Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Scribbles 2013

Another year, another heap of theatre clambered across, waded through and, occasionally, stumbled under. My aim at the start of last year was to cut down on the theatre going this year to give me more time to write - and while I've edited Book One to death and got 50,000 words of Book Two down on paper, I'm not entirely sure that I've succeeded. True, I've gone from seeing 145 different productions last year down to 115 productions this year - but once I add the play readings, works in progress and repeat trips I've only actually managed to reduce it from 158 trips to 150 trips. So, apparently, this was the year of me seeing things more than once. Anyhow, on to the awards - which this year are sincere, silly and, sometimes, a bit mean (sorry about that).

First up some technical awards...

The 'Across the Universe' Award for Best Design
Usually I separate the design sections into set, costume, lighting and sound but with all four categories this year I found there were two productions fighting for the awards, so I've decided to give an overall design award jointly to the Punchdrunk team (Felix Barrett, Livi Vaughan, Beatrice Minns, Mike Gunning, Stephen Dobbie, Jack Galloway and Magnus Fienne) for the incredible depth, detail and atmosphere of the world they created in The Drowned Man; and to the RSC's Candide team (Soutra Gilmour, Tim Lutkin and Christopher Shutt) for the inventive, unmistakable, occasionally crazy and sometimes magical style they created - and who can't resist a score played on an inflated rubber glove.

Candide (somehow all of these elements made sense together)

The 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' Award for Best Choreography
I've always loved the way Sasha Regan's productions embrace the awkwardly shaped, cramped settings of the Union Theatre and turn it, charmingly, to their advantage. This was definitely the case with Lizzi Gee's fantastically fun choreography for H.M.S. Pinafore this year.

The 'In Spite of all the Danger' Award for Best Fight Choreography
Whilst the six-way sword fight ringing through the Poet's Chuch during The Cannibal Valour of Bussy D'Ambois and surrounding the audience may have sent several audience members scurrying deeper into their pews for safety - it left me utterly thrilled (though I've never had much sense of theatrical self preservation). Excellent work from Brice Stratford, Jimmy Thompson and the cast.

The 'I'll Get You' Award for Convincing Me with Special Effects
I'm pretty certain most the people I go to the theatre with know that I'm a complete sucker (I'm just very good at suspending my disbelief, ok) - but Jeremy Chernick's work for the Royal Court's Let The Right One In left me shuddering with horror and surprise more than once.

Now for some silliness (I can't keep up the sincerity for long periods)...

The 'Fixing a Hole' Award for Best Innuendo Laden Set Malfunction
Given that every third word in the RSC's A Mad World My Masters was filthy it was perhaps hardly surprising that a door breaking quickly descended into an opportunity for some ribaldry and innuendo that proved perfect for cementing the atmosphere of the play and uniting the audience. Just to give you an idea:

(Love my friends)

Sadly I missed the same companies, much discussed, 'Trapped naked in a bath in view of the audience with rapidly diminishing bubbles for 40 minutes' malfunction during Titus Andronicus or that might have stolen the award.

The 'I've Just Seen a... Face' Award for the Most Awkwardly Placed Imaginary Mirror
Understandably, Joshua Blake's Cougar Glass spent a significant amount of time closely checking his reflection during The Fastest Clock in the Universe in a mirror placed immediately above an audience members head. I would like to note that I was not aware of this fact when I chose my seat (I was thinking strictly of fire escape routes).

Joshua Blake as Cougar Glass

The 'Polythene Pam/Mean Mr. Mustard' Award for Squeezing the Best and Worst Pants into One Short Stretch of Production
I don't think I'll go into details but The Globe's The Lightning Child followed a pair of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles boxers with a scraggy pair of stained Y-Fronts. 

The 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey' Award for Ridiculously Long Play Titles
The one thing that the recession didn't seem to be hitting this year was the length of play titles and, curiosity getting the better of me, I thought I'd check which was the longest by counting how many times I had to click the right arrow key before I reached the end, with the following results (counting is not my strong point, so some answers are probably off - I've also left out plays that were already open and plays with subtitles):
     5. The President Has Come To See You (33 clicks) 
     4. The Cannibal Valour of Bussy D'Ambois (37 clicks)
     3. The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas (39 clicks)
     2. If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep (49 clicks)
     1. Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall (51 clicks)

The 'A Day In The Life' Award for Surprisingly Life Altering Speeches
Narrative at the Royal Court was one of the most joyously enriching and absolutely impossible to describe productions that I saw this year - but no more so than Brian Doherty's superbly spoken and beautifully vivid Seven Ages of a Bus speech, which has left me entirely unable to choose a seat on a bus without having a mid life crisis of one sort or the other.

The 'Hello...' Award for Best Entrance
No entrance was quite as thrilling this year as watching Kyle Soller emerging from the Edward II audience and skipping effortlessly, gracefully and anarchically down the Olivier bannister. I had a particularly spectacular view during one visit sat at the bottom of the bannister and peering up the length of it as Soller came closer.

The '...Goodbye' Award for Best Curtain Call
I doubt there is any more enjoyable or gloriously exhausting curtain call in London at the moment than the close of Jeeves and Wooster. The perfect topping to a perfectly crafted comedy.

Jeeves and Wooster

Now, enough silliness, and on to the actors...

The 'Some Other Guy' Award for Best Supporting Actor
It would be more accurate to describe this as the 'Best Actor of Indeterminate Cast Status' award as it could definitely be argued that my choice was the lead in a very much ensemble piece - but I knew Jamie Samuel had to be one of my choices for his masterful, moving, funny and heartbreaking performance in Jumpers for Goalposts - and as there was no wiggle room in my next actor choice, best supporting actor will have to do. 

The 'Another Girl' Award for Best Supporting Actress
I've liked Madeline Appiah in several small roles over the last two years but she blew me away this year with her performance in In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). A masterpiece in controlled sorrow, spilling out subtly at the right moments. I hope people give her a chance at bigger roles in 2014.

Madeline Appiah and Jamie Samuel

The 'I Wanna Be Your Man' Award for Best Actor
Though the Vaudeville Theatre's Uncle Vanya was last year for most people, I only caught it finally at the beginning of January and, although I've seen a lot of great performances this year no one has quite matched Ken Stott's performance of understated despair in the 12 months that have passed since.

The 'She's a Woman' Award for Best Actress
Although I've found the National Theatre a little hit and miss this year, they've provided me with both of my choices for Best Actress - Vanessa Kirby providing a manically edged, determined, angry and hurt centre to Edward II; whilst Rosalie Craig managed superb control whilst being carried, dangled and flown across the set of The Light Princess and also managed to keep a strong emotional performance shining within the boundaries of an emotionally gravity-less part.

Ken Stott, Vanessa Kirby and Rosalie Craig

The 'All Together Now' Award for Best Ensemble
Although I've been incredibly fond of several ensembles this year (particularly the Globe's Macbeth and Midsummer Night's Dreams casts; and the Jumpers for Goalposts team) there was only one this award could really go to - the Swan Summer Ensemble in Stratford. Not only did they manage to get two of their three plays into my top ten for the year (spoilers!) but they did so with inventiveness, panache, an ensemble wide talent that was undeniable and a friendly supportive camaraderie that welcomed the audience in. All of which shone in all three productions, not to mention the two understudy performances that I managed to catch (just watching the normal actors cackling gleefully at their understudies performances was enough to secure them a place in my heart). 

Swan Summer Ensemble

The 'I, Me, Mine' Award for Best Solo Performance
I could narrow this category down to best solo performance about a father's response to the death of his child and still not have a definitive answer - so it's another joint award this time for Andrew Scott's characteristically irridescent performance in Sea Wall and Thomas Eccleshare's emotive almost silent performance in Perle (I'd suggest running the two in rep but I'm not sure the audience could take it).

Andrew Scott and Thomas Eccleshare

The 'You're Going to Lose That Girl' Award for My Favourite Doomed Couple
Oh, Blink, you really did break my heart - though the relationship between Rosie Wyatt's Sophie and Harry McEntire's Jonah would never have really worked (you can't have only one of a pair in love) - I still couldn't stop myself longing for the damaged, quirky pair to find a proper way of caring for each other and I cried more than a little when they couldn't.

The 'We Can Work It Out' Award for My Favourite Not-Quite-Doomed Couple
Thank god for Jumpers For Goalposts, although Jamie Samuel's Danny and Philip Duguid-McQuillan's Luke equally looked set to fall apart, Wells ended on a hopeful note - embodying the thing I love most about his plays: that the characters fail, sometimes at very ordinary things, but they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going - there's something very uplifting about that. Which is a relief, because in the carefully drawn relationship and detailed performance, I found one of my favourite theatrical couples of all.

Sophie and Jonah; and Luke and Danny

The 'I Call Your Name' Award for Awkwardly Announcing Actors Nicknames in Front of Them
My friends and I can't resist, we love a good nickname and this year has provided us with a brand new batch - Stan, Triangle Man, the Small Upside Down Actors, Jingers, Original Recipe Jingers... we've even been moving into hand gestures. Which given my propensity for declaring their nicknames in their presence without realising, is obviously a bit dangerous (if we didn't learn from the Tiny Hamlet Incident, we never will). So all I have to say is I'm sorry Ben Whybrow, very very sorry.

The 'She looks more like him than I do' Award for Theatrical Lookalikes
I may not really understand Vine, but god bless it - I finally know who Ferdinand Kinglsey reminds me of. Kermit the Frog, innit. (Having seen Iron Man 3 recently, starting to think it might be a bit of a family resemblance.)

The 'Do You Want to Know a Secret' Award for Biggest Theatrical Mystery of the Year
The Hepple Tattoos remain a great source of curiosity and dismay for many of my theatrical friends - particularly following The Lightning Child. Who knew that such a small amount of gold lycra could hide so much and, frankly, the brief glimpses that were spotted, like a third season episode of Lost, posed more questions than they answered.

The 'You've Really Got a Hold On Me' Award for the Theatrical Pyramid Scheme Coming Up Trumps
You all know how it works, half the plays you watch seem to provide you with writers, creatives and actors that you want to see again - whilst it is nearly always dreadful for your wallet, it does also sometimes get you to great plays that you wouldn't have seen otherwise. My two favourites in this category this year were the marvellous Blink which caught my attention because of how much Harry McEntire impressed me in the Swan season this year; and In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) which I was drawn to from my enduring fondness for Ed Bennett.

Well that's the actors, almost seriously, dealt with. Now the productions (warning, this is where my Beatles theme starts to get a little strained)...

The 'Roll Over Beethoven' Award for Best Musical Revival
I actually didn't see a lot of musicals this year, out of my 115 plays only 12 were definitely musicals, with a few more that probably count as plays with songs, and of those 12 a few were repeat trips from previous years which I've discounted from the awards as otherwise Matilda would win every award for everything ever. Despite my poor attendance, I did love several of the ones I saw, and my favourite revival was the latest in Sasha Regan's collection of All Male Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas - this time the thoroughly crazy and absolutely endearing H.M.S. Pinafore.

The '12-Bar Original' Award for Best New Musical
Oooh... a challenge this one, I loved The Light Princess a great deal, beautiful music, beautiful story, beautiful effects and a beautiful bending of gender and sexuality norms but in the end I think this award truly belongs to The Book of Mormon. Perhaps it was partly the buzz of winning the lottery, but I spent so much of the show grinning from ear to ear that I ached for days, the sounds of my head still circling through my brain - it was gaudy, glossy, crass, funny, and absolutely joyful.

The 'Revolution #9' Award for Best New Adaptation
I'm not exactly sure how far Candide counts as an adaptation, it seems to have been more of a jumping off point for Mark Ravenhill than a road map - but he managed to keep most of the truly bat shit moments from the play, whilst exploring the themes in a more deeply modern style and still created something fantastically fresh.

The 'I'll Be Back' Award for Best Play Revival
And from the same ensemble, A Mad World My Masters effortlessly steals my favourite revival award right from beneath The Pride's perfectly crafted nose. I'm not sure I've ever laughed so much in a theatre (except that time Joe Bannister played cymbals), but on top of that it was seamlessly crafted, filled with beautiful details and flourishes, full of energy and featuring a strong female protagonist that I couldn't resist.

The 'Magical Mystery Tour' Award for Best New Play
Given that it's already popped up more than once, I doubt it's much of a surprise to find that Jumpers For Goalposts is my favourite new play this year - since Beardy and The Kitchen Sink I've eagerly been awaiting a new Tom Wells play and this exceeded all my expectations. There are too many layers to the story to talk about them all here, but between the fantastic writing and the superb production, I hope this will be recognised as the classic it is (especially if it might also lead to more new Wells plays and resurrections of his previous productions).

The 'I Should Have Known Better' Award for Plays I Wish I'd Seen
There's been a couple this year, partly due to my poor health which has made me cancel quite a lot of show, but top of the list of things I wish I hadn't missed are Josephine and I, Stuart: A Life Backwards and Hello/Goodbye.

The 'Get Back' Award for My Quickest Decision to Book a Return Trip
I think we were about 15 seconds in to the Candide pre-show when we decided to book another ticket (it was a good 15 seconds).

The 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' Award for Most Difficult to Buy Tickets
It's been a challenging year for tickets - I thought McAvoy's Macbeth was difficult, not to mention the eleven entries it took to finally win The Book of Mormon lottery - but both paled in insignificance next to trying to get tickets for Tom Hiddlestone's Coriolanus at the Donmar. It wasn't just the website frustration and the small ticket numbers in the first place (especially as I beat both in the end) but it's something about the low level aggression and bitterness surrounding the whole thing that is hard to define but soured the whole thing even further.

If only they had people as charming as the Lottery Dudes to keep things friendly.

Now on to some awards for the audiences and the things theatres do to them...

The 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' Award for Promoting Audience Laughter
Though I've laughed at lots of theatre this year - it has to be A Mad World My Masters - the first time we watched it we were sat in Gallery 2 and could watch as the realisation of quite how filthy it really was settled in and left audience members visibly shaking with laughter.

The 'Cry Baby Cry' Award for Promoting Audience Tears
I've cried a lot at the theatre this year and out of it, because I am a sucker, but The Pride at Trafalgar Studios left me sobbing for nearly four hours when I got home afterwards. Absolutely broken.

The 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)' Award for Single Saddest Line
Though The Pride was my saddest play, the line that has stuck with me all year as the most heartbreaking was in Sons Without Fathers, when faced with the death of his friend and drinking buddy, Simon Scardifield asked "Who will I drink with at your funeral?"

Simon Scardifield

The 'Help!' Award for Promoting Audience's Gasps of Horror
Well... I say it was the audience, it was pretty much just me - but I was so lost in the moment watching Mojo that a sudden revelation in the show made me gasp so loudly that the person next to me actually turned round to judge me.

The 'I Don't Want to Spoil The Party But...' Award for My Favourite Outraged Audience Comments
I have a love/hate relationship with any event that lets audience members speak their mind in an official setting - director's talks, questions and answers... so much opportunity for smug showing off. But sometimes it falls very much on the love side of the spectrum and at Thomas of Woodstock play reading run by the RSC at the Barbican, I was very charmed by a woman angry at the "irresponsible portrayal of Richard II" in the play even if I've not entirely worked out what reckless behaviour she thought it might lead to.

The 'It's All Too Much' Award for Leaving our Section of the Audience Speechless
Never have my friends and I been so instantly silenced mid interval flow than the final performance of the Globe's A Midsummer Night's Dream when the curtain at our feet was suddenly drawn aside to reveal (actual child) John Light getting ready for some mischief.

The 'Three Cool Cats' Award for Best Post Show Ritual
Never have we come up with a better idea than going to London Zoo the day after the Globe closing weekend - even if now all the animals look like actors... or possibly it's the other way round.

Now onto our regular Shakespearean section, though I've actually only managed to see 30 Shakespeare productions this year. (Also, I swear I did go to other places than the Globe, it just doesn't seem to bbe showing right now.)

The 'Baby, You're A Rich Man' Award for Best Shakespearean Leading Man
I've been a fan of Joseph Millson for years but thought he really raised the bar with his taut, human performance as Macbeth at the Globe - he, in particular, gave probably the best performance of the 'Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow..." speech that I've yet seen.

