Best of 2011

Here is my best of.. lists. The following post discusses what I thought about the year.

Shakespeare in the Theatre

1. Romeo and Juliet (RSC at the RST)

2. Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

3. Hamlet (The National Theatre)

4. Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s)

5.The Comedy of Errors (Propeller at Sheffield)

6. Antony and Cleopatra with Katy Stephens and Darrell D’Silva (RSC at the RST)

7. Macbeth (RSC)

8. The Merchant of Venice (RSC)

9. King Lear (RSC at the RST and Roundhouse)

10. Hamlet (Young Vic)

11. Othello (The Crucible, Sheffield)

12. As You Like It (RSC at Roundhouse)

13. Macbeth (Liverpool Everyman)

14. All Well That End’s Well (The Globe)

15. The Comedy of Errors (Young Person’s at RSC)

16. Hamlet (Northern Broadsides at West Yorkshire Playhouse)

17. Hamlet (Globe touring)

18. The Comedy of Errors (National Theatre)

19. Richard III (Old Vic)

20. Richard II (Donmar)

21. Hamlet (Young Person’s at RSC)

22.  King Lear (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

23.  The Tempest (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)

24.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC, RST)

25. Twelfth Night (National Theatre)

Other Theatre

1. Jerusalem (Apollo)

2. The Homecoming (RSC at the Swan)

3. Frankenstein (The National)

4. One Man, Two Guvnors (The Lowry)

5. Anna Christie (Donmar)

6. The City Madam (RSC, The Swan)

7. Dr Faustus (The Globe)

8. Betrayal (Harold Pinter/Comedy)

9. Inadmissible Evidence (Donmar)

10. Cardenio (RSC, The Swan)

11. Rosencrantz and Guldenstern are Dead (Haymarket)

12. Grief (The National)

13. 13 (The National)

14. Silence (RSC at Hampstead)

15. Little Eagles (RSC at Hampstead)

16. Season’s Greetings (National Theatre)

17. Juno and the Paycock (National)

18. Cause Célèbre (Old Vic)

19. Deep Blue Sea (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

20. Moonlight (Donmar)

21. The Crucible (York Theatre Royal)

22. The Heretic (Royal Court)

23. Forty Years On (York Theatre Royal)

24. American Trade (RSC at Hampstead)

25. Beggar’s Opera (Belt Up at York Theatre Royal)

Note: Forty Years On is here for proud Mum reasons.


1. John Martin (Tate Britain)

2. Ford Maddox Brown (Manchester City Art Gallery)

3. Degas (Royal Academy)

4. Leonardo da Vinci (National Gallery)

5. Juma Plensa (Yorkshire Sculpture Park)

6. Glamour of the Gods (National Portrait Gallery)

7. Gerhard Ritcher (Tate Modern)

8. First Actresses (National Portrait Gallery)

9. Miro (Tate Modern)

10. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World (British Museum)

11. Gabriel Orozco (Tate Modern)

12. Watteau (Royal Academy)

13. Hokusai’s Great wave (British Museum)

14. Treasures of Heaven (British Museum)

15. Devotion by Design (National Gallery)

16. Royal Academy Summer Show 2012

17. Building the Revolution (Royal Academy )

18. Barry Flanagan (Tate Britain)

19. Grayson Perry (British Museum)

20. Tacita Dean (Tate Modern)

My great cultural moments of 2011

Meeting Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn

First night of Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing

Last night of Long Ensemble (2009-11) at Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Romeo and Juliet

First night of Long Ensemble (2009-11) at the opening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – King Lear

The performance of the year – Adam James as Don Pedro in Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing – just wonderful.

Edinburgh Festival

The RSC Ensemble Revealed at the Swan Theatre.

Best actor and actress

Best Actor – Adam James in Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s)

Best Actress – Eve Best in Much Ado About Nothing (The Globe)

RSC Revealed (The Swan, 27th March 2011)

The vision behind the RSC Long Ensemble was for a group of actors to work together for a sustained period of time to produce work. It seemed fitting then, at the end of the Stratford run and two and half years together the long ensemble got together and put on a Gala in the newly opened Swan Theatre. The event was to support the needs of long ensemble member James Gale and it was a bringing tougher of the company in one place.  The event was organised by company members Kelly Hunter and Hannah Young.

This was a special event, but it was particularly relevant in that it shared a moment with a regular RSC audience in a way that is often spoken about in moving to the thrust stage, but only partially happens  in the Shakespearean productions. The production acknowledged an audience that has followed the work over the two and half years and so there were a lot of in jokes and even mentions of regular audience members.

