Theatre review of the year – 2017

It’s that time of year again – time to look back on the past year and pick out my top ten theatre productions. This year has been a particularly strong one for musicals, with plenty of revivals and new shows, but there have been some great plays too. I found it particularly tough, this year, to narrow down my list. Still, I managed it in the end. As always, I’ve listed the shows in the order in which I saw them.

The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams, Duke of York’s Theatre, 8 February
I studied this play for A Level and hated it, but John Tiffany’s production made me fall in love with it.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Almeida Theatre, 20 February
I’ve seen Hamlet over a dozen times but Robert Icke’s production, starring Andrew Scott, made it seem fresh. It’s one of the best Hamlets I’ve seen.

The Life, Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman, Southwark Playhouse, 30 March
As a huge fan of Cy Coleman’s work (City of Angels is probably my favourite musical ever), I was very excited about seeing The Life, which has a strong story and is full of good tunes.

Rent, Jonathan Larson, Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, 27 May
The 25th anniversary production of Rent showed me why it is such a well-loved musical, and really captured the spirit of the show.

An Octoroon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Orange Tree Theatre, 29 June
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ version of An Octoroon, originally penned by Victorian playwright Dion Boucicault, was irreverent, clever, and very funny. It’s transferring to the National Theatre in 2018 – please do see it if you haven’t already.

Angels In America, Tony Kushner, National Theatre, 23 May/4 July
I saw both parts of this groundbreaking play separately but I’m counting them as one for the purposes of this list. It’s an unforgettable work.

Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 19 September
I thought this production of the musical, which returned after success last year, was superlative.

Follies, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, National Theatre, 27 November
Now officially my favourite Sondheim musical, this production of Follies is another winner for the National.

How to Win Against History, Seiriol Davies, Young Vic, 1 December
Camp, gloriously OTT, but also bittersweet, a hugely funny chamber musical.

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Victoria Palace Theatre, 13 December
Need I say more?

There you have it! Here’s to more great theatre in 2018!


Theatre review of the year – 2016

It’s time once again for my theatre review of the year, and this year my favourite productions have been surprisingly traditional. There’s only one musical in my top ten, and only one new play. It’s true that it’s the strong productions of older works that have made the greatest impression on me this year, whether for good – as noted below – or for ill (*cough* King Lear at the Old Vic *cough*). I’ve enjoyed plenty of musicals and less traditional shows this year, it’s just that fewer of them have really stood out in 2016.

Without more ado, then, here are my top ten productions of the year.

The Tempest, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, Pericles, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – 26-27 March
Dominic Dromgoole’s final season at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the indoor Jacobean theatre at the Globe, was a definite high point for me. I couldn’t pick one favourite production out of these four late plays by Shakespeare, so I’ve chosen them all for good measure.

People, Places & Things, Wyndham’s Theatre – 9 May
There’s a good reason that Duncan Macmillan’s play – which transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre after a successful run at the National – is the only new play in my top ten this year. Powerful subject matter and a superb central performance from Denise Gough helped to make this one of the most memorable theatrical experiences of the year for me.

Groundhog Day, Old Vic – 13 September
The only musical on my list, Groundhog Day was a show I hadn’t been too bothered about seeing until I saw the good reviews on TheatreBoard. I’m so glad that I gave it a chance – it was memorable, fabulously staged and surprisingly affecting.

Platonov, Ivanov, The Seagull, National Theatre – 8 October
Another group of plays here: Chekhov is my favourite playwright and I was thrilled when it was announced that the Chichester Festival Theatre productions of these three plays would be transferring to the National Theatre. I saw them all in one day and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best days of the year. The Seagull is my favourite play and I loved this production, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Platonov and Ivanov, which I hadn’t previously seen.

The Rover, Swan Theatre – 2 November
The final play of my top ten is the RSC’s production of The Rover by Aphra Behn, a joyous and unforgettable experience that was lively and entertaining.

What were your favourite plays of 2016?

Five years of London theatregoing

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my move to London. A lot has happened in that time. I’m still living in the same place and I’m still in the same job, which I probably wouldn’t have predicted five years ago. I have also seen a LOT of theatre.