The 'To Know Her Is To Love Her' Award for Best Shakespearean Leading Lady
Another long term favourite shining at the Globe this season was Michelle Terry as Hippolyta and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream - she added depth, darkness, humour, playfulness and determination to roles that are sometimes forgotten or dismissed and completely charmed the audience in the process.

Joseph Millson and Michelle Terry

The 'Getting Better' Award for Best Production of a Comedy
The Globe's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was also my favourite production of a comedy this year - it as enthused with a truly joyful youth that was infectious but beneath that there was still room for deep, serious feeling. On top of which it had some of my favourite design of the season, with it's Herne the Hunter aesthetic.

It's hard to resist this many bare chests

The 'Long and Winding Road' Award for Best Production of a History
I'm hoping it's not cheating to count the Globe's touring production of all three Henry VI plays as one choice for this one - it was the same ensemble and same set after all - and it would seem a little churlish to choose a favourite (Part III - part III is always my favourite). Not only did this give me a chance to move two more magnets into the seen section of my Shakespeare noticeboard but it did so with exceptional clarity from a cast often required to double or triple roles (or sometimes more). Plus there was a definite thrill in following them through the entire story in a single day and between the combined joy of Yardling Birthday Cake and a superlative performance as the King of France by Brendan O'Hea - our section of the audience was more than a little giddy by the end.

Somebody really needs to do Two Noble Kinsmen in 2014

The 'I'll Cry Instead' Award for Best Production of a Tragedy
Eve Best made her directorial debut at the Globe with a surprisingly light handling of Macbeth which, instead of making the story seem shallow or powerless, served to highlight both the tragedy and horror of the play. With fantastic central performances and a genuine warmth from both Millson (discussed above) and Samantha Spiro as Lady Macbeth, allowing the audience to both root for and mourn the lost relationship, whilst around them the entire cast built nuanced, realistic characters. In particular I greatly enjoyed Billy Boyd's quiet admonition as Banquo and the memorable, focused work of Moyo Akandé, Jess Murphy and Cat Simmons as the Witches who cast the prophecy for me into the light of a well executed con. More psychological than supernatural (though that was there to) and combined with a fantastic score this production was easily my favourite Shakespeare of the year and I hope to see Best direct more in the future. Also, the drums were excellent.

The 'Twist and Shout' Award for Best Play Transformation
Finally, an award not won by the Globe! Though I don't get to them enough, I've always enjoyed the clarity of the Tobacco Factory's Shakespeare productions, so when I heard they were doing Two Gentlemen of Verona, a play I hadn't seen yet, I was keen to catch them. I was glad I did as they'd managed to turn the, somewhat problematic, comedy into a lighthearted Edwardian musical which managed to skate around some of the play's darker issues without becoming saccharine.

The 'Sweet Loretta Martin' Award for Best Shakespearean Gender Bending
Whilst in recent years I've enjoyed an array of positively spun Shrews which found a way to balance out the difficulties in Katherina and Petruchio's relationship, I've felt for a while that I needed to see a production that put the story back into it's bleak context. This year provided two, with both Propeller and the Globe providing dark single-gender productions. In the end, though, it was the Globe's all-female Taming of the Shrew that won my heart - within it's vaudeville exterior, lurked a brutal tale of domestic abuse and destruction, that left a heartbreaking Kate Lamb completely broken by the end. Not comfortable watching but undeniably powerful.

Kate Lamb as Katherina and Leah Whittaker as Petruchio

The 'All I've Got To Do' Award for Fixing Impossible Characters
Usually an award reserved for the mighty talents of Phil Cumbus, this year Globe newcomer Joshua James has scooped the prize. Having already impressed in Love and Information and No Quarter, James did the impossible and made Ferdinand (a character most accurately described by the esteemed M.J.Pockle as a foam steak) one of the most interesting and likeable characters in The Tempest. He may have even managed to seduce some of the Merkins (Merlin fans nickname, apparently o_O) away from fellow cast member Colin Morgan.

