I’ve been fortunate enough to see 110 shows over the past six months (list here).
I feel like it’s been a remarkable year for London; we’ve been treated to a steady stream of international work that’s more-or-less consistently proven itself worthy of the ‘hype’ surrounding it.
I wanted to call this out upfront – because I’m conscious of how arbitrary it is to perhaps try and pit those massive-budget productions literally travelling the world, against homegrown fringe offerings. But anyway, I’ve attempted to do so – in a round-up of my theatre highlights so far. I wish less of them were such ‘obvious’ choices, but also found all that made my list way too transformative to leave any off. I’ll get to it…
My top 10 (so far…)
John / Dorfman Theatre
Annie Baker’s fourth full-length play is as close to an ‘exquisite masterpiece’ as anything else I expect to see this year. An acting and directing masterclass, a deeply disturbing and intriguing text, I can’t remember the last time I wanted something to end less.
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1776-1806 / Barbican Theatre
Taylor Mac proved himself to be one of the most competent, formidable and mesmerising performers I think I’ve ever seen. This was another masterclass in holding a crowd, encouraging participation in exactly the right way – and, on the night I attended, answering them back… I’m dreading being in my early 40’s, when this 16-year durational work will be over and I won’t have any more to look forward to.
Fun Home / Young Vic
Warm, queer, slick, beautiful: I had no idea what to expect with this (other than people saying ‘omg it’s amazing you’ll love it’), but it’s quirkiness – and underlying sadness – completely gripped me and I can’t recommend enough.
Buggy Baby / The Yard
Utterly riotous. As in hilariously funny, but also subversive, violent, terrifying. Bathtime’s unlikely to be surpassed as my ‘scene of the year’. Jasmine Jones was astonishing.
The Inheritance: Part 1 / Young Vic
Part 2 all got a bit ‘Netflix-binge-fodder’ for me (until Redgrave’s entrance, at least) – but I found Part 1 to be pretty transformative. Only the second time I’ve ever cried like a baby afterwards (1st was the NT Shed’s Beyond Caring). The ending is stunning and something I’ll never forget. It’s worth being in this list for that final minute alone.
Notes from the Field / Royal Court
Another masterclass in everything? Anna Deavere Smith gave a sensational performance in an intelligent, focused and usually stunning production about America’s school-to-prison pipeline as part of LIFT Festival.
Ad Libido / VAULT Festival
My fringe highlight of 2018 so far, and one of only two shows I attended in a reviewing capacity which have made this list so far this year. Review here. ‘Superb structuring, relentless creativity and unmitigated rigour from Fran Bushe made this piece about female sexual dysfunction as didactic, thought-provoking and affirming as one could hope for.’
Nine Night / Dorfman Theatre
Uproarious, tender and also downright educational for a white guy like me, I think it’s near-impossible not to fall in love with Nine Night whoever you are. Cecilia Noble’s Aunt Maggie is perhaps only rivalled by Jasmine Jones’s Buggy ‘Baby’ as the most electric and amusing performance of my year.
Terra Firma (National Dance Company Wales) / The Place
My dance highlight, reviewed here. A magnificent triple bill from NDCW – frequently electric, and wholly accessible contemporary dance. I left absolutely buzzing.
Hamilton / Victoria Palace Theatre
I feel quite #basic to include this in my list, but would be lying to myself to leave it off. As a piece of event-theatre, this was pretty second-to-none. I felt very special even just being there (props to the marketeers for how they can make anyone feel that way even after taking £80 from them). The ensemble is as slick and mesmerising as any I’ve ever seen, the music gorgeous, and the slickness really quite overwhelming. It’s by far the most I’ve ever paid for any theatre, but somewhat worth it.
Stuff which so nearly made my list…
Caroline, or Change – Hampstead
So Many Reasons – Camden People’s Theatre
It Made Me Consider Me – Old Red Lion
Working – Royal Academy of Music
Creation (Pictures for Dorian) – Southbank Centre
Let me know yours below.