Heather Jeffery, Editor
It’s a close call between these two:
Puccini’s LA BOHEME,
Libretto by Adam Spreadbury-Maher & Becca Marriott -
King’s Head Theatre (September)
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adapted by Steven Canny & John Nicholson –
Jack Studio Theatre (December)
It was rather special to enjoy an Opera brought into the 21st century with beautiful music and themes which put me on a real high. The up-close and personal is used to great effect. One of the things I love about the in-house productions directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher is that he really has got the hang of using this smaller space to advantage.
The Hound of the Baskervilles at Jack Studio, impeccably directed by Kate Bannister, is hilarious without ever going over the top. Christmas shows masterminded by Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard are to die for. Karl designs amazing sets and the technical gizmos throughout really take it to the next level.
On this occasion, I choose La Boheme as my best show of 2016.
ANTIGONE by Sophocles – The Hope Theatre (February)
GERTRUDE – THE CRY by Howard Barker –
Theatre N16 (June)
I’ve been lucky enough to see some absolutely smashing productions in 2016. It would seem churlish to choose a favourite. (“Richard, will you just stop waffling and choose”, said my Editor).
In the end it was a very close call between Chris Hislop’s very fine production of “Gertrude- The Cry”, by Howard Barker, at the N16 in Balham and Matthew Parker’s equally mesmeric take on “Antigone”, by Sophocles, at the Hope Theatre in Islington. In the end I went for the latter.
“Antigone” was written some two and half thousand years ago and yet Parker (in this thrilling adaptation by Brendan Murray) makes it viscerally contemporary. He is a Director who is going places. Rachel Ryan, the set and costume designer, has a brilliant eye for both detail and the bigger picture. The lighting design of Tom Kitney and soundscape of Paul Freeman were simply a triumph. The Acting was of the very highest order. Judi Dench said to me once, “if you have to give praise to an Actor Richard just choose one”. Well I shall give the accolades to LJ Reeves. She is simply an astonishing talent. And it seems quite fitting that she was superb in both “Gertrude” and “Antigone”.
THE TWINS MACABRE: CRIME DOESN’T PLAY -
The Old Red Lion Theatre (October)
‘Crime Doesn't Play’ is one of those rare shows where all the pieces fit. It had a little of everything – a mishmash of genres, clever plot, twists and surprises, character development, strong performances, imaginative staging and two actors gifted at adlibbing making any mistakes or audience cat calls part of the show and enriching the experience. A total joy from start to finish.
These came to mind as favourites of the year with Steel Magnolias as the best show.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS by Robert Harling -
Hope Theatre (August)
All round brilliant production, from the set design, to the performances, to the direction, and the writing.
THE MEMORY SHOW - The Drayton Arms (February)
Honest and moving look at the affect Alzheimer's has on relationships which really resonated on an emotional level.
Strong performances from both actresses, and great music.
THE ONE by Vicky Jones - The Lion and Unicorn (September)
Contemporary, challenging and intelligent play, authentic performances!
CANCEL THE SUNSHINE by Chantelle Dusett -
The Hope Theatre (March)
Under the artistic direction of Matthew Parker, the Hope Theatre has played an absolute blinder this year. The programming is diverse, the audiences vibrant and the tiny space in Islington changes its look more often than Lady Gaga.
In March the stage was set as a messy bedroom for one woman show Cancel The Sunshine. Written by Chantelle Dusett it told the story of a young woman (stunningly and energetically played by Maya Thomas) who is dealing with mental health issues. For one person to command the stage the writing and acting had to be robust and this was genuinely edge of your seat stuff. The play was deftly directed by Scott le Crass who does a good line in one person plays (he also directed Offie-nominated Sid by Leon Fleming). He works closely with writer and actor to fine-tune the balance of the play and the result is a perfect blend of cerebral and physical.
In a year where theatre-goers were stunned with work by Denise Gough, Billie Piper and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, our very own pub theatres showed that they are also packed to the rafters with remarkable talent.
Editor's Note: Playwright Sian Rowland's current show, Gazing at a Distant Star is at Greenwich Theatre 13 - 29 January.
Heather Jeffery, Editor
Heather Jeffery is also playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre. Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre, Old Red Lion Theatre, VAULT festival, St Paul’s Church, Cockpit Theatre and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)
As an Actor he has worked extensively throughout the country including Chichester Festival Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange, Birmingham Rep, and Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire. His Television and Film credits include: “Calendar Girls”, “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”, “Finding Neverland”, “Bridget Jones”, “Suspicions of Mr Whicher”, “Mr Selfridge” and many years ago Gussie Fink-Nottle in “Jeeves and Wooster”. He has also filmed over 150 Commercials all over the world.
He has directed the European premiere of Sternheim/Martin “The Underpants” at The Old Red Lion Theatre and written three plays: “Being There with Sellers”, “Bedding Clay Jones” and “Sexing Alan Titchmarsh”.
Annie Power is an award-winning writer and FCP Editor. She has written several short plays which have been performed at The Soho Theatre, Etcetera, Rosemary Branch and Leicester Square Theatre. She’s had several short films screened at various film festivals including Underwire and Raindance.
Dionne Farrell currently works in Television and Film production, with a real passion for theatre. When not spectating, she is either performing with a local am-dram group, or trying to write for the stage!
By day she is PSHE trainer, writer, education writer. By night, playwright, comedy writer and reviewer. Her current show, Gazing at a Distant Star is at Greenwich Theatre Studio 13 - 29 January. Her past credits include work produced at The Cockpit, Southwark Playhouse, Greenwich Theatre and Wimbledon Theatre Studio. She was winner of the 2016 Red Women’s Theatre awards.
WE ASKED FIVE OF OUR TOP REVIEWERS TO CHAT ABOUT THEIR FAVOURITE SHOWS OF THE YEAR