I've seen so many great plays this year (best of list coming soon) but occasionally there is play that doesn't work for me. I don't set out to dislike a play (why buy the ticket?) but not everything is to everyone's liking. The criteria for getting on this list is being memorable but not for good reasons. It generally has nothing to do with the acting or production but is usually the play itself. Some plays are good but easily forgotten so there is an achievement, of sorts, in making this list at least.
This double bill about the start and end of a relationship was so relentlessly bitter and joyless it made me worry for the writer, Steven Berkoff. I think, given my track record with Berkoff plays, I'm adding him to my list playwrights I don't get on with and should probably avoid.
Tom Stoppard expects a certain level of knowledge and familiarity with the historical figures and works of art and literature he features and most of the key characters I knew nothing about. I'm also not that familiar with Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest which forms the heart of a key plot line. As a result I felt alienated from the narrative and the humour, it was like watching a play through a window. I'm fully prepared to put my hand up and say I'm not clever enough for Stoppard.
This was a play with good intentions - to raise awareness of the atrocities happening in the Congo and how the West (and consumerism) is fuelling it but I felt like it was manipulating me into feeling sorry for the middle class white woman and that made me cross. While not covering quite the same issues two plays immediately spring to mind which brilliantly demonstrate how powerful and effecting theatre can be when it is done right - A Man of Good Hope, Young Vic and Pigs and Dogs, Royal Court.
The Dresser felt out of date primarily because we are now much more aware of mental health problems and groping a woman isn't comedy, it's sexual harassment. As a result it just wasn't really funny enough.
King Lear is a play I struggle with but is one I persist with in the hope of being converted and that tactic paid off this year when I saw the RSC's version at the Barbican. However, before that I saw the Old Vic production during which I found myself more interested in Jane Horrock's shoes. It is the exception on this list because I think the problem was the direction and staging - aloof, static and an example of how modern dress doesn't always work. When I reviewed the RSC's production it served to highlight the problems I had with the Old Vic production in fact it ended up being a compare and contrast.
Burst balloon photo by Leonard J Matthews on Flickr and used under creative commons license