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)

Richard III (Old Vic, 9th July 2011)

There’s been a lot about the celebrity and Shakespearean performance recently and I think that the Old Vic  production of Richard III is  a really good example of a performance that centres around one star performer. This is to be expected because Richard III centres around one character, but there is no doubt this production has Kevin Spacey’s performance at the very centre and other performances tend to be marginalised.  Only Haydn Gwynne as Elizabeth is an equal match to Spacey’s Richard, and the Elizabeth wooing scene is one of the most engaging in the whole production.

Though, I thought Haydn Gwynne gave a very strong performance as Elizabeth, the other women did a good job as well. Gemma Jones presents Margaret  as a figure from the past who seems to be  infiltrating this modern world of politics and spin.  She’s clearly out of place in the court world. The persuasion of Richard to become King is effectively carried out with Spacey backstage caught on camera praying and Chuk Iwuji’s Buckingham puts on the performance that convinces those observing that Richard is being coaxed into agreeing to become king. The use of the screen and the backstage presence works well as a great example of the spin doctor at work. The audience is aware that this is all and act and it is too close to scenes we see on the television news when there is a leadership race about to happen.

When the audience enter the theatre, the word “Now’ is projected on the safety curtain. Through out the performance key words are projected on the back of the staff or across the walls on each side, which has the function of highlighting the episodic nature of the play.

Spacey’s Richard starts the production sat own wearing a paper crown. However, it is clear that the play will not continue the party theme. The word ‘King’ is projected in the Interval. It’s a reminder that as soon as Richard gets everything he wants he starts his descent from power.The moment of enjoying being king does not really exist for him. Just after Richard is crowned he stumbles as he processes up the stage and this fall echoes the way he stumbles politically as well from this point.

The set seemed to sit uncomfortably on the stage as if it had to be squeezed on. This had a real relevance in that it was a perspective that suggested the psychological aspects of this production.  The door of death has been seen recently in the RSC’s Macbeth, and is used to great effect here as a cross marks the door in which the dead have exited through.

There were other really good aspects of this production including the drumming, which is very effective and the ghost scene at the end is done really well.  There’s a stunning ending as the dead Richard hoisted up on a hook.

The afternoon that I went there was a standing ovation, and it was well deserved.

Reviews and Comment

Richard III, Old Vic, London<br/>Lullaby, Barbican Pit, London<br/>The Beggar’s Opera, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London – Reviews, Theatre & Dance – The IndependentFirst Night: Richard III, Old Vic, London – Reviews, Theatre & Dance – The IndependentRichard III, Old Vic – review | TheatreThe Stage / Reviews / Richard IIIRichard III – review | Stage | The GuardianRichard III, Old Vic, review – TelegraphRichard III, from Laurence Olivier to Kevin Spacey – in pictures | Stage |

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).

The Cherry Orchard (Old Vic, 8th August 2009)


Old Vic 

I think that the Bridge Project has been extremely interesting.  I saw The Winter’s Tale at the start of the summer and The Cherry Orchard at the end.  The two productions kind of top and tailed my London season.  I had thought that the RSC might have made more connections between their productions of The Winter’s Tale and As You Like it, but as I wrote earlier in this blog, the company split the ensemble into two companies and the productions became two discrete productions.  It felt, when watching The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard, that Sam Mendes had considered how the two plays might work together.  On entering the auditorium The Cherry Orchard, the above quote from Richard II greets the audience.  There are similarities between the sets used for the both the Bridge Project plays and ideas of loss and regret are played out in both plays.  In The Cherry Orchard, I felt that the company worked really well together with some really good performances from Rebecca Hall, Simon Russell Beale, Ethan Hawke and Sinead Cusack.

Reviews and Previews

The Cherry Orchard/The Winter’s Tale
WOS Review of The Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale
The Stage review of The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic
The Time review of The Winter’s Tale and Cherry Orchard
Cherry Orchard/The Winter’s Tale
Article on The Winter’s Tale/The Cherry Orchard (The Times)
Official London – The Winter’s Tale
Guardian review of Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale
Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey: The Bridge Project…
Sam Mendes Interview
Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey: The Bridge Project…
The Stage review of The Winter’s Tale at the Old Vic
Alexis Soloski: Beware of the bear – the dilemm…
The New Straits Times Online…….
Theatre preview: The Bridge Project, London | S…
Simon Russell Beale on his love of books – Time…
Official London – The Cherry Orchard
Telegraph- The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry orchard
Sam Mendes on the Bridge Project (BBC Interview)