The Gala started in the foyer with actors collecting money and characters taking on their character roles such as Brian Doherty as Autolycus selling souvenirs from the RSC shop and Sophie Russell as the tap dancing nun from The Comedy of Errors. As the audience entered the Swan, Peter Peverley played his guitar and sang some songs including The Jam’s Town Called Malice. Our compare  for the evening was Eunice the usher who opens Romeo and Juliet, but as the evening progressed, Eunice abandoned parts of her costume to reveal Noma Dumezweni the wonderful RSC actress. At times Noma had a little helper (her daughter), who was not phased at all by being on stage.

Katy Stephens ran the auction of promises and handing out punishments to her son if the auction did not raise enough each time. There were some references to Gloucester’s blinding, but it backfired on Katy in the end as she ended up with a foam pie in her face (and we didn’t see that coming). Promises ranged from dinner for two at the Dirty Duck, and a family pass to Warwick Castle to helping the stage management team put on a production of King Lear and a chance to row Juliet (Mariah Gale) down the river.

The evening was a mixture of comedy and song. There was Christine Entwhistle’s very funny and very rude hunting routine and Richard Katz’s failing magician routine.  We saw characters as we’d never seen them before such as the knights from Morte D’Arthur in a very funny rendition of Lily White and Adam Burton’s hilarious Klauzz with Cleopatra’s attendants Iras (Samantha Young) and Charmian (Hannah Young) performing a German electro pop routine. Jonjo O’Neill performed Mr Bo Jangles and Simone Saunders sang Destiny. There were other appearances from ensemble members including Greg Hicks, Geoffrey Freshwater, Sandy Neilson, Patrick Romer, Sophie Russell and many more.

Gruffudd Glyn’s one man band was a lovely overview of life in the ensemble with some jokes that made sense to anyone following the long ensemble. The evening finished with the long ensemble on stage together.

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Further Information


Being there when…Was I at the opening of the RST this time?

When anyone says that they were at that last night of Wigan Casino, I always wanted to know what it was like, because being there on such a momentous occasion seemed really special. For example, I was fascinated to know how did it feel when the three before eight played for the last time?  I found out that the famous Northern Soul venue ended up having three last nights, and so being at the last night didn’t seem as awe inspiring as I first thought.  It is starting to feel a bit like this with the opening of the RST, and that even though I think I was at the opening night of the RST, and I would be able to talk about this for years to come, I was probably at one of many opening nights. There was an opening last November (which I wasn’t at), and then there was the RSC coming home on 23rd February 2011, when the Company performed King Lear. Last Friday (4th March), I managed to get returns to see Katy Stephens (taking over from Kathryn Hunter) play Cleopatra in the newly opened Swan and found myself at another opening of the RST. This time the Queen was visiting and apparently she unveiled a plaque, saw Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and had lunch in the Rooftop Restaurant.

I had expected to see one Queen in performance and found myself catching a glimpse of another dressed in cerise as she undertook a brief walkabout outside the new RST.  Not far behind her, I spotted Artistic Director, Michael Boyd and Associate Greg Doran dressed very smartly in suits.  I think the last time I saw the Queen was in 1977, the year of Sex Pistols ‘God Save the Queen’ and the Silver Jubilee.

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In coming home to the Swan, Antony and Cleopatra has had to be adapted for a new space and the creative team had opted for a minimalist stage set.  Gone was Cleopatra’s accent, her many costume changes and Mardian’s wig. The rustic metallic tower had also disappeared and the staging utilised the rawness of the theatre itself as the backdrop worked very well. In the Swan you can still hear actors creeping behind the audience to make their entrances and exits, one of the features that made the Courtyard a little special.

Not everyone has swapped round as they did when Katy Stephens played the role in Newcastle, but Greg Hicks is  still understuding Thidias and still giving a fantastic performance. I know that when a company has to use understudies, there is more doubling than usual, but some of the doubling in this production doesn’t work for me. Maybe it is because I  have followed this long ensemble for its two years and can now easily recognise actors, and start to question why is Mardian in Rome? Why is the Soothsayer taking notes? Why is Octavia fighting for the Romans (and at one point why is she in Egypt)? Why does Scarus change sides so often?

Katy Stephens made a really good job of playing Cleopatra and presented her own Cleopatra, which wasn’t an impression of Kathryn Hunter’s physical performance. This was a much more confident performance than the one that Katy Stephens gave in Newcastle, when she had to go on at short notice. She played up Cleopatra’s sexuality and emotional vulnerability very well. Katy Stephens is very good at producing wet eyes and she managed to present this here as well. I think that there was a chemistry between her and Darrell D’Silva’s Antony. Their eventual  deaths were very powerful and this was the first time I saw this production and felt sad at the end.