Joshua James and sticks

The 'Helter Skelter' Award for Best Jig
What could be better, my favourite Shakespeare of the year topped by my favourite jig. Though I'm aware that my feelings about the former may have impacted my feelings about the latter I really do think the Globe managed something a bit magical with the jig for Macbeth - effortlessly overleaping the difficulty of following a tragedy with a happy dance - and managing to maintain both the sense of reflection and the necessary end of show joy. It also didn't hurt that the second time I saw it, on a thoroughly sodden afternoon, the cast raised their arms just at the moment that the sun finally burst through the clouds, which was more than a little bit special.

So if anyone is keeping count, of the 9 Shakespeare themed awards I gave out this year, 8 of them went to the Globe... not a bad showing. Now onto my last section of unrestrained silliness - this year has seen more than a few repeating memes squirreling through productions and I thought I'd try to collect a few of them here and see who managed them best...

The 'If I Fell' Award for Best Upside Down Actor
It started with the RSC's Titus Andronicus, which saw an impressive total of three actors and three body bags hoisted into the gods by their ankles and then before you knew it everyone was at it - upside down throats were being slit at the Royal Court, Rosalie Craig spent more time upside down (or sideways or floating) than on her feet in The Light Princess and even Tom Hiddleston got in on the action at the Donmar Warehouse. But, for my money, the most impressively upside down actor of the year was Tom Rhys Harries in Mojo, who was upside down for bloody ages.

The 'I'm Looking Through You' Award for Best Vanishing Set
Though not as prevalent as the upside-downness of certain sections of the acting community this year, two productions did go head to head this year for see through/vanishing sets - though The Pride used it's two way mirrors for occasionally startling affect; I completely fell in love with the glass walled set created for Ghosts at the Almeida - it fitted the out of time, haunted, fairy story feel of the play perfectly.

Ghosts - just look how glorious those walls look

The 'She Came In Through The Bathroom Window' Award for Best On-Stage Washing Facilities
After Privates on Parade set the bar last year by having working showers just off stage, we've seen both showers and baths sneaking further and further onto our stages this year. Jumpers For Goalposts kept things family friendly with their showers hidden out of sight, but the Coriolanus had Hiddleston sponging off centre stage, whilst front row audiences at the Royal Court had a bit of a shock when Jonjo O'Neill stripped off completely for a quick shower in Talk Show. Even baths have been getting in on the action, complete with rubber duck during Jeeves and Wooster. My absolute favourite, however, was in the RSC's Titus Andronicus, which saw a bath enthroned John Hopkins rising through the stage.

Complete with crown and loofah

The 'You Can't Do That' Award for Most Manipulative Use of Projections
I'm the first to admit that occasionally an emotionally manipulative project comes along that is forgivable (Journey's End) - but this year, not so much. Neither the Southwark Playhouse's list of victims names projected on the floor at the end of Titanic or From Here To Eternity's images of the dead soldiers - felt particularly well judged to me. So this is a joint award for them.

The 'I Am The Eggman' Award for Best Reckless Misuse of Eggs on Stage
We're not exactly sure what eggs did to the theatre makers of today, that caused such violence to be shown against them on stage but in both Children of the Sun and The Cripple of Inishmaan they were being thrown around with reckless abandon. My favourite egg misuse, however, had to be Told By An Idiot's Get Happy - which saw Stephen Harper carefully making a (raw?) egg and tomato ketchup sandwich with audience help before throwing himself on top of the culinary delight.

Would you trust this man with your eggs?

The 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' Award for Best on Stage Sweeping
One of the slightly bewildering things I get trained on every year at work is how to sweep properly - so with many theatres' getting the most from what they pay their actors this year and getting them to sweep up mid-show, I couldn't help myself evaluating their techniques. Both Coriolanus and Jumpers For Goalposts did all right, but the cream of the sweeping crop was definitely Alex Waldmann in As You Like It with a near perfect sweeping technique, better even than the stagehands sweeping up during the interval.

The 'Lend Me Your Comb' Award for Best Woolly Hat with Knitted Plaits
Waldmann's Orlando was to go up against Jumpers For Goalposts again in the battle for the best woolly hat with knitted plaits award, though with less successful results. Really he never stood a chance. The only possible winner for this one is Beardy's blue hat. It's a hat with a plot line, a hat with (off-stage) action sequences, a hat with enemies, a hat with emotional resonance... what more could you want.

