Top Lists of 2013


Top Shakespeare

1.  All’s Well That Ends Well, (RSC RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
2.  As You Like It (RSC, RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
3.  Titus Andronicus (RSC, Swan Theatre).
4.  Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse).
5.  The Taming of the Shrew (Propeller, Newcastle Theatre Royal)
6.  Macbeth (Trafalgar Studios).
7.  Richard II (RSC, RST and Barbican).
8.  Othello (National Theatre).
9.  Hamlet (RSC, RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
10.  Twelfth Night (Propeller, Newcastle Theatre Royal).
11.  Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse).
12. As You Like it (Globe).
13,  Macbeth (Globe).
14. Henry V (Noel Coward Theatre).
15.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Globe).
16. The Merry Wives of Windsor (RST).
17.  The Winter’s Tale, (RST and York Grand Opera House).
18.  Richard III (York Theatre Royal).
19. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Noel Coward Theatre).
20. The Tempest (Globe).

Top Theatre (Not Shakespeare)

1.  The Effect – Lucy Prebble  (National Theatre).
2.  This House – James Graham (National Theatre).
3.  Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon and Simon Stephens (National Theatre at the Apollo).
4.  Edward II – Christopher Marlowe (National