It’s been incredibly difficult, but I’ve chosen five top productions for the five years I’ve been living here. For one reason or another, they are the most memorable productions I’ve seen here.

The Phantom of the Opera, 25th Anniversary Performance at the Royal Albert Hall (2011)

I went to this performance with my auntie and we both loved it. Phantom was the first musical I ever saw in London and it’s still one of my favourites. The anniversary performance was hugely memorable.

Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre (2012)

This evening is on the list because, even though I’d seen the show before, this time it starred Ramin Karimloo, who is probably my favourite musical theatre performer. I managed to bag a front-row seat via Get Into London Theatre, and it was incredible being so close to the action.

NT: 50 Years on Stage, National Theatre (2013)

I entered the ballot to get a £50 ticket to this special show – a full dress rehearsal for the live BBC broadcast – and I felt incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see excerpts from so many of the National’s major shows over the years.

RIFT’s Macbeth, Balfron Tower (2014)

This immersive production of Shakespeare’s play is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, let alone my half-decade in London. It was my birthday present to myself that year – a pretty awesome one as far as I am concerned.

City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse (2014)

I only heard of this show at the beginning of 2014, but by the end it was a firm favourite, so the Donmar’s production couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. I loved it – I left with a big smile on my face – and ended up booking to go again a few weeks later, which is highly unusual for me.

I hope the next five years include even more memorable productions, so that when I come to write a blog post about ten years in London, I have plenty to choose from!

Theatre review of the year – 2015

My annual theatre review is a little late this year, mainly because I saw my last play of the year on New Year’s Eve. Looking back on my previous yearly reviews, I find that although I enjoyed most of the shows I saw this year, it’s harder for me to pick favourites. There was nothing as breathtaking as City of Angels or The Crucible this year (although I did go and see City of Angels again, and I bought The Crucible on Digital Theatre). Still, there were several standout productions. It was a good year for Shakespeare, with two of the Bard’s works in my top ten, and a strong year for the Globe, with two productions (one Shakespeare, one a new play). Plays won out over musicals this year, though Imelda Staunton’s performance in Gypsy more than makes up for this. I didn’t see so many immersive theatre productions this year, but one that I did see, Alice Underground, was so brilliant that it makes up for the comparative dearth. I see that September was a particularly good month for great shows; I saw three of my top ten productions this month.


My Top Ten Theatre Productions 2015

  • The Nether, Duke of York’s Theatre – 10 February

I saw Jennifer Haley’s play after it had transferred from the Royal Court, a powerful piece examining paedophilia in the context of virtual reality which works on many levels and which is incredibly gripping.

  • The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Globe – 17 May

This version of Shakespeare’s play starred Jonathan Pryce as Shylock and did a sterling job demonstrating the anti-Semitism always present beneath the veneer of Venetian society. Dark and thought-provoking, this is my favourite production of this play.

  • Carrie: The Musical, Southwark Playhouse – 19 May

Based on both Stephen King’s novel and Brian de Palma’s movie, the musical version of Carrie was powerful, surprising and moving, with a fantastic central performance from Evelyn Hoskins.

  • Nirbhaya, Southbank Centre – 21 May

After her success with The Crucible, Yaël Farber directed this play, based on the story of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the young woman attacked and raped in Delhi whose death provoked huge anger and support from all over the world. Recounting stories of abuse and survival, told by the women themselves, this was a powerfully moving play.

  • Alice Underground, The Vaults, Waterloo – 23 July

This glorious version of the Alice in Wonderland tale transformed the Vaults into a rich magical world, filled with familiar characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, and woven together with an original take on the Alice story.

  • Parade, London Theatre Workshop – 8 September

I loved this musical by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry, based on a true story about Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, accused of the murder of a thirteen-year-old girl. With a rich and memorable score, touching lyrics and a powerful story, it was a powerfully moving experience.