The Winter's Tale (Old Vic, 6th June 2009)

‘O call back yesterday, bid time return’
The line is above the stage as you take your seats. It’s a line from Richard II and not The Winter’s Tale as you might expect when you’ve come to see The Winter’s Tale. The scene in front of the audience is a very domestic scene. The family meal is set out, in contrast to the formal banquet that was set out in David Farr’s RSC production. The production doesn’t start with the two courtiers, but with Mamillius (Morven Christie) and his sad tale for winter. This makes us feel that we are now witnessing the imaginings of the small child rather than we are eavesdropping on the private business of the court through the conversation of the courtiers. The table returns for the sheep shearing feast later in the play.
There have been really mixed reviews of this production, and I can’t really see why some of the critics had some issues with it. I felt that the production made some really brave creative decisions and Simon Russell Beale, as Leontes, was just stunning. He can convey so much through his expression and gesture (like Brenda Blethyn in my review of Haunted). It was clear from the start that Leontes has suspicions and that his jealousy was not sudden. This was conveyed by his expression as Russell stood between Hermione (Rebecca Hall) and Polixenes (Josh Hamilton) when he asks Hermione to entreat Polixenes to stay. The result of this was that he did not hesitate around going into his ‘Too hot, Too hot’ speech stressing the consonant’s with confidence that he is being proved right.
In this production, there are moments when Rusell Beale’s Leontes waivers in his jealousy as if this is not an illness with no way out at the time as Antony Sher played the role in 1999. In this production it feels like Leontes is responsible for his behaviour and can change at any moment. It is often questioned why Paulina give Leontes the baby. She is a woman after all and why would she betray her queen by putting the child at risk. In this production Sinead Cusack’s Paulina give Leontes the baby and he cradles the child looks at it and for a brief period it feels like Paulina has done exactly the right thing until Leontes places the child on the chair and then snaps back into his rage. Paulina is really believable in the production and the fact she is seen entering with cases makes her entrance so far into the events so plausible. She’s been away and has come back to find the Court in disarray.
Leontes shows real affection for his son as well, which makes the death of Mamillius so painful and shocks him into realising that he has got things so wrong. I think that Mendes may have taken something from the 1999 Doran production in placing Mamillius in the chair and doubling the Perdita and Mamillius roles.
Simon Russell Beale delivers his soliloquies at the front of the stage, the lights go down and there is music in the background to indicate the sinister aspects of the speeches. The soliloquies are not heard by anyone else on stage, so he can go back to speak to his son and the speeches, as in some productions, do not disturb the son. In the trial scene, Hermione starts to read her speech from a script that has been prepared for her, but as she finds her own words and speaks passionately in her self defence. The oracle as a quill pen writing on its own didn’t work at all, this is an unintentional comic moments in the ‘tragic’ part of the play.
It’s clearly a pantomine bear that enters to eat poor Antigonous (Dakin Matthews) and it is at this moment the tone of the production changes in tone. Richard Easton’s old shepherd become Time and move us on sixteen years, because when we returned from the interval we were clearly in a different world. In a recent interview for radio 4’s Front Row, Simon Russell Beale said that the firs part of the play was set in Britain and the second in America to deal with the company’s different accents. This worked extremely well and we were transported to a hoedown. Ethan Hawke hammed it up so much as Autolcycus. He was extremely funny. At one point he resembles Johnny Depp as put on his disguise in order to attend the sheep shearing feast. When Perdita comes back as a sixteen year old to the Sicilian court, both Leontes and Paulina look at her face as if they recognise her. in this court looking like your parents has been important so this has to be the most obvious sign that there will be a happy ending.
Reviews and Previews
The Stage review of The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic
Sam Mendes Interview
The Stage review of The Winter’s Tale at the Old Vic
Theatre preview: The Bridge Project, London S…
The New Straits Times Online…….
Telegraph- The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry orchard
Sam Mendes on the Bridge Project (BBC Interview)
The Cherry Orchard/The Winter’s Tale
Alexis Soloski: Beware of the bear – the dilemm…
WOS Review of The Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale
Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey: The Bridge Project…
Cherry Orchard/The Winter’s Tale
Guardian review of Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale
The Time review of The Winter’s Tale and Cherry Orchard
Article on The Winter’s Tale/The Cherry Orchard (The Times)
Official London – The Cherry Orchard
Official London – The Winter’s Tale
Simon Russell Beale on his love of books – Time…
Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey: The Bridge Project…