Retro Edition: 2010 Round Up

Posted: May 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Prior to TheatrePunk, I started another blog which I never posted on. I wrote a 2010 round up for that which I thought I’d transfer over to here. So sit back, relax and enjoy a little blast from the past…

 As we reach the end of a great theatrical year, I thought I’d jump in at the deep end and do my top ten. This list isn’t necessarily what I consider to be the best shows of the year, but instead it is the shows I have enjoyed the most. The ones I left feeling as though I had seen something that I would remember for a long time. So, in no particular order, here are my theatre highlights…

Enron – Headlong

Saw this at the Birmingham REP about a year after seemingly everyone else in the industry had already seen it. I thought it would take a lot for it to live up to the hype, and boy did it. Intelligent, exciting, fantastic staging, and a narrative that sucked me in despite the dense subject matter. I am still perplexed as to why American audiences didn’t warm to this play when it reached Broadway.

Duchess of Malfi – Punchdrunk

We are all aware of the furore over tickets for this event. I was one of those people who managed to crash the ENO website. After the site crashed I had ENO on speed dial as I repeatedly tried to get through. After some perserverance (and wasting quite a lot of work time) I succeeded, and it was worth it. Perhaps not Punchdrunks’ best show of all time, but certainly worth the trip. Highlights included the beautiful fight in the netted room, witnessed only by me and one other audience member, the quiet monk’s journey around the building to find his forbidden love, and that ending…oh, that ending. I got a shiver just typing that.

Spend Spend Spend – Watermill

I saw this twice. Once on a marketing trip for work, the second time for pure pleasure. It was just a joy from beginning to end. The ensemble worked harder than I’ve seen any other cast work this year and their performances were flawless. Heart-breaking at times, joyous at others. I left with tears streaming down my cheeks and a smile on my face.

Posh -Royal Court

I may be a little biased on this one as my dear friend was in it, but it still remains one of the most enjoyable evenings in a darkened room this year. Tightly written script, excellent direction and the cast were just great. The final speech which led into the interval wherein one of our Riot Club boys emphatically announces ‘I fucking hate poor people!’ elicited shocked gasps and incredulous laughs. I don’t think Laura Wade could have predicted how appropriate her script would become as the election was announced and some Bullingdon Boys made their way into Downing Street. It made the show all the more chilling as there was a real sense that this was not beyond the realms of possibility.  

The Red Shoes -Kneehigh

I think this may be the best play I have seen all year. It appealed to my love of the strange, and was crafted in such a way that you could just sit back and bask in the delicious unravelling of a dark and twisted tale. This show was Kneehigh doing what they do best. It was dark, laced with black comedy, and just beautiful. It also included the best description of a theatre I have ever heard – ‘this darkened thespic fun-palace’

Lilly Through the Dark – The River People

Recommended to me by Mr Alex Wadham (who appeared in the River People’s show Angelrust). I first saw this in Edinburgh. I cried for around an hour – and walking down Chambers Street sobbing while holding a balloon a passing flyerer gave you is not a good look for anyone. After being so affected, I insisted all of my friends see this show – as a result I ended up watching the show a further 3 times. It is a testament to the power of this young company’s storytelling ability that even after seeing the show 4 times I still cried. Lilly was brought to life with simple storytelling and a beautiful gothic narrative. You would have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by a little girl’s struggle to remember her fathers hands.

Blasted -Lyric Hammersmith

 I hated this show. It was crude, downright offensive and made me feel a bit sick; but my god it was brilliant. Great performances, disturbing content, and a set you could just drool all over (and if you did that you would probably fit in quite nicely) . There isn’t much I can say about this show that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just repeat the general sentiment. It was brilliant. Truly brilliant. Now let’s never speak of it again.

 Hamlet -Crucible Theatre

Who would have thought that this was John Simm’s first attempt at Shakespeare? His performance felt as though I was watching the prince of Denmark for the first time. His plea ‘to die, to sleep’ spoke of a grief-ravaged insomniac, lost in a society that doesn’t seem to care. The staging was minimal, the performances delectable. I think the biggest compliment I can give this play comes from a friend of mine. Despite having read, studied and seen Hamlet countless times, she was so disturbed by the ‘Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I’ speech that she left in the interval. Having calmed down, she booked tickets to see it again and stayed for the duration. She then booked again. After seeing it 3 times she told me it was the best version she had ever seen – I think I agree with her.

 A Western – Action Hero

 This one caught me by surprise. Quite simply the most fun I have had in a pub all year. This deconstructed western had all the elements of the epic gun-toting tales of yore, but with English sensibilities and no budget. The audience were just as important as the two performers as a Western was built out of ketchup and a few cards. I revelled in the sheer absurdity of what I was witnessing as the hero rode into town on his steed, a card table was knocked over, and our hero had a showdown with his arch enemy at high noon. Better than all of these moments, however, was the moment when our hero asked for a shot of whiskey at the bar. He asked very politely for a shot of whiskey. Fished out the £1.20 from his pocket, said thank you, then walked to the opposite end of the bar, meekly shuffling past anyone standing there. He then removed all obstacles and silently gestured to the barman that he would like the whiskey to be slid over to him. When it reached him he gave a small satisfied smile and took a sip. It was simultaneously hilarious and touching – rather like the whole show, really.

Sporadical – Little Bulb Theatre

See this show. See it immediately. If it isn’t on, see anything Little Bulb have to offer. Can’t praise the show or them highly enough. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Don’t worry about what it’s about, that doesn’t matter. Just go and see it. …Why are you still reading this? Go!

Honourable Runners up

The Event (Theatre Tours International) – A one man show about the nature of theatre. Outstanding.

Decky Does a Bronco (Grid Iron)- Site-specific piece that has been doing the rounds for years, and rightly so. Great script, great cast, great show.

The Big Fellah (Out of Joint) – a real performance based show. Acting of the highest order.

Le Morte D’Arthur (RSC) – An atmospheric and affecting piece of theatre, this show would have made it into my top ten of the year were it not too long. My bum still hasn’t fully recovered.

Arabian Nights (RSC)- It was a celebration of storytelling, imaginitive, fast-paced, and just a joy to watch from beginning to end And that about sums it up.

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