Look at that woolly versatility (it might even have been carrying the bulk of, perennial favourite, Andy Rush's performance)

The 'Ticket To Ride' Award for the Best Wandering Wombs
One of my favourite things about the theatre this year is the increasing visibility of women - there are more female artistic directors, theatres are seeking out new female writers and directors, feminist history is emerging for a theme and the number of interesting roles for women has risen. Of course, sometimes these improvements come with baffling concepts that I haven't come across before - like wandering wombs causing hysteria. Two of my favourite new plays, Blue Stockings and In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), both had a look at the idea and though I'm loathe to choose between them, in the end I'm going for the latter because of it's more or less happy ending (also because electricity creating lesbians is the best use I've found for electricity so far).

The 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' Award for the Best Play Featuring Pearce Quigley and Clog Dancing
I think the fact that there were two plays featuring Pearce Quigley and clog dancing is cause for an award in itself - but whilst I was charmed by the tales of clog dancing in night clubs by members of the RSC's The Winter's Tale cast, I'm going to have to choose A Midsummer Night's Dream as my winner. Mostly because Quigley actually gets to wear the clogs (well... tap shoe equivalent) and partly because of his constant battle with Fergal McElherron to get the last tap.

The 'Playing In The Dirt' Award for Most Enjoyable Scantily Clad Muddy Performer of the Year
There have been a lot of scantily clad, muddy performers on stage this year. A lot. The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Lear, Jumpers For Goalposts, Bracken Moor, The Drowned Man, Titus Andronicus, Talk Show, Henry VI, Billy Budd, Edward II, The Lightning Child, and Coriolanus all got involved. But my favourite had to be, the woefully under-represented photo wise, Matthew Romain in the Globe's touring King Lear.

It just doesn't really do him justice

And finally, all that's left is for me to give one last award and work out my top 20 productions of the year...

The 'And in the end...' Award for My Theatre of the Year
Whilst the Swan Summer Ensemble alone might have taken this award and the Royal Court's Open Court season was certainly deserving of it (and deserved a better showing in this round up as I really did like it a great deal) - there was only really one contender this year. They dominated my Shakespeare awards, brought me a great deal of joy and, for me at least, didn't have a weak link in their programming. So, with my excitement at finally seeing the Sam Wanamaker theatre growing, I'm happy to say that my favourite theatre of 2013 was definitely The Globe.

(It's been such a good year, I've had to increase it from 
previous years' top tens, blame inflation)

20 - The Light Princess - National Theatre
19 - Blue Stockings - Shakespeare's Globe
18 - No Quarter - Royal Court
17 - Read Not Dead: The Knight of the Burning Pestle - Shakespeare’s Globe (Sadly Read Not Dead photos are few and far between - but seriously, who knew that a play reading thrown together in a morning would reach my top 20)
16 - Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall - Soho Theatre
15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare's Globe
14 - Boris Godunov - Swan Theatre
13 - The Hothouse - Trafalgar Studios
12 - Blink - Soho Theatre
11 - Sons Without Fathers - Arcola Theatre
10 - Seawall - The Shed
9 - Candide - Swan Theatre
8 - The Drowned Man - Punchdrunk
7 - Book of Mormon - Prince of Wales Theatre
6 - Macbeth - Shakespeare's Globe
5 - In The Next Room (or the vibrator play) - St James Theatre
4 - Narrative - Royal Court

Third Place (Very Small Trophy)

The Pride - Trafalgar Studios

Second Place (Medium Sized Trophy)

A Mad World My Masters - Swan Theatre

First Place (Fucking Big Trophy)

Jumpers for Goalposts - Watford Palace Theatre / Bush Theatre
(Could it have been anything else?)


  1. I toyed with doing a "ridiculously long play titles" one as well this year, it was a definite theme. And it looks like you didn't even see Nothing is the End of the World (Except for the End of the World) or The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrior and His Sexy Wife Chipo - I think the latter would have got into the 70-odd clicks ;)

    1. I am exceptionally glad I did not see the last one - I think my finger would have fallen off.

    2. Well I'm sure we'll get a completely different meme for 2014... oh wait, coming up at the Bush: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 - 1915.

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