Critics choice of
best shows 2017
How We Think We Think
The Etcetera Theatre
This one-man show was a stimulating and compelling production. A combination of psychological theory, cognitive science and audience interaction with a heartfelt story at its core of a man who witnesses a stranger’s suicide and tries to make sense of it. How We Think We Think was simultaneously an enjoyable, educational and challenging piece of theatre. Impeccable writing (Melanie Anne Ball) accompanied by an extraordinary performance by Peter Dewhurst made this a thought-provoking play that haunted me for weeks after.
In Event of Moone Disaster
I love this time of the year. It really is delicious remembering Theatre shows you have seen that were utterly wonderful. There have been some superb offerings this year.
Very honourable mentions should be made of the Exchange’s Theatre The Misanthrope at the Drayton Arms. This was a superbly executed piece with a stand out turn by David Furlong. On the Piste by John Godber at the Brockley Jack Studio was a delightful comic night in the theatre.
Caste by TW Robertson at the Finborough was superbly revived. The direction of Charlotte Peter’s rung every ounce of comedy and drama from the piece. It also featured a stand out turn from Susan Penhaligon.
But my pick of the period was Andrew Thompson’s In Event of Moone disaster at the Theatre503. Thompson is a new playwright with a charisma and brilliance of the highest order. Here his dialogue and plotting were superb. The direction of Lisa Spurling was a triumph. She drew out wonderful performances in particular from Rosie Wyat and Thomas Pickles. Spurling gave Thompson’s piece superb production values, in particular the luminous set design of Sarah Beaton. This really was a glorious production. It shall live long in the memory.
My top choices for this year are:
Bridle at King’s Head Theatre - A funny, explicit and challenging addition to a growing canon on female sexuality, Bridle is necessary viewing that I hope goes on to have a long life on the stage!
Skin Tight by Gary Henderson at The Hope Theatre - brilliantly directed and performed two-hander that is seared into my memory for its beauty, energy and poignancy.
Pebbles at Katzpace - a really exciting piece of new writing, matched by the great performances, this was funny and sweet
Going to review a play about a teenage girl deciding whether to have a double mastectomy, as a pre-emptive move to lower her risk of cancer, may not have been the most enticing prospect. A worthy and important subject matter yes, but would it be too relentlessly bleak to engage with? Lucy Light was a beautiful and heart-breaking play. Sarah Milton’s hour long two hander, with stunning performances from Bebe Sanders (Lucy) and Georgia May Hughes (her friend Jess), did not leave a dry eye in the house. Following their friendship over ten years, there was some great noughties nostalgia and laughs, which made the central theme all the more moving. It was performed at Theatre N16 in Balham, which is looking for a new home. Hopefully we will be seeing more of this wonderful company and promising playwright in 2018.
Editor Heather Jeffery
Brimstone and Treacle
The Hope Theatre
There have been many highlights in the review calendar this year. Two dramas that have left a lasting impression on me are Curtain Call at White Bear, and Father of Lies at Old Red Lion Theatre (part of London Horror Festival) but it is Brimstone and Treacle that has really made its mark.
Curtain Call by award winning writer Simon Bradbury, was crafted by experienced theatre makers and was full to the brim of design details. At the other end of the scale were young theatre makers Sasha Roberts and Tom Worsley (Father of Lies) who brought their entire set, a vintage pram and projector, on public transport. Their deceptively simple show combining drama with documentary was highly original.
I love to see Directors taking risks and Matthew Parker seems to thrive on it. Putting on Denis Potter’s play, Brimstone and Treacle which was once banned by the BBC, he succeeded in creating riveting, theatrical and meaningful theatre. His direction of physical theatre is outstanding and this paid off, with Olivia Beardsley in the role of the disabled girl coached to perfection by Parker. Whilst deep in a coma her scripted noises mean nothing but as she surfaces, the noises are increasingly coherent leading us to the denoument. Her performance was every bit as triumphant as Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot.
Incident at Vichy
In a year of really exciting pub theatre productions a few shows stood out for me. The one that sticks in my mind the most is Incident At Vichy a the Finborough. A lesser known Arthur Miller production, I described it as ‘pitch perfect.’ With just a bench full of anxious men waiting in Nazi-occupied France waiting for whatever happens behind a closed door, the performances were spot on. Like many plays this year, there were echoes of our current political climate and it was a timely reminder of how the slow, insidious rise of fascism can slowly infect a community.
An honourable mention also to Glitter Punch by rising star Lucy Burke which ran at the King’s Head. This was raw, exciting writing and went on to have a good run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Like many others I was also captivated by This is Not Culturally Significant (which also started at the King's Head) written by and starring Adam Scott-Rowley. I reviewed this at The Vaults before its transfer to The Bunker and it was another show that went on to wow the Edinburgh Fringe garnering a host of five and four stars reviews along the way. Rude, daring and uncompromising, TINCS has become a cult classic. It’ll be exciting to see what Scott-Rowley does next.
Xposed by Full Disclosure Theatre
The Hen and Chickens
Forget your classics and your revivals, yawn, I love new writing and have reviewed a lot of it this year. This was the best. Eight short plays shining a light on naked and clothed queer life. Fresh and thought-provoking. Come on writers, get your keyboards out. I want to see them as full length plays in 2018.