-gen AI – Alivia – and integrated her – and it’s always a ‘her’, studies have shown so 😉 – seamlessly into pretty much every aspect of his life. But as his IRL relationship with Connie grows and she moves in, a real tension begins to develop with their contrasting attitudes towards Alivia and the way in which she intersects, interacts and even interferes with their lives. Continue reading “Review: Assisted, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: Terrifying Women, Golden Goose Theatre

A set of six spooky short plays make Terrifying Women the perfect Halloween (trick or) treat at the Golden Goose Theatre

“I learned at an early age the power of a scary story”

Yes, I know. Having declared last week that horror doesn’t work particularly well for me onstage, I spent part of my Halloween weekend watching more horror onstage. And this time, I had my spine well and truly chilled by the terrifying women of Terrifying Women at the Golden Goose Theatre (also now streaming), all much more acutely aware of how to instil a growing sense of real dread and make you jump the f*ck out of your seat.

They – Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Sampira and Abi Zakarian – are aided in no small part by the form of the evening they have put together. A series of short plays, all monologues, slices out the need for atmosphere-draining scene changes, and taut running times means that the writers are necessarily highly efficient in getting the job done, whether indicting governmental complacency, invoking Armenian genocide or investigating childhood fears. Continue reading “Review: Terrifying Women, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, Golden Goose Theatre

Gently immersive and quietly heartbreaking, DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco makes for a fantastic time at the Golden Goose Theatre

“I think about how this is going to be a very long night”

Party hats on entry aside, DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco kicks off with an inspired rug pull of a move that encapsulates the play perfectly. Can reality ever live up to how good things seem in our head? And what can we do when that realisation finally kicks home? Georgie Bailey’s one-man multimedia journey for ChewBoy Productions explores just that with searing insight and a truly empathetic ear.

In his mind’s eye, Baz is a cutting edge DJ who would make David Guetta quake in his loafers. In reality, he’s 35 and the resident disc jockey for Brigdale Primary but he’s no less committed for that, and the upcoming Year 6 Leavers Disco is his moment to shine. But when that moment is threatened by a blast from the past, Baz is forced to reckon with his history and deal with just how much it has shaped him. Continue reading “Review: DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: Louisa & Jo (& Me), Golden Goose Theatre

At Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre, Louisa & Jo (& Me) continues a rich vein of form for Out of the Forest Theatre 

“It’s been incredibly hard to write things this past year”

I didn’t think I ever needed to hear ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ ever again but serenaded by an acoustic folksy duet version as I walked into the Golden Goose Theatre for Louisa & Jo (& Me), I did begin to question my life choices. But then I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Out of the Forest Theatre have truly beguiled me with cracking shows like Call Me Fury and Bury the Hatchet over the last few years.

This is a first outing for Sasha Wilson’s Louisa & Jo (& Me) but even as a work-in-progress directed here by Hannah Hauer-King, it bears many of the hallmarks of an archetypal …Forest show – think an almost enchanting level of multi-layered storytelling sprinkled with folk music interludes – and looks set to maintain their impressive hit rate. Continue reading “Review: Louisa & Jo (& Me), Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: The Off Key, Golden Goose Theatre

Revamped and now featuring an interval, sparkling new musical The Off Key returns for a week at the Golden Goose Theatre

“If you love someone, do you need to know every-fucking-thing they think?” 

I really rather enjoyed new musical The Off Key when I saw its work-in-progress last year at the White Bear in one of the brief windows when theatre was allowed. So I was delighted to see it pop its head up again at another theatre that’s about 7 minutes walk from my flat, Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre. 

A scorchingly intimate and dryly funny two-hander, the show is a gig musical which follows budding singer/songwriters Sam and Liv and the imploding supernova that is the ill-fated relationship between them. As love curdles into something sour and personal demons come to the fore, their music can’t help but reflect it. Continue reading “Review: The Off Key, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: The Frida Kahlo of Penge West, Golden Goose Theatre

The Frida Kahlo of Penge West proves a comic surprise at the Golden Goose Theatre

“My nemesis, my saviour”

What is it about words that end in -nge that make so many of them so satisfying to say. The highlight of The Great British Sewing Bee was undoubtedly the number of times people said flange and so I was delighted with the focus on saying Penge that started off this play.

Chris Larner’s The Frida Kahlo of Penge West has previously pootled around the fringe of both Edinburgh and London and now re-emerges at one of the newest (and friendliest) theatres in the English capital, Camberwell’s Golden Goose Theatre. And it proves a rather rowdily, raucous bit of good fun. Continue reading “Review: The Frida Kahlo of Penge West, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: Eating Myself

Pepa Duarte’s one-woman show Eating Myself makes you crave the smells of live theatre as much as anything

“My body doesn’t work like that”

As another series of The Great British Bake-Off winds to a close and we tumble hard once again for the lusciousness of Nigella’s culinary world, Pepa Duarte’s solo show Eating Myself asks us to think of a more pernicious way in which society can dictate our relationship with food.

Drawing on her Peruvian upbringing, Duarte comes up with her own recipe of movement and dialogue to find a mode of storytelling that works through ideas of body image, cultural heritage and societal pressure to be the kind of woman, Peruvian woman, that is ‘acceptable’. Continue reading “Review: Eating Myself”

Review: Now. Here. This., Golden Goose Theatre

The newly opened Golden Goose Theatre brings some interesting musical theatre to Camberwell with Now. Here. This.

“Why are there lipmarks all over the TV set?”

Truth be told, my first thought on hearing that a new theatre was opening in London was ‘do we really need another one?’. Then I clocked the address in Camberwell and realised that I could add it to the list of theatres that I can walk to in under 10 minutes (the White Bear, the Blue Elephant, the Ovalhouse as was…) which kinda goes to my first point there…

And you do have to admire the gumption that goes with opening a new venue in the middle of a pandemic (I recommend this article on that topic) and so I happily made my way to the Golden Goose Theatre to catch their second ever show Now. Here. This.. All credit to the staff for ensuring a safe and friendly environment and even with its capacity reduced, the new auditorium feels ripe with potential, particularly with a pleasingly large, high stage which immediately sets it apart from many a fringe venue. Continue reading “Review: Now. Here. This., Golden Goose Theatre”