My top ten theatre productions of 2013

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

These are the 2013 productions that stuck in my dreams and didn’t want to shift. In strict alphabetical order, because selecting ten for the list was hard enough.

American Psycho, Almeida theatre: the energy and clarity of the production juxtaposed with Patrick Bateman’s nihilism made for an unforgettable experience. Hell in pastel colours and blood splatters. And eighties pop songs. Matt Smith plays the absence of a soul magnificently.

As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Company: Discovery of love and freedom played out with such openness in Maria Aberg’s production that in the end I wanted to cry with joy. Pippa Nixon was luminous (and as Ganymede she looked like a young K.D. Lang – that can only be a plus) and Alex Waldmann matched her soulful playfulness every step of the way.

Bull, Sheffield Studio: Mike Bartlett’s short concise play grips with the dense dread of everyday life and ordinary crimes we allow to happen. Adam James, Eleanor Matsuura and Sam Troughton created three characters of rare refinement and wild jungle savagery.

Chimerica, Almeida theatre: the ambition of Lucy Kirkwood’s play is only matched by its achievement: two cultures spanning twenty years, the fight for freedom, existential meaning and dignity, characters that shouldn’t have anything in common (except they have everything), Kirkwood takes a complex tapestry of people and events and creates a poignant story of huge impact. The best new play of the year.

Edward II, National Theatre: The excitement of Christopher Marlowe’s play unfolded with unsuppressed youthful energy at the Olivier stage. Seeing some of the more conservative audience members bulk might have been part of the excitement. John Heffernan confirms himself as a leading man and a classical actor of rare talent.

Jumpers for Goalposts, Paines Plough tour: no one writes like Tom Wells. There is nothing gimmicky or dense in his writing, and yet he reveals the tenderness of ordinary people with such immediacy that I want to live in his plays forever. The utopia next door.

The Light Princess, National Theatre: unapologetically light, Marianne Elliott’s production is also relentlessly inventive and unexpectedly moving. Rosalie Craig shines, Nick Hendrix gives the production its heart and the acrobats steal the show.

Richard II. L to R: Oliver Rix (Aumerle), Jim Hooper (Bishop of Carlisle), Keith Osborn (Abbot), David Tennant (Richard II), Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke). Photo Elliot Franks.

Richard II. L to R: Oliver Rix (Aumerle), Jim Hooper (Bishop of Carlisle), Keith Osborn (Abbot), David Tennant (Richard II), Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke). Photo Elliot Franks.

The Pride, Trafalgar studios: Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play captures the catastrophic implosion of men and women being untrue to themselves. A brilliant cast breathed life and soul to the dark and humourous corners of the play.

Mojo, Harold Pinter Theatre: Jez Butterworth’s play is the exquisite articulation of inarticulate people, and Ian Rickson’s production is a prime example of how to do West End play without compromises. Daniel Mays and Ben Whishaw (looking like a young Christopher Walken, and just as touching and unhinged) lead a great cast.

Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Company: Greg Doran’s production takes on  the beauty and brutality of the medieval world, the personal and the political and challenges perceptions. David Tennant’s Richard, as fragile as he is misguided, wrestles the audience’s sympathy (one part pity, two parts grudging admiration) at the same time as he implicates them to the injustice. A complelling production.

Other productions that could have been on the list (and hand to heart, I don’t have a good explanation why they are not): Macbeth (Trafalgar studios), My Fair Lady (Sheffield Crucible), Ghosts (Almeida), Fortune’s Fool (Old Vic),

Finally, a short (incomplete) list of the productions I regret not seeing: Noel Coward’s The Vortex (we need more David Dawson in our lives), David Greig’s The Events, Little Angel’s Macbeth.

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