“Remember if e’er thou look’dst on Majesty”.

The RSC comes home

23rd February 2011. The RSC are coming home.

There is no fanfare or long speeches, but there is an energetic buzz moving across the audience for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first night in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  This was what they called a soft opening.

Nearly 7:15 pm Edgar (Charles Aitken) is already on stage. I can just glimpse Katy Stephens waiting to make her entrance …. the machinery creaking and clanging in the background cranks up, the three sisters start their slow entrances onto the stage and King Lear begins all over again.

Though we were seeing a preview and this was obviously an opportunity to make sure the lighting and the sound is right for the new space, the production itself was so well rehearsed that there was a sense that all should go well. This production started its journey in Stratford a year ago and has travelled back via  Newcastle and the Roundhouse in London.  The performances are all polished and sharp now. Samantha Young’s is a steady Cordelia, Katy Stephens and Kelly Hunter make the other two sisters so very different from each other. Greg Hicks plays Lear as a man who mocks old age, teasing and being teased by his daughters as the play begins, and his own playful  entrance through the audience as effective as it always was.  Geoffrey Freshwater is very solid as the trusting naive Gloucester, shocked that his own son, Cornwall and Regan turn on him. There are also some very strong performances from other members of the long ensemble. I always enjoy watching Philip Edgerley as the servant grabbing a quick smoke outside. Gloucester’s home. Darrell d’Silva is an energetic Kent, and James Tucker is great as the haughty and condescending  Oswald who ultimately makes the wrong choice about who to follow.

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Best of 2010

Theatre: Shakespeare

1. Romeo and Juliet (RSC).

2. King Lear (RSC).

3. As You Like It (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

4. Measure for Measure (Almeida).

5. The Winter’s Tale (RSC/Roundhouse).

6. Henry IV part 2 (Globe).

7. Macbeth (Globe).

8. Antony and Cleopatra (RSC).

9. Antony and Cleopatra (Liverpool Playhouse).

10. Hamlet (The Crucible, Sheffield).

11. King Lear (Donmar).

12. Henry VIII (The Globe).

13. The Tempest (Old Vic).

14. As You Like It (Old Vic)

15. Macbeth (Belt Up/York Theatre Royal).

Theatre: Not Shakespeare

1. Jerusalem (Apollo).

2. After the Dance (National).

3. An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Crucible).

4. Women Beware Women (National).

5. London Assurance (National).

6. Enron (Theatre Royal, Newcastle)

7. The Habit of Art (National Theatre).

8. Corrie! (Lowry, Salford)

9. The Real Thing (Old Vic).

10. Canterbury Tales (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Northern Broadsides).

11. La Bete (Comedy Theatre).

12. Death of a Salesman (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

13. Three Sisters (Lyric, Hammersmith).

14. The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)

15. Beating Berlusconi. (York Theatre Royal).



1. Gauguin (Tate Modern).

2. Van Gogh (Royal Academy).

3. Renaissance drawings (The British Museum).

4. The Book of the Dead (British Museum).

5. Venice. Canaletto and his rivals. (The National Gallery).

6. Sargent and the Sea (Royal Academy).

7. Rude Britannia (Tate Britain).

8. Summer Show (Royal Academy).

9. Beatles to Bowie (National Portrait Gallery).

10. Chris Ofili (Tate Britain).



1. Andrea Levy The Long Song.

2. Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall.

3. AS Byatt – The Children’s Book.

4. Rose Tremain – Trespass.

5. Colm Toibin Brooklyn.

6. Ian McEwan  Solar.

7. Paul Magrs Diary of a Doctor Who Addict.

8. Tony Blair The Journey.

9. Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took My Dog.

10. Alexander McCall Smith The Double Comfort Safari Club.


1. Coronation Street –  especially for Jack’s Death and the Live episode (ITV).

3. Ashes to Ashes (BBC1).

4. Doctor Who – The End of Time part 2 (BBC1).

5. Doctor Who – especially for the eleventh hour (BBC1).

6. Downton Abbey (ITV1)

7. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV1).

8. Macbeth (BBC 4).

9. Luther (BBC1).

10. Silent Witness (BBC 1).

and my guilty pleasure of the year

Peter Kay at the Studio, Lowry (and again at the Manchester Evening News Arena).