All My Sons, Apollo Theatre
Caught in the Deathtrap

The best plays of the year so far

This year is turning out to be a bumper year for theatre. Not only have I thrown my net wider, taking in more fringe theatre as well as my usual favs of the NT, Donmar and Royal Court but I've already clocked up more than 40 plays - smashing last years total.

So I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back at what I've seen already and try and pick out what might be in my top five plays of the year. Then using the wonderful I'll add in their aggregated review score, if it exists, to see how general opinion compares. Play links are to my own reviews.

It's been tricky narrowing it down as there has been some fab theatre already this year but these nine will definitely be contender for my top five at the end of the year (in order I saw them):

1. Red, Donmar Warehouse - Two-hander with Alfred Molina proving a real stage presence as artist Mark Rothko and Eddie Redmayne his able assistant. If nothing else this earns it's spot for the famous priming a canvas scene which just took my breath away (and that of the actors because of the effort involved). Painting on stage: love it.

2. The Pride, Lucille Lortel, NY - OK so this is always going to be up there because of a certain Ben Whishaw and it prompted my first trip to New York but it was also a really moving and clever play, interweaving two sets of characters in two time periods but with a common thread.

3. London Assurance, National Theatre - Fiona Shaw, Simon Russell Beale, characters with names like Lady Gay Spanker and posh people behaving stupidly in a 19th century set comedy - how could it fail?

UTWE rating: Hot with and editor rating of 4.1/5

4. Private Lives, Vaudeville Theatre - Kim Cattrall impressed in this Noel Coward comedy with great chemistry between her and fellow lead sexy spy no. 1 Matthew McFadyen. Bonus points for Kim Cattrall accidentally spitting a mouthful of half eaten roll into the lap of someone on the front row.

UTWE rating: Hot, 3.9/5

5. The Man, Finborough Theatre - My first outing to this tiny pub theatre in West London was a true stand out. Virtually a one-hander performed (at this particular show) by History Boy Samuel Barnett, its narrative was unique with every performance as the central character Ben randomly collects receipts from the audience recounting a piece of the story related to the receipt. Simple, superb and unique.

6. Beauty Queen of Leenane, Young Vic  - Wow, this was one of those plays that you think you've got a handle on but then it pulls the rug out from underneath you. Funny and thought provoking.

UTWE rating: Hot, 4.1/5

7. Prince of Homburg, Donmar Warehouse - I'd not seen the original so the ending fiddling done in this new version wasn't a problem. Thought it was deeply moving and one of those plays that you grapple with mentally for days afterwards.

UTWE rating: Hot, 2.9/5

8. After the Dance, National Theatre - The start of my love affair with Benedict Cumberbatch and Terrence Rattigan. Posh people behaving "pratishly" but ultimately a sad tale.

UTWE rating: Hot, 4.3/5

9. All My Sons, Apollo Theatre - immediately springs to my not only Arthur Miller at his tragic-drama best but the acting by the two leads Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet wrung laughter and tears and a myriad of other emotions from me.

UTWE rating: Hot, 4.6/5