2011 has been an interesting time for theatre, with new plays rising to the fore, old plays rediscovered, and classics continuing strong. I have seen 30 shows from college productions to west end phenomena, and have another two lined up before the year finally comes to an end. It has been a year of old favourites and new writing, bringing me some of the best theatre I’ve ever seen and providing different experiences to share.
I’ve scoured the list and selected three in particular that were unexpected, full of talent, and really made an impression on me:
La Soirée: Think circus. Think cabaret. Think comedy. These are the fundamental elements of a fantastical and thoroughly entertaining variety show which I saw hosted in a Big Top at the back of the National Theatre this January. As I reiterated again and again in my review of the performance, it was an amusing and awe-inspiring performance. The English Gents, a gymnastic/pole dancing double act, charmed their way across the stage in bowlers and braces, only to leave you gasping with amazing feats of agility, strength, and skill. For the men, Ursula Martinez was the magician who combined tongue-in-cheek magic with a cheeky strip-show. Luckily for all of you, La Soirée is gracing London with its unique form of entertainment once again, this time being hosted at the Roundhouse. Do not miss!
The second show that stood out to me this year was A Doll’s House as put on by the innovative theatre company, Theatre Delicatessen. In the amazing venue of 3-4 Picton Place (essentially disused flats), an all-female cast tackled Ibsen’s play with incredible vision and compelling accuracy, as directed by Frances Loy. On a traverse stage, incidentally something that I haven’t seen before or since, the whole set up of the piece pushed the message of a patriarchal society, audience members required to don a fake moustache before entering the bar. Though once again a review of the show can be found through the archives of A Younger Theatre, I am forced to state how incredible Margaret-Ann Bain was at performing Torvald Helmer. Without overplaying the masculinity of the role, Bain was able to capture the audience with poise and dignity, to the point where one forgot that she was not a man. Alongside Polly Eachus’ Nora, the cast and crew did a phenomenal job in recreating such a classic in a way that was poignant and, as you can tell, gave a lasting impression.
Four Knights in Knaresborough at the Southwark Playhouse is arguably one of the most entertaining, intellectual, tragic shows I have ever seen. Looking back at the murder of Thomas Beckett on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral, the play follows the knights who did the deed, and the aftermath of their actions. As always, the Vaults at the Playhouse provide an unusual but stimulating backdrop for what was in this case a play set entirely within the walls of Knaresborough Castle. With incredible performances by Tom Greaves, Alex Hughes, and Twinnielee Moore, along with the rest of the cast, this show had you laughing at the fate of a group of men trapped together, whilst being full of emotion as they consider what they have done and what it means for their lives. An outrageous but clever play that I long to see again.
Those are just three of the many shows that I was lucky enough to see, and others that truly captured me were Bronte, Richmond Theatre; The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Vaudeville Theatre; Death and the Maiden, Harold Pinter Theatre; James Wilton Dance Company, seen at University of Surrey; Tales of a Sea Journey, NIETheatre visiting University of Surrey – just to name a few!
With my diary already beginning to fill with pre-booked tickets for as far away as March 2012, it is nice to reflect on what I have seen and experienced this year and discover the impact of such creativity. Keep an eye out for more theatrical gems and hopefully the next year will be even better.