Theatre review 2014: It was a vintage year and this is my big best of list
Well I think we can safely say 2014 was a vintage year for theatre, just so many highlights. In June when I did a quick tally there were more than 10 potential contenders for my 'best of' list and the year just got better.
I've also seen more this year probably around 15-20 more plays than last year which has meant a bigger pool to choose from. I've already published my favourite Shakespeare's and favourite fringe lists but this is the biggy, my overall favourites from everything I've seen. These are the plays that, for me, had the most impact, left the biggest impression or were just pure unadulterated fun.
So in no particular order:
1. The Pass, Royal Court Upstairs A sharp and witty play that put fame under the spotlight and who couldn't enjoy Russell Tovey and Gary Carr running around in their Calvin Kleins. Had to have a second look of this one.
2. Good People, Noel Coward Theatre Imelda Staunton gave a tour de force performance as the fast talking Margaret in a funny and beautifully observed play that examined opportunity vs circumstance in light of the American Dream.
3. Charles III, Almeida Theatre Mike Bartlett channelled Shakespeare in this extremely clever and funny new play that imagined what Prince Charles would be like as King. It's now playing in the West End so go and see it.
4. A View From The Bridge, Young Vic This stripped back version of Arthur Miller's classic pushed the complex emotional conflicts of its key characters to the fore. It was tense and powerful and another play I had to see twice. Look out for the West End transfer this year although I don't think a huge West End stage will quite deliver the same impact - it was staged as a thrust with audience on three sides at the YV.
6. The Nether, Royal Court Theatreland found a way to write and produce plays about the internet and technology with a vengeance this year. Teh Internet is Serious Business didn't quite make it onto my list but this one did. It will be remembered mostly for being such an uncomfortable watch because of the subject matter and for its brilliant staging. It's also got West End transfer this year, not sure how it will go down with the generally more conservative mainstream audiences.
7. James I, James II & James III, National Theatre A slight cheat as they were three separate plays but @polyg and I saw them all in one day which was an occasion in itself. Each was tonally different but there were benefits to the continuity rather than seeing them in isolation. That there was never a moments feeling of play fatigue is testament to the good writing, performances and productions. It'll be a day of theatre I'll never forget and not just because of the kilts and dancing.
8. Spine, Soho Theatre A brilliant piece of writing by Clara Brennan and a brilliant solo performance by Rosie Wyatt this was about an unlikely friendship and about society.
9. Hamlet, Riverside Studio Not a perfect production but I like the cut of its jib. It was bold, youthful, fast-paced, dangerous and muscular. Hiraeth Productions proved once again that fringe Shakespeare can be really, really good.
10. Shakespeare in Love, Noel Coward Theatre A late entry into the list (a good reason to wait until the year is finished) but I just loved this. It was sexy, funny and clever and so better suited to the stage than on screen. After a cast change this month it continues booking until April.
11. Roaring Girl, Swan Theatre Jacobean comedy that was given a contemporary design and was roaring good fun. Wanted to be Lisa Dillon by the end.
12. The Crucible, Old Vic Performed in the round there was no escape from this tense and nerve jangling production of Arthur Miller's metaphorical play. Dripping in atmosphere and emotional charge it held me gripped.
This missing play:
13. My Night With Reg, Donmar Warehouse Am horrified that I forgot to add this - I blame the wrong colour coding on my excel spreadsheet. Ahem. This was such a beautiful, bittersweet, funny, warm and haunting play I saw it three times. Another to receive a West End transfer so go see it.