Looking back at 2011

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For me 2011, has certainly been my busiest year theatrically. As I sit here with my Xmas Turkish Delight and box of choccy’s, what were my highlights?

  • Finally getting to see Robert Lepage was certainly a memorable occasion. His play The Blue Dragon I referred to as “Theatrical perfection”.

    Robert Lepage as Pierre Lamontagne

  • I saw my first Burlesque  show, which was certainly an eye opener!

    Mistress of Ceremonies

  • London Road at the National Theatre is certainly one of the highlights for me. An amazing piece of theatre.
  • The best new play of this year I think was The Acid Test by Anya Reiss.

Best new play of 2011

  • The best acting I saw this year was in The Seagull at the Arcola, especially Yolanda Kettle as Nina, who gets my “Best Actress Award”. Best Actor goes to Joseph Milson as Ben Stark in Rocket to the Moon at the National.

    Yolanda Kettle, best actress I saw in 2011, in The Seagull at the Arcola.

Joseph Milson, best actor I saw in 2011, in Rocket to the Moon

  • Crazy for You, was definitely the best musical I saw this year.

    The best legs in London!

  • Manon at the Royal Opera House, wins “best ballet” award.

    Manon left me speechless.

  • Best entertainment award would go to Strictly Gershwin. (so good I saw it twice and my wife saw it three times!)

    Dancing from the beautiful Rhapsody in Blue

  • Best theatre book of the year, without a doubt the publication of Volume 2 Samuel Beckett’s letters from 1941 – 1956, I’m still ploughing my way through them, but they’re one of the most rewarding things I’ve read in a long time.

So all in all a very good year theatrically for me.  Thanks to all my readers and I wish you all a very prosperous 2012.

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The Acid Test by Anya Reiss – Royal Court Theatre – Review

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The Quite Marvelous Quartet. From top left clockwise; Vanessa Kirby, Denis Lawson, Phoebe Fox and Lydia Wilson.

I missed seeing Anya Reiss’ debut play, Spur of the Moment last year, but got the script and kicked myself for missing it. When I heard that her second play was coming to The Royal Court, I made sure I wouldn’t miss it. In fact I was there for its premiere performance tonight.

Anya Reiss has much to live up to with her second play, she’s won numerous awards for Spur of the Moment, and so expectations are naturally high for this play.

The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at The Royal Court has undergone a quite amazing transformation for this play and you are literally in the living room this play is in, it’s a brilliant piece of set as you walk down past the other flats into the one the play is set. I love the fact The Royal Court continually is creative with its space, last years boxing ring for Sucker Punch and now this clever set show, that The Royal Court is consistently pushing itself, which is a pleasure to see. The set design is by Paul Wills and he’s to be commended for this brilliant piece of work.

Ok, so it’s got a fancy set but is the content any good? I’ll state it loud and clear, I think this play is better than her first. Anya Reiss showed promise and has developed and delivered on that. This is a play that reveals that age doesn’t always equal maturity and that we all need to as the character Jim says, “Grow up. Life is tough.” Anya Reiss has certainly matured as a playwright.

I loved the humour in the play it sprang naturally from the interaction of the girls with each other and from them with Jim, but Anya Reiss, develops the play to its more serious conclusion subtlety and with great skill. Each character has their flaws as we all do, but also some redeeming feature too (which I hope we all have too). In the character of Dana we get a very astute observation on how some women get into a vicious circle of using men to perpetuate their own self-identity, “I don’t need to learn to ‘love myself’ I need to fucking hate myself I need to fucking divorce myself.” she wryly observes. I admire the way the writing really gets beneath the surface and shows us aspects of characters that perhaps we’ve missed.

The cast of four give excellent performances. I saw their first preview, I’m genuinely impressed, all the important nuances were there and playing this in the round with the audience right up close is never easy, yet they acted brilliantly. It was a pleasure to see Lydia Wilson again, I saw her in Blasted last year at the Lyric Hammersmith, she gave her character of Jessica a real edge that made me not sure whether to agree with her or disagree with her.

Vanessa Kirby as the career climbing and sexual Dana showed us all the sides to the actual despair and spiral her character was on. Phoebe Fox was likewise a witty foil to the other girls as the distraught Ruth. Denis Lawson as Jim was really quite astounding though. His portrayal was witty, cowardly and just right, his character has a big journey in the short time this play is set in and he takes us on that with great aplomb.

I’m greatly encouraged by this play, if Anya Reiss is at the vanguard of what is happening in modern British Theatre we have much to be excited about.

2010 Evening Standard Theatre Awards

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Martin Freeman and Sophie Thompson in Clybourne Park winner of Best Play

The results are in for this years Evening Standard Theatre awards. As I read the coverage in tonight’s Evening Standard, I have to say I wasn’t surprised by any of the results. It basically boiled down to a competition between the National and the Royal Court for most of the categories. The Donmar’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion was awarded Best Musical, Clybourne Park by the American playwright Bruce Norris was best play, which will shortly be transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End running from January 28th – May 7th.

Michael Gambon as Krapp

It was good to see Michael Gambon being awarded the Lebedev Special Award for his contribution to British Theatre.

Lots of the attention went to Anya Reiss who was awarded the Award for Most Promising Playwright. She rightly stated, “I know all the attention is on my age (she’s 19),  but I hope I will come to be seen as a good playwright rather than just a good young playwright.”

Peter Hall rightly championed the funding for the success story that is British Theatre lets hope those with ears to hear listen and learn.

Obviously these are London based awards, but as the capital is the heart of the UK theatre scene, the awards give a good overview of the current state of the Theatre in the UK. There is lots to be excited, and grateful for. I look forward to seeing what 2011 brings.