  • Photograph 51, Noël Coward Theatre – 21 September

Nicole Kidman was excellent in Anna Ziegler’s new play about Rosalind Franklin, the female scientist whose work was crucial to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

  • Gypsy, Savoy Theatre – 29 September

I loved this show – the staging, the songs, the story, the cast – but the highlight was Imelda Staunton’s performance as Momma Rose, which was astounding. I’m so glad Gypsy has been filmed for posterity.

  • Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe – 11 October

This new play by Jessica Swale was the highlight of my Globe season – funny, charming and with a wonderful central performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

  • The Winter’s Tale, Garrick Theatre – 31 December

My last play of the year ended 2015 on a high – a glorious production of Shakespeare’s late play starring Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh.


So there you have it – my top ten productions of the year. What were your favourites?

Theatre review of the year – 2014

It’s been a busy year for theatre, and I’ve seen some fantastic productions. I’m not going to post the total number I’ve seen this year as it is rather frightening. As usual, however, it proved incredibly difficult to select my favourites. Shows that nearly made the list include Assassins at the Menier, The Three Rings of Cirque Tsuki by Immercity and the two Henry IV plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company. However, after much internal debate I have decided on the following list.

Top Ten Theatre Shows 2014

I have listed these shows in the order in which I saw them.

1. Middlemarch Trilogy (Dorothea’s Story, The Doctor’s Story, Fred and Mary), Orange Tree Theatre – 4 January

One (well, technically three) of the first plays I saw this year set an incredibly high standard. Geoffrey Beevers’ adaptation of George Eliot’s classic novel took the unique approach of dividing the huge tome into three parallel stories rather than consecutive parts. What I loved about the adaptations is that they were worked into suitable stage productions while keeping the essence of Eliot’s achievement – a sense of unfulfilled ambition, love and heartbreak, and the extent to which even the smallest lives have an impact on the people around us.

2. Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby, Royal Court Theatre – 14 January

The sad death of Billie Whitelaw, supreme interpreter of Beckett, was announced recently, but if this trilogy is anything to go by, Lisa Dwan is a worthy successor. Not I‘s intensity, Footfall‘s haunting atmosphere and Rockaby‘s melancholy desolation combined to create a theatrical experience unlike any other.

3. The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – 4 March

I loved The Duchess of Malfi, the first production I saw at the Globe’s new Jacobean theatre, but The Knight of the Burning Pestle was a more unexpected gem. This 1607 drama by Francis Beaumont had actors masquerading as audience members to hilarious effect, and a very funny script along with a superb cast drove this joyous romp along.

4. In the Heights, Southwark Playhouse – 21 May

The Southwark Playhouse can be counted on to produce at least one first-class musical per year, and in the Heights was one of my highlights of 2014. A modern musical which first enjoyed success on Broadway in 2008, it had an extraordinary energy, incredible choreography and strong musical numbers based around Latino and hip-hop.

5. Macbeth, RIFT (Balfron Tower, east London) – 17 July

My birthday present to myself was a ticket to RIFT’s immersive Macbeth in east London. The thought and care that must have gone into this production is astounding, with every little detail catered for, and the performances were excellent too. One of the most memorable experiences of the year.

6. The Crucible, Old Vic – 28 July

One of the most powerful productions I’ve ever seen, the Old Vic’s The Crucible was always going to be in my top ten. Richard Armitage gave a standout performance as John Proctor, but there wasn’t a weak link in the cast; every performance was superb. The production was three and a half hours long, but every single minute counted, and I never once felt bored. Yaël Farber’s direction brought out the themes of the play with a clarity and simplicity which allowed the text to speak for itself.

7. Alice Through the Looking Glass, Iris Theatre (St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden) – 6 August

This was a must-see for me after I saw Iris Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland at the same location in 2013. If anything, however, Looking Glass was even better. The story drew us in to Alice’s magical world, with a brilliant cast of characters and an enjoyable promenade style, making us feel as if we were really on an adventure with Alice. The beginning and end of the show differed from the book, but worked very well and had me near tears by the end.

