Funnily enough this is the second theatre review I've written for 2009 - I've already written 2009: High culture goes lowculture
; inevitably I'll be repeating myself a bit here, but have a look at that too if you want because it's got a bit more of a specific focus. Whereas anyone who's hung around this blog knows that this year more than ever my approach to booking shows is more like "as many as I can possibly manage."
The year got off to an underwhelming start with the disappointing Wig Out!
but things improved with the surprisingly good Sunset Boulevard
and a hilarious if lightweight Twelfth Night
. But in February the first big "wow" of the year for me came with Spring Awakening
at the Lyric Hammersmith. vanessaw
and I went to see it twice more at the Novello, towards the end of its ill-fated West End run.
My sister got two chances to gaze at her beloved Nigel Harman, in Three Days of Rain
at the Apollo, and then the much more intimate Public Property
at Trafalgar 2, also starring Steven Webb - in their different ways both were very good. My own preferences were catered for by the Royal Court, and in the Upstairs theatre none other than Russell Tovey was showing off his acting ability (and arse) in the dark but impressive A Miracle
; meanwhile downstairs Harry and Luke Treadaway were smearing food over each other in Over There
, which might not have been perfect but you couldn't say it wasn't... different.
Speaking of the Royal Court, I've now started buying tickets for every one of their future productions as soon as they're announced, even before I know ther first thing about them. Sure, there's the risk of another soul-destroying Grasses of a Thousand Colours
, but the hit-to-miss ratio has been very good lately. Plus, doing this has resulted this year in no less than four
times when I've had a ticket for the
big sold-out show that everybody wants to see but can't get into for love nor money: Tusk Tusk
, none of which disappointed.
As far as Shakespeare productions went, my favourite this year didn't float everyone's boat, but personally Rupert Goold's production of King Lear
starring Pete Postlethwaite was fascinating. The National's All's Well That Ends Well
was so good I returned to it with my mum, and after fears that it would be too overshadowed by David Tennant's interpretation, Jude Law's Hamlet
stood up to scrutiny and got itself a Broadway transfer; despite the production focusing more on the play's "thriller" aspect than the comedy, Law did have one bit of comic business I'll remember for some time. I hope the Old Vic's Bridge Project fares better in its all-Shakespeare second year, as this year's effort, The Winter's Tale
, didn't do much for me. And I finally got round to visiting Shakespeare's Globe, making up for avoiding it all these years by going several times, including enjoyable productions of As You Like It
and Love's Labour's Lost
; but it was actually a Euripides production that made me finally go there, for Helen
, a play I'd workshopped at university and almost despaired of ever seeing professionally staged.
The Donmar Warehouse's productions of A Streetcar Named Desire
, Life Is A Dream
were, in my opinion, quite deserving of the praise they got, but my personal choice of play of the year may seem a bit of an obscure choice: The National Theatre's devastating but completely gripping Our Class
, which you can still catch for another week or so. Also high up in my list of theatrical events of the year would be Kafka's Monkey
, with a jaw-droppingly good performance from Kathryn Hunter - as I've mentioned before, you can see what I mean at Digital Theatre
where it's available to download. Also memorable was a revival of Anthony Nielsen's hilariously gross Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness
; the same writer's The Séance
had me laughing my head off as part of the National's Connections programme.
In recent months I've enjoyed The Mountaintop
, Punk Rock
at the Lyric Hammersmith, Orphans
, the Bush Theatre's 2nd May 1997
and If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet
, and of course Alan Bennett's long-awaited The Habit of Art
And because you'd think there was something wrong with me if I wasn't a complete pervert for one paragraph at least, frontal male nudity didn't entirely go away this year, rearing its head (fnar!) in Studies for a Portrait
, The Backroom
, Jane Austen's Guide to Pornography
, Breakfast at Tiffany's
, 2nd May 1997
and, you won't be too surprised to hear, Naked Boys Singing 2009
. But not, funnily enough, in Cock
And there we have it; I could have mentioned more of the bad shows but it's good to end on a positive note and in fairness it's overall been a great year for theatre in That London, the list of duff plays would be a lot shorter than this mostly-positive one. Fingers crossed for more good stuff in 2010 (and hey, maybe even me throwing my hat into the ring by the end of the year or sometime in 2011? Stranger things have happened.)