Top 15 plays of 2018

TRULY I was blessed to see so many amazing theatrical treats in 2018. And  out of everything I saw on stage this year, I only actively disliked one (1) thing! Well done, The Theatre!

I saw lots of great stuff and could easily have bloated this list up to a Top 20 or even a Top 25, but here were my absolute faves.

Incidentally if you’re in a year-end-list kind of mood, you can read my fave singles here, albums here and TV shows here. Still to come: films!

15. The Taming of the Shrew (Albert Square Gardens)

I rarely go out of my way to watch any Shakespeare but I always enjoy it when I do?? Why is that??? Is it just because we assume Shakespeare stuff will always be there, whereas new writing etc is only on for a limited time? Or is it that it can so easily be boring? Who knows. Anyway, this was SUCH a treat. A slick, polished production with lots of fun and a really nifty way of dealing with that notoriously excruciatingly final monologue.

14. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre)

Now I don’t really remember any of the songs from this, but I remember really enjoying it. And I also remember how much it meant for genderqueer friends to see something like this on such a huge stage. Granted, the level of homophobia and abuse Jamie gets feels like it’s been made… palatable? But this was a real delight to watch, and impossible not to be uplifted and inspired by.

13. Reared (Theatre503)

I got completely lost in the world of John Fitzpatrick’s intimate family drama: each of the characters is so richly drawn that my heartstrings were ripe for the tuggin’. One of few things I saw this year that I actively sought out the playtext for. Shout-out to MVP Paddy Glynn as salty gran Nora.

12. Algorithms (Soho Theatre)

I saw Sadie Clark trial a bit of Algorithms at my new writing night a while back and really enjoyed it, and by the time its full production rolled around in December it had flourished even more. Funny, #relatable and clearly written from the heart – trite as that sounds – it was the perfect thing to see on the eve of my 30th birthday.

11. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Park Theatre)

This production was actually the first version I’d ever seen of Jim Cartwright’s classic (yes, even noted late-00s Diana Vickers superfan Shaun Kitchener did not see her in action) and I really loved it. The performances were spectacular here, including Sally George and Rafaella Hutchinson in the lead roles, and you have my permission to play Jamie Rose-Monk’s dance sequence in full, on repeat, at my wake.

10. Strangers In Between (Trafalgar Studios)

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s staging of Tommy Murphy’s 2006 coming-of-age play got my year of theatregoing off to a really strong start back in January. The smaller studio at the Trafalgar worked really well for it;  I loved the story of naive Shane trying to navigate his way into adulthood as a young gay man, and the three actors – Stephen Connery-Brown especially – were impeccably cast.

09. Company (Gielgud)

Now I’ll BE HONEST, I saw a matinee of this after a glass of wine with lunch, and I did struggle to stay awake during the first two-thirds of the first half. But from Getting Married Today onwards I was IN. The decision to gender-swap Bobby was, I think, the only way to make the show relevant to 2018, and it was a really strong, slickly designed and immaculately performed treat.

08. The Inheritance (Young Vic)

Like watching a six-part Netflix series all in one sitting, The Inheritance was long, but good. I loved it – I can’t say I emotionally connected with it as much as I know a lot of other people did (they were all juuuuust a tiny bit too beautiful and clever and… articulate for me), but hurrah for a big, epic, gay-as-fuck play having such big success in 2k18.

07. Fun Home (Young Vic)

I knew nothing about this show before I saw it, except that everyone was deeply moved by it. And it will not surprise you to learn that I, too, found it tres emotional. The songs were GREAT, I loved the whole staging of it… I’d see this again in a heartbeat.

06. Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)

WOW this had a big level of hype to meet, and it’s exactly as clever and forward-thinking as everyone says it is. Fast-paced, watertight, inventive, catchy as hell… I was walking around saying “Iamnotthrowingawaymy… SHOT!” for days. Days!! I struggled to keep up with it at times during the first half, which may just be a result of ticket prices leading us to sit near the absolute back, but there’s still no denying how much of an EVENT this is. (Side-note: There’s a chance I over-played Kelly Clarkson’s version of It’s Quiet Uptown so much that the actual version in the actual show had a weaker emotional impact, OOPS).

05. Cuckoo (Soho Theatre)

Lisa Carroll’s play had me deeply invested in its characters from the beginning right up to the messy (in a good way!!) ending, and I was thinking about it for about a week afterwards. All at once funny and devastating, it’s a piece anchored by Carroll’s razor-sharp dialogue and a perfectly earnest lead performance from Caitriona Ennis. Touching all of the wood that this gets another outing somewhere very soon.

04. Standard: Elite (Ovalhouse)

Normally these ~aUdIeNcE pArTiCiPaTiOn!!!~ shows drive me up the fucking wall, but I cannot recommend Standard: Elite enough. Writer Elliot Hughes stars alongside Sophie Mackenzie in a piece that draws attention to class and privilege in one of the most effective ways I’ve ever seen. More of  a “game with actors” than a “play”, it’s loads of fun – but it also gives you a lot to think about; not so much in terms of making you feel like “huh, privilege is bad, huh? Oh well, see you in the bar!”, but more like, “……oh shit, we actually don’t really understand it at all, do we?”.

03. Misty (Bush Theatre)

That this went on to conquer the West End is nothing short of JUSTICE IN ACTION. Misty is clever, captivating, completely original, and exactly the sort of theatre I’d love to see more of. Arinze Kene is essentially a God, and if you missed it… well, I don’t know what to tell ya. You missed out. (Although I do wish I’d also seen an understudy performance with the female performer, just because the idea of having an opposite-sex understudy sounds so genius???).

02. Six: The Musical (Arts Theatre)

I’m fuming that I didn’t think of Six myself: what if all the wives of Henry VIII formed a supergroup and put on a concert?! And what if the songs were fucking BANGERS??? A show like this – really more of a fictional concert than a story-driven play – demands a cast that really sing, act and dance, and this lot are serving vocals and choreo that would make The Saturdays (RIP) burst into tears. So much fun. I went to see a matinee on my own, and now I’m gagging to see it with friends with a beer in hand.

01. Jellyfish (Bush Theatre)

This play EXFOLIATED by SOUL. Sarah Gordy was oustanding as Kelly; coming of age and falling in love as a woman with Down’s Syndrome in a seaside town. Penny Layden was brilliant as her protective mother – essentially the antagonist of Kelly’s love story, but never someone we dislike – and Nicky Priest provided actual belly laughs as our lead’s neurodiverse friend Dominic. Ben Weatherill’s script was so funny and full of warmth and fantastically performed… I just loved it. And the new, smaller studio at the Bush was the perfect venue. Highly great.

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