8. My Night With Reg, Donmar Warehouse – 11 August

Admittedly, I only went to see this because it starred Julian Ovenden. However, it has ended up as one of my favourite plays of the year. First premiered 20 years ago, My Night With Reg is about five friends – male, gay – living in the shadow of the AIDS crisis. If this makes it sound dated, it isn’t at all. The play is about love, friendship, tragedy and human relationships, and in Robert Hastie’s production these themes were proven to be timeless. The play managed to be brilliantly funny and completely heartbreaking at the same time; writer Kevin Elyot sadly died before the production opened, but this brilliant revival was a fitting tribute.

9. Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won (Much Ado About Nothing), Royal Shakespeare Theatre – 11 October

I’m cheating a bit here as these are actually two productions, but they are linked in several ways so I’ve counted them as one. Christopher Luscombe directed Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing – renamed Love’s Labour’s Won on the back of a theory that argues this “lost” play of Shakespeare’s is actually an alternative title for the Beatrice and Benedick comedy – at the RSC, and they were set in the same world, an early 20th century English country house. Lost was set in the golden Edwardian summer of 1914, while Won was set just after the end of the First World War. Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry starred as the main couple in each of the plays, both of which were brilliantly comedic and full of fresh insights.

10. City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse – 15 December

Josie Rourke’s Donmar production of what is now my all-time favourite musical was a dream from start to finish. Delivering what is a rather complex story with a wonderful clarity, the production had an amazing cast including Hadley Fraser, Rosalie Craig, Tam Mutu and Samantha Barks. It was brilliant and I’m already making plans to see it again in 2015.

Several of these productions will be around in 2015: the Beckett trilogy will be at the Barbican in the summer, The Knight of the Burning Pestle is back at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and The Crucible will be showing in cinemas. My Night With Reg will transfer to the Apollo for a short season, while Love’s Labour’s Lost and Won continue at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and will probably transfer to London after that. City of Angels is still running at the Donmar Warehouse, but it is completely sold out, so Barclays Front Row, day, or standing tickets are the only option.

Bonus play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I had to give a special mention to this Shakespeare classic, as I saw five productions this year, all of which were completely different. The first two were performed at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre by Immersion Theatre; one was subtitled “The Dream” and one “The Nightmare”. The first was set before the First World War and the second after – an idea explored further by the Royal Shakespeare Company in their productions of Love’s Labour’s Lost / Won later in the year. They were excellent productions in themselves, but the contrast between the magical, dreamlike world of the first and the darker, unhappier atmosphere of the second was marked.

A few days later I saw a production at the Barbican, co-produced by Handspring, which made excellent use of puppets. The highlight was Puck, a mischievous little creature made up of various household items including an oil can and a garden fork. I also loved Militos Yerolemou’s unforgettable performance as Bottom.

Later in the year I saw the Mariinsky Theatre’s ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Opera House, and the Russian theme continued with the Dmitry Krymov Lab production at the Barbican, which focused on the play-within-a-play to hilarious effect. These productions show how one play can be re-interpreted and revitalised to create a wealth of different meanings.

Thoughts for the year

Theatre of the year

My theatre of the year has to be the Donmar Warehouse – two of my top ten productions were performed there, and I also loved Henry IV and Coriolanus. An honourable mention should go to the Almeida Theatre – none of its productions made it into my top ten, but several were close, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw there, from the musical American Psycho to Thornton Wilder’s US classic Our Town.

Immersive theatre

This was a brilliant year for immersive, interactive and promenade theatre: the highlight was naturally RIFT’s ambitious Macbeth, but I also loved Immercity’s shows, The Three Rings of Cirque Tsuki and The Dwindling House of Holland. Battersea Arts Centre’s The Good Neighbour, the first show I saw in 2014, was an ambitious and magical tale based on a true local story, while Iris Theatre continued their residency at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden with a superb production of Alice Through the Looking Glass, even better than their 2013 production of Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandI Do by Dante or Die, performed in the Hilton Docklands hotel, was a funny look at the last ten minutes before a wedding, seen from six different angles. Who Shot Santa? at the Network Theatre was a Punchdrunk-style immersive experience.


