A glorious year of theatre
Sue and I agreed at the end of March last year that we would go to the theatre at least once a month for the next year. I don’t think I’ve ever managed that before in my life, but we’ve now achieved it and it’s been a glorious year. There are links below to my reviews of each play, but overall we’ve seen some wonderful theatre and some outstanding performances.
Certainly it helps that we’re close enough to visit Stratford regularly, and we’re rarely disappointed by anything we see at the RSC. I’ve enjoyed visiting the theatre there for many years, but it seems to me to go from strength to strength. The new stage is just brilliant and a massive vindication of all the effort that went into transforming the theatre and the associated fundraising. One of the most striking observations for me over the year has been how restricting the proscenium arch stages in other theatres are in comparison with the thrust stage at Stratford. It’s given huge freedom to the directors there and they’ve seized the opportunity with both hands. Even the highest priced seats at other theatres can sometimes offer a view that’s disappointing in comparison with the cheapest seats at Stratford. We sat in the Upper Circle last week and had a fantastic view of a production that was constantly entertaining as well as thought-provoking. The quality of acting and of speaking is invariably high, from the leading actors down to the smallest part, there’s almost always live music to support the productions, the sets and the costumes are beautifully done and the overall standard of production is superb.
When we’ve strayed further afield though we’ve found plenty to delight us. Three very enjoyable trips to the Theatre Royal in Bath and one to the Everyman in Cheltenham to see touring productions, and two fantastic productions at the National in London. If what we’ve seen over the last year is at all representative of the current standard of theatre in Britain, then it’s in rude health.
So what were the highlights? In terms of individual performances, seeing Anthony Sher play both Falstaff and Willy Loman has been hard to beat, although Simon Russell Beale as King Lear may have run him close. In terms of productions, it’s even harder to choose. ‘Great Britain’ at the National Theatre was certainly a highlight, as was Sher’s ‘Death of a Salesman’, but overall I’m not sure there was anything I enjoyed more than the combination of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and ‘Much ado about Nothing’ played with a single cast and a single setting at Stratford. Not Shakespeare’s finest plays, and not played with a stellar cast, but both of them a visual delight, beautifully produced, directed, acted and spoken and hugely entertaining throughout.
The other question then is what next? The year may be finished, but the appetite has only been whetted, and I hope to see many more plays over the next twelve months and beyond. Maybe a bit less obsessively scheduled as at least one every month, but still regularly seen, and if I can manage it, still regularly reviewed on this blog.
Full list of plays seen with links to the reviews
Moon on a rainbow shawl (Errol John) – Theatre Royal, Bath
King Lear (Shakespeare) – National Theatre, London
The roaring girl (Decker & Middleton) – Swan Theatre, Stratford
Wolf Hall & Bring up the bodies (Poulton / Mantel) – Aldwych Theatre, London
Great Britain (Richard Bean) – National Theatre, London
Henry IV Part I (Shakespeare) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
Henry IV Part II (Shakespeare) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
Regeneration (Barker / Wright) – Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl et al) – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
The Christmas Truce (Phil Porter) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
Much ado about Nothing (Shakespeare) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
Arcadia (Tom Stoppard) – Theatre Royal, Bath
Oh what a lovely war (Joan Littlewood et al) – Theatre Royal, Bath
Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller) – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford