BritishTheatre.com critic Mark Ludmon looks back at his theatre highlights of 2019.
EQUUS – UK tour
New life was breathed into Peter Shaffer’s modern classic, Equus, by director Ned Bennett, injecting it with a muscular physical energy with the help of movement director Shelley Maxwell. Ethan Kai was mesmerising as troubled teen Alan Strang alongside a beautifully nuanced performance by Zubin Varla as his psychiatrist. After starting at Theatre Royal Stratford East, English Touring Theatre took it around the country before ending up back in London at Trafalgar Studios.
FUNNY GIRL – Théâtre Marigny, Paris
British theatre folk can be found rat-tat-tat-tatting away on the Parisian stage in Funny Girl, which is playing at the historic Théâtre Marigny until 7 March 2020. English director and choreographer Stephen Mear captures the spectacle and exuberance of classic Broadway musicals in his new production, with a sensational performance by US star Christina Bianco as Fanny Brice alongside a British cast including Ashley Day as an elegant Nicky Arnstein.
Read Mark’s review.
DOWNSTATE – National Theatre, London
Bruce Norris successfully tackled the challenging topic of child abuse in his riveting, unforgettable play, Downstate, at the National Theatre in a co-production with Chicago’s Steppenwolf ensemble. Set in a group home for convicted paedophiles in Illinois, it made no excuses for the men but sensitively explored the self-delusion and lies that protect them from confronting the horror of the crimes they have committed.
OPERATION MINCEMEAT – New Diorama Theatre, London
New theatre company Spit Lip erupted onto the stage this year with their manic, musical re-telling of a bizarre real-life event of World War Two. In its first outing at London’s New Diorama Theatre, Operation Mincemeat may not have been perfect structurally yet, but its clever humour, talented cast and excellent tunes were irresistible, including a heart-breaking show-stopper sung by Jak Malone as Hester. Look out for it at Southwark Playhouse from 4 to 11 January 2020.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Bridge Theatre, London
Having seen many excellent and not-so-excellent productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I was delighted with the genuinely fresh take on Shakespeare’s play by director Nicholas Hytner at London’s Bridge Theatre. With Arlene Phillips as movement director and a constantly shifting set by Bunny Christie, it filled the space with energy and spectacle. Hammed Animashaun was a brilliantly funny Bottom alongside the surprisingly effective switch of making him enamoured by Oliver Chris’s Oberon instead of Titania.
ARE WE NOT DRAWN ONWARD TO NEW ERA – Zoo Southside, Edinburgh Fringe
Belgian theatre collective Ontroerend Goed served up the wow factor in their ambitious show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, called “Are we not drawn onward to new erA”. A departure from the more interactive theatre they are best known for, it was described as a theatrical “palindrome”, like its title, cleverly questioning humanity’s progress and its impact on the world around us.
Read Mark’s review.