As well as numerous productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I saw lots of other Shakespearean productions this year. Beginning with the Donmar’s excellent Coriolanus and the RSC’s Henry IV, the year also included the brutal Titus Andronicus at the Globe and Martin Freeman’s Richard III at Trafalgar Studios. Despite promising myself I wouldn’t see yet another production of Hamlet, I ended up seeing three – the Globe’s World Hamlet at Middle Temple Hall, a production of the lesser-known First Quarto Hamlet, and a production inspired by Victorian seances at Park Theatre.


This was the year that confirmed Arthur Miller as one of my all-time favourite playwrights. As well as the stunning, intense production of The Crucible at the Old Vic, there was a powerful modern production of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic, and a strong All My Sons at the Open Air Theatre. I also saw Miller’s only musical, written with Stanley Silverman, Up From Paradise.

I also learned to properly appreciate Tennessee Williams: I loved the Young Vic’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring the fantastic Gillian Anderson, and I think I have finally put the ghost of my A Level experience of The Glass Menagerie to rest. I also enjoyed The Fat Man’s Wife at the Canal Café Theatre, and the Hotel Plays (The Pink Bedroom, Green Eyes, Sunburst) performed at the Langham Hotel.

Going back a few hundred years, I thoroughly enjoyed the Spanish Golden Age season at the Arcola Theatre, which included A Lady of Little Sense and Punishment Without Revenge by Lope de Vega, and Don Gil of the Green Breeches by Tirso de Molina. Later in the year I enjoyed a Spanish production of Punishment Without Revenge at the Globe, as well as a “Read Not Dead” reading of The Duchess of Amalfi’s Steward by Lope de Vega. This was the year that the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opened, and I’ve enjoyed several productions there already, including John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.

Russian theatre

This is a particular interest of mine and I made sure to see plenty of Russian plays this year. Anya Reiss’ version of Uncle Vanya didn’t get very good reviews at the St James Theatre, nor did her Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse, but I quite enjoyed her different takes. The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic was another good production, and I also enjoyed Swansong and Platonov, two lesser-known Chekhov shorts, at the Lord Stanley pub.

New writing

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, adapted from the novels by Hilary Mantel and performed in Stratford-upon-Avon, were the highlights for me this year. I loved the books but the plays managed to live up to them. I also saw I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole by Rodrigo Garcia, a play which gets the award for Most Unusual Title. I was deeply moved by Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, based on the words of Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie’s mother, and the poetry of Simon Armitage. On holiday in Glasgow I enjoyed some new work at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Phil Porter’s The Christmas Truce was the most memorable of a number of plays marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.


On the whole I didn’t think that 2014 matched 2013 in terms of musicals. However, considering that this was the year I discovered City of Angels, I am more than happy. I first saw this film noir-inspired show at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in March. I enjoyed it, bought the Broadway soundtrack, and was thrilled when a professional production at the Donmar Warehouse was announced for the end of the year. That production was one of my last of the year, and already I want to make plans to see it again. I believe it’s now my favourite musical – sorry Phantom!

Other highlights of the year included a brilliant production of Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory and a revival of Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade’s Free as Air at the Finborough. American Psycho was a wickedly funny new musical at the Almeida while Candide at the Menier was another highly amusing show: “Isn’t it a lovely day / For an auto-da-fé” is one example of the brilliant lyrics. Oh! What A Lovely War marked the centenary of World War I and the 50th anniversary of its original production with a revival at Stratford East, while Ushers: The Musical proved to be a little gem about the people who show you to your seats in the theatre. Jukebox musicals aren’t my particular favourites, but I did enjoy 20th Century Boy (with the music of T-Rex) and Tonight’s the Night (about Rod Stewart). The Open Air Theatre production of Porgy & Bess was another lovely show.

Dance, ballet, opera and classical

The first show that springs to mind is the latest one I saw – The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party by ZooNation, performed in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio. I also saw my first ROH opera, courtesy of my auntie – it was La Bohème and I really enjoyed it. The ballets I saw here were also superb, particularly the trilogies. I attended a few concerts this year, the best of which was Aurora Orchestra’s “Jitterbug” at LSO St Luke’s.


I’m sure there are plenty of shows I’ve forgotten about, but I should probably stop here, no one will be reading this far down anyway. Hey, just go and read the reviews if you want to know more!

I hope your theatregoing in 2014 was as exciting and fulfilling as mine was. Here’s to 2015!

2014 – My theatre plans for the coming year

I said in my last post that I saw far too much theatre in 2013. As enjoyable as this was, it’s completely unsustainable in the long term for several reasons, so this year I want to concentrate on the theatre I’m interested in the most.

My priorities for the coming year are:

1. RSC – I would like to see all of the Shakespeare plays put on at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the plan to produce the entire canon over the next few years. I already have the summer season booked, and now that I’m a RSC member I will be able to book in advance for the next winter season.

2. Russian drama – with the exception of Chekhov’s plays, which are performed very frequently (although he is my favourite playwright), I will aim to see every example of a Russian play performed in London this year.

3. New theatres – if I see an interesting play advertised in a venue I’ve never visited before, or in a different kind of performance space, I will try to make an effort to see it.

I will see other kinds of theatre of course, including traditional West End and fringe productions, but these will be my priorities for the year.

2013 – My theatre year in review

I saw 259 different productions at the theatre this year, a bit of a jump from the hundred-and-a-bit I managed in 2012. This level of theatregoing is completely unsustainable but it was definitely worth it. A few other statistics:

All but 5 of these shows were inside or in the immediate vicinity of London. Of these five, one was in Inverness, one in Sunderland, and the remainder were RSC shows in Stratford-upon-Avon.

During the year there were 25 days on which I saw two shows, and three days on which I saw 3 (the three parts of Henry VI at Shakespeare’s Globe, the three plays in the Owle Schreame’s ‘Cannibal Valour’ season, and three plays which I managed to squash in to the last free day I had before Christmas).

My most-visited theatres in 2013 were the National and the Globe (10 plays each, though three of the plays at the Globe were on the same day), closely followed by the Arcola (9 plays).

As well as visiting major West End theatres, off-West End spaces and little pub theatres, I saw theatre in some very unusual locations this year. Some of the strangest included: an abandoned warehouse by the river, a library, a park in Bromley, a huge warehouse in Paddington and a car park in Notting Hill.

I saw so many brilliant shows this year that I found it really hard to choose favourites. To make it slightly easier, I chose my ten favourite musicals and my ten favourite plays, instead of grouping them together. I was going to choose five of each, but ten gives me more leeway. I’m also discounting productions I’ve seen before, so Wicked and Othello: The Remix aren’t included, although they are both superb.

Top Ten Musicals

Here are my top ten musicals, listed in the order in which I saw them:

  1. Salad Days – 17 February

This revival by Tête à Tête of a popular 1950s musical at the Riverside Studios was a beautifully performed, feelgood production and really helped to drive away the winter blues.

  1. Quasimodo – 12 April

The belated premiere of Lionel Bart’s musical version of Notre Dame de Paris was outstanding: incredibly moving, with some beautiful songs and a powerful central performance by Stephen Webb at the King’s Head Theatre.

  1. Phantom – 21 May

The Phantom of the Opera is the famous musical version of Gaston Leroux’s novel, but this version by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit – often known as the ‘other Phantom‘ – also deserves acclaim, as this excellent production at Ye Olde Rose and Crown showed.

  1. Miss Nightingale: The Burlesque Musical – 4 July

Seeing this show at the Leicester Square Theatre was a completely last minute decision, but one which I had no cause to regret. Set during World War II, Matthew Bugg’s new musical combined appealing characters and a serious storyline with wonderful songs and routines – even if the ‘burlesque’ description was slightly inaccurate.

  1. Constance & Sinestra and The Cabinet of Screams – 23 July

My first visit to the Camden People’s Theatre was a memorable one. This Tim Burton-esque musical about two little girls watched over by the stuffed corpse of their mother was utterly brilliant, and proved that you can write a song about anything – even taxidermy.

  1. Titanic – 29 July

Maury Yeston’s musical retelling of the tragic Titanic story was performed in a well-staged and deeply moving production at the Southwark Playhouse’s new home in Elephant & Castle.

  1. The Color Purple – 30 July

I saw three of my favourite musicals of the year during a three-day period in July. The second of the bunch was the UK premiere of The Color Purple, the story of a young African-American woman, at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I was never particularly keen on Alice Walker’s original novel, but I loved this adaptation.

  1. Once: The Musical – 31 July

An adaptation of the film by Enda Walsh, this tale of an Irish man and Czech woman brought together through music in Dublin was a lovely story with humour and heart.

  1. Opera Triple Bill: Master Peter’s Puppet Show, Angela, an Inverted Love Story and Renard – 29 September

Officially opera – and puppet opera at that – I’m adding this triple bill to my favourite musicals because it needs to be in my top ten somewhere. The first two were lovely, original shows but Renard – in which everyday kitchen items were transformed into opera-singing animal puppets – was crazy and brilliant.

  1. The Light Princess – 16 October

The long-awaited new musical from Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson finally received its premiere at the National this autumn. It received mixed reviews, but personally I loved it, from the storyline to the effects, and particularly Rosalie Craig’s wonderful central performance.

Top Ten Plays

My top ten plays of the year were even harder to choose, but I eventually managed to narrow down my list to the following:

  1. Pericles – 12 February

With a cast of only four, the theatre group Pistachio Choice performed this outstanding version of Shakespeare’s lesser-known play and made it superbly entertaining. This production at the small Drayton Theatre in Earl’s Court was my introduction to the play, and I couldn’t have asked for a better.

  1. Doktor Glas – 22 April

Based on the novel by Hjalmar Söderberg, this was a one-man adaptation at Wyndham’s Theatre performed in Swedish with English surtitles. It sounds dry – but this tale of a lonely doctor in love with one of his patients was one of the most gripping and thrilling pieces of theatre I saw all year.

  1. Mister Holgado – 28 April

Designed for children but certain to be appreciated by adults, this gleefully dark play about a sinister gentleman hiding in the wardrobe was another of my highlights of 2013.

  1. Othello – 6 July

Last year, I chose Red Velvet as one of my theatre highlights and said that I was looking forward to seeing Adrian Lester star in the National’s production of Othello. I wasn’t disappointed, as the production was as good as I’d hoped for and more.

  1. Private Lives – 25 July

Private Lives is my favourite Nöel Coward play and this production at the Gielgud Theatre was just perfect. I can’t imagine a better Elyot and Amanda than Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor – simply marvellous.

  1. Skin Tight – 8 August

This two-hander written by Gary Henderson and performed at the new Park Theatre was intimate, thought provoking and shocking.

  1. The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable – 21 August

Punchdrunk’s ambitious immersive production at Temple Studios in Paddington was one of the strangest and most exciting experiences I have ever had.

  1. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – 30 September

The Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch always punches above its weight and this production of Jim Cartwright’s play was no exception. Kate Robson-Stuart’s performance as the title character was incredible.

  1. Richard II – 24 October

This long-awaited production of Richard II starring David Tennant kicked off Gregory Doran’s stint as the new RSC Director in fine style, with excellent performances from all the cast.

  1. Peter Pan Goes Wrong – 17 December

J.M. Barrie’s classic got the Mischief Theatre treatment, with hilarious results. This superb farce was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

So, they were my theatrical highlights of 2013. The decision was very difficult as I saw so many excellent productions this year. Choosing my worst play of the year was much easier – Mark Rylance’s production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic starring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. I had so many expectations for this production and it failed to come close to living up to them. I suppose there is a lesson here – it’s best to approach any performance with minimal expectations, and with luck you will be pleasantly surprised.

Another high point for me was getting to attend the rehearsal of the National Theatre’s 50 Years On Stage broadcast. It was honestly a privilege to be there in the theatre as actors from the NT’s entire history performed scenes from some of the most significant performances.