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: The Normal Heart, National Theatre

Heartbreaking but fiercely essential work. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart receives a masterful revival courtesy of Dominic Cooke at the National Theatre

“The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual”

A flame lit in respectful silence, shirts whipped off to the pulsing synthline of ‘I Feel Love’, the opening moments of Dominic Cooke’s revival of Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart are full of Pride and perfectly encapsulate one of the key dilemmas haunting its characters. It is New York City in the early 1980s and writer and activist Ned Weeks is struggling to make the wider world understand what to him seems obvious, an unidentified disease is scything through the gay community in alarming numbers.

Plays about AIDS have tended to the operatic in scale – Angels in America and The Inheritance both sprawling over two lengthy parts. So by comparison, The Normal Heart is over in a flicker, coming in well under three hours. And my lord is that a good thing, as the second half in particular is punishingly, essentially, brutal. Prior to the interval, there’s a beautiful sense of world-building – Weeks and his pals bonding over their shared need to do something, battling over the best way to do it. And Weeks also falls in love for the first time, a scene of combative flirting is as entertaining as it is erotic.

Continue reading “Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre”

Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released

The National Theatre has released rehearsal images by Helen Maybanks for Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart a co-production with Fictionhouse, being performed in the Olivier Theatre in September 2021. Directed by Dominic Cooke, Kramer’s largely autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis in 1980 New York has not been performed professionally in London since its European premiere in 1986.

Ben Daniels will perform the role of Ned Weeks, the co-founder of an AIDS advocacy group fighting to change the world around him, with Robert Bowman, Richard Cant, Liz Carr, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Dino Fetscher, Daniel Krikler, Daniel Monks, Elander Moore, Luke Norris, Henry Nott, Lucas Rush, Freddie Stabb, Samuel Thomas and Danny Lee Wynter completing the company.

Set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Lisa Duncan, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Carolyn Downing and fight direction by Bret Yount. The Normal Heart will be in the Olivier theatre from 23rd September until 6th November 2021. Continue reading “Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released”

News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022

The National Theatre will return to performances with full capacity audiences from later this month. Additional seating will now be available for performances of After Life from 27 July alongside the previously-announced productions Rockets and Blue Lights in the Dorfman theatre and Paradise in the Olivier theatre, with extra tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 19 July.  

Tickets for The Normal Heart, East is East, Manor and Hex on sale to the public from Friday 30 July. Continue reading “News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022”

News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together

The National Theatre announces new programming and launches a major new campaign for its future, National Theatre Together

The National Theatre has announced its programming until the start of next year with productions on all three South Bank stages as well as three major UK tours, two productions on Broadway, a return to cinemas, and a new feature film to be broadcast on television this autumn. In the week the theatre reopened for audiences again, six new productions were announced, and five productions halted by the pandemic were confirmed to return to the South Bank.  

It has also announced the public launch of National Theatre Together, a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.  Continue reading “News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together”

News: Friday theatre update from the National Theatre, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Roles We’ll Never Play

Friday theatre news from the National Theatre, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Roles We’ll Never Play

In a canny move, the National Theatre is bringing panto to its main stage as Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd’s hilarious and heartfelt version of Dick Whittington, first staged at Lyric Hammersmith in 2018 and freshly updated for 2020, will open in the socially distanced Olivier theatre on 11th December.  

Directed by Ned Bennett, this wild and inventive production explores what it is like to come from a small town and arrive in a big city today, exploring the ideas of community and togetherness. Initial casting includes Dickie Beau, Amy Booth-Steel, Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings​, Georgina Onuorah, and Cleve September 

They have also announced the next show to open as part of the Olivier in-the-round season in February 2021 is Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, in a co-production with Fictionhouse. Directed by Dominic CookeKramer’s largely autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis in 1980 New York has not been performed professionally in London since its European premiere in 1986. Ben Daniels will perform the role of Ned Weeks, the co-founder of an AIDS advocacy group fighting to change the world around him, with Danny Lee Wynter as Tommy Boatwright, Daniel Monks as Mickey Marcus and Stanley Townsend as Ben Weeks. Vicki Mortimer is Set Designer and Paule Constable is Lighting Designer.  

Tickets for The Normal Heart will go on sale from the end of November.  Continue reading “News: Friday theatre update from the National Theatre, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Roles We’ll Never Play”

Winners of 2010-2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Matthew López, After the Revolution
WINNER – Matthew López, The Whipping Man
Kim Rosenstock, Tigers Be Still
David West Read, The Dream of the Burning Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
WINNER – Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Daniel Radcliffe, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Aaron Tveit, Catch Me If You Can
Continue reading “Winners of 2010-2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2010-2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Matthew López, After the Revolution
Matthew López, The Whipping Man
Kim Rosenstock, Tigers Be Still
David West Read, The Dream of the Burning Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Daniel Radcliffe, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Aaron Tveit, Catch Me If You Can
Continue reading “Nominations for 2010-2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards”