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: Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Frances De La Tour, among others, star in the heartbreakingly excellent Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now

“So, this is where the magic happens”

At a moment when theatreland is full of news of planned reopenings and hopes for the future, it is good to still be able to look at the cultural contributions that reflect on the recent past. Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now does just that by offering up 5 short tales of what life in Nottingham during lockdown has been like, stories that speak to the human impact of a global pandemic.

Writers Olu Alakija, Nathan Ellis, Amy Guyler and Emteaz Hussain take us through the full gamut of experiences – from volunteering at food banks to life as a delivery driver, students dealing with disrupted schooling and the strange ballet of getting a COVID safe Uber. And not only that, there’s a special short but spiky sketch from Alan Bennett performed by the luminous Frances De La Tour. Continue reading “Review: Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now”

News: Nottingham Playhouse reveals a Spring Loaded season of 23 events

Nottingham Playhouse has announced a season of live and digital productions that celebrate local stories and support East Midlands’ talent. The shows and events range from dance, music, drama, and Bollywood to horror, comedy and romance. Most the productions will be available to rent for On Demand viewing over five days, with others livestreamed. Prices start from just a small suggested donation to its Curtain Up appeal, to £20 per household. Bookings for live events will go on general sale on Tuesday 23 March. On Demand productions will steadily become available for rental from 16 March 2021 through to June 2021. Continue reading “News: Nottingham Playhouse reveals a Spring Loaded season of 23 events”

News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed

Following a record number of 1,493 submissions to its Verity Bargate Award 2020, Soho Theatre today reveals the 20 plays that have been longlisted for the award. The shortlist will be announced at the end of September and the winner of the award announced in October.

Since 1982, the Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre’s foremost playwriting award, has uncovered the best new and emerging writers. It has launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established playwrights and screenwriters including Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), Vicky Jones (HBO’s Run), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more. This year’s award will be judged by a panel of industry experts including former Soho writers Phoebe Waller-BridgeArinzé Kene and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. The award is sponsored by Character 7 and chaired by film and television producer, Character 7’s Stephen Garrett. The Award honours Verity Bargate, Soho’s co-founder who passionately championed new writing during her time at the small but hugely influential fringe theatre, Soho Poly. Continue reading “News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed”