My top 10 plays of 2017

theatro-festival

Message to self. Do not drone on. Nobody will read this. You are seemingly dispossessed of any edit function. And there are literally millions of other lists of best plays/theatre of 2017 produced by people who know what they are talking about. This may be your blog, intended to consolidate all you have learnt from your cultural adventures, but that really is no excuse for blathering on.

Here goes then. Bear in mind this reflects when I saw the production listed below. If I lived in Stratford, or Amsterdam, I might have have got to see a couple of them sooner. Still better late than never.

1. The Ferryman – Royal Court Theatre

Marvellous story. Teeming with life. Cracking dialogue. Wonderful staging. Critics’ favourite. Five star reviews across the board. Everyone I know who has seen it has loved it. Sometimes it just all comes together. In every photo I have seen of writer Jez Butterworth since the opening night he sports a grin from ear to ear. And so he should. If you haven’t seen it, get a ticket before it closes as pulling together this size of cast (human and animal) is likely to make revivals thin on the ground.

The Ferryman at the Royal Court Theatre review *****

2. Hamlet – Almeida Theatre

Think Shakespeare is boring and not for you. Then you haven’t seen wunderkind director Robert Icke’s Hamlet with Andrew Scott as the eponymous Prince of Denmark. Delivered in so matter of fact a way that it was just like having your best mate in the front room with you. Mind you he would be a best mate who tested your patience to the limit. You would probably de-friend him sharpish. A stunning lead performance. Plenty of superlative support. And a director who can marry respect for text with vibrant, relevant freshness.

Hamlet at the Almeida review *****

3. Follies – National Theatre

I don’t like musicals. I do now.

Follies at the National Theatre review *****

4. Anatomy of a Suicide – Royal Court Theatre

This had me glued to my seat from the off. Immensely powerful, formally inventive, brilliantly written by Alice Birch, and intelligently directed by Katie Mitchell. I am a bloke. Heaven knows what this would have done to me if I was a woman.

Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court Theatre review *****

5. Knives in Hens – Donmar Warehouse

I can see that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but a meditation on the power of language, set in some unspecified “medieval” past, was always likely to reel me in. But David Harrower’s “modern classic” was even better than I had hoped. And director Yael Farber showed what she can do when she can focus solely on subject and expression in someone else’s text.

Knives in Hens at the Donmar Warehouse review *****

6. The Kid Stays in the Picture – Royal Court Theatre

I have learnt that anything Complicite, and its genius co-founder Simon McBurney, creates, must be seen. This theatrical “biopic” of the film producer Robert Evans is a technical tour de force, for sure, but also a bloody fantastic story. Don’t like the theatre. Love film. Then see this if it ever pops up again.

The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court Theatre review *****

7. Roman Tragedies – Barbican Theatre

Not everything Ivo van Hove and Toneelgroep Amsterdam take on comes off but this stalwart from, arguably the world’s greatest theatre company, is just awesome. Six and a half hours in Dutch. Vast swathes of the three Roman Shakespeare “tragedies” it is fashioned from ditched or mangled. No matter. You can move around, fiddle with your phone (sort of), watch the screens, get in the way of the cast, buy a beer. And just immerse yourself in the tale of power. corruption and lies that might have been written yesterday. If it ever swings by you, go.

Roman Tragedies at the Barbican review *****

8. The End of Hope – Orange Tree Theatre

I saw this as part of the Directors Festival at the OT. It then went to the Soho Theatre. It deserves an even wider audience. It is hilarious. In only an hour writer David Ireland takes aim at so many contemporary issues, from his starting point of a one night stand in Northern Ireland, that it leaves you breathless. Actors Elinor Lawless and Rufus Wright had a ball but the real star of the night was director Max Elton. This young man will go far.

Directors’ Festival at the Orange Tree Theatre review

9. Junkyard – Rose Theatre Kingston

OK. So sometimes you take a punt and it really pays off. This sort of musical, about a bunch of misfits in Bristol who reluctantly build, then defiantly protect, a playground, could have been a cliche-ridden monstrosity. However, with Jeremy Herrin directing and Jack Thorne writing, it obviously wasn’t. It was just properly uplifting. And it had Erin Doherty in the lead. She is just a brilliant actor. Wish List at the Royal Court, My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Young Vic, A Christmas Carol and The Divide at the Old Vic. It has been a busy year of so for Erin. One day she will be made a Dame for her services to acting. You read it here first.

Junkyard at the Rose Theatre review *****

10. Much Ado About Nothing (or Love’s Labours Won) – Theatre Royal Haymarket

The RSC should nail Shakespeare. That’s its job. This production of Much Ado, which finally got aired at the RSC’s other London home of the TRH, was tremendous. Director Christopher Luscombe’s setting of Much Ado and Love’s Labour’s Lost, (not quite so good because it is not as good a play), before and after the First World War was a masterstroke. Lisa Dillon and Edward Bennett as the world weary lovers-to-be were outstanding. Loved it.

Just missed the cut? Loads actually since it was an annus mirabilis for London theatre. But my hopelessly subjective ranking system might have seen Albee’s Goat at the Theatre Royal Haymarket slyly directed by Ian Rickson, Roy Williams’s latest play The Firm at the Hampstead Theatre and the unlikely triumph Oslo, might all have squeaked in.

Let’s hope 2018 is up to similar snuff.

2 thoughts on “My top 10 plays of 2017”

  1. I have to take exception to this blog entry. Or at least to the opening paragraph, tongue in cheek though I’m sure it is.

    When I have internet access I look forward to reading your posts and reviews because they are unpredictable, illuminating and well expressed. Based on times when I’ve wholeheartedly agreed with you I’m always excited when I don’t, because your writing prompts me to think about things from another point of view.

    Of your ten selections here, I only saw the first half of one of them. You are one of the writers whose reviews I can read (when I *haven’t* seen the play/film/exhibition in question) and come away with a sense of what it must really have been like. So thank you and keep up the good work!

    Like

    1. Sorry for not replying sooner
      Thank you for your kind words. I am slightly embarrassed but nonetheless heartened by what you say.
      I say to myself I only do this to force me to think (and research) what I have seen and heard and I affect not to care what people think.
      The reality though is that it makes me very happy to hear that some people find i interesting and helpful so thanks once again.
      BTW which half of a play did you get to see????

      Like

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