It was a year in which I was spat on, splattered with blood and humiliated - the things we audience members have to go through when watching a play. It was also the year of the dog with not one but two scene-stealing canine appearances (Two Gentlemen of Verona and Shakespeare in Love) and then, on my final theatre visit of the year, the 'ahhh-factor' ratcheted up a notch with a kitten stealing the show in Elephants. A kitten, yes. Actors don't bother speaking when there is a kitten on the stage, no one is listening.
But back to the matter in hand, yes, it is that time of year again; a time to honour and reflect on those moments that made up 2014's theatre highlights. And, a time to feel aghast all over again at some of the lowlights.
The long and short of it award
Down on the South Bank the Young Vic was having a little competition with itself over running times. Bam it hits us with a lithe, 2-hours straight-through A View From the Bridge then, pow, it counters that with a three hours 40 minutes Streetcar Named Desire. Maybe the latter was to stick one in the eye of neighbour Old Vic which at the time was running The Crucible at a good three and half hours long. I'd normally go for quality over quantity but for once the long plays got away with it.
Best use of a song
Last year was particularly notable for the use songs during plays (I'm not talking musicals). Lorde's Royals got used at the end of Charles III and then again during one of the James plays.
And I'm still haunted by the brilliant use of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game during Streetcar Named Desire. It's an ambiguous song in that it's not quite as romantic as the lyrics may initially imply. It was an ambiguity that worked perfectly for the sexually charged moment between Gillian Anderson's Blanche and Ben Foster's Stanley.
But neither of those songs gets the award, nope, it goes to David Bowie's Starman played during My Night With Reg. I'll never be able to listen to that song again without it conjuring up the bitter sweet 'dance' in Guy's flat. It was a laugh or cry moment and the song captured it perfectly.
Not the spit (I was quite honoured to be finally christened and by the gorgeous Alex Hassell, no less) or the stage blood splatter (Richard III and about time too) no this was the humiliation of having an actor stood just a few inches away thrusting their crotch at me repeatedly during a random dance sequence. The play was Drag King Richard III and normally I'm all for the fourth wall being broken but this just seemed to last a lifetime, I could feel the eyes of the audience and the cast on me and I didn't know where to look, let alone how to react.
Most memorable interaction
Not all fourth wall breaking has resulted in embarrassment this year. In Stratford Prince Hal and I had what @polyg later dubbed 'glance sex' during Henry IV part 1, you know, when the actor delivers certain lines to you or catches your eye and winks when they are reacting to other lines. If it had been Antony Sher's Falstaff rather than Alex Hassell's handsome Hal I might have been calling it something else, though.
Most stressful theatre related incident
It's always the websites isn't it? The theatre booking websites are never quite up to the demand but probably the most stressful was booking for Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet. Forty-five minutes watching my number in the queue slowly get smaller and then the 10 minutes of jangled nerves navigating the illogical booking form, all the while fearing I'd do something wrong and be shunted back to join the queue. It was all fine in the end though, lets hope the play is worth it.
The so much in so little award
This goes to James McAvoy who delivered just one speech from Julius Caesar but did it in such away you felt you'd seen the whole play. It was truly a 'wow' moment and I can't wait to see him in The Ruling Class (15 days and counting).
Badly behaved audience award
Last year saw fellow audience members being particularly rude and annoying. There were three separate interruptions during Jonah and Otto, all equally bizarre. Then there was the music playing during the first half of 3 Winters. But the gong goes to the two teenage girls who sat giggling and sniggering right in front of James Stanton during Sikes and Nancy. They got a special mention at the curtain call and were nearly lynched on the way out by the audience.
Most annoying set award
This goes to Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios because it left little room for the actors to move about. There was some innovative use of the space but I just wanted to stop the play and make them move a few things off the stage and create some space. It also made for what looked like like an overly rehearsed fight at the end the play. There was a perceptible caution to the movements both times I saw it, presumably through fear that one of the actors would trip over something or trip into the audience.
The Bah Humbug award
This goes to the Noel Coward Theatre/Delfont MacIntosh. Firstly the staff of the theatre called the police to move on a rough sleeper using their steps (before the theatre was open) on the grounds that the person was blocking the disabled entrance. Later the same entrance was being blocked by a huge portable poster for the show.
And, they don't really enter into the spirit of day seats either, instead they sell restricted view tickets, which would only cost £2 more to buy full price, regardless of whether the theatre is full or not.
Curtain call moments have their own blog post and so will the 'Phroaw' award so keep an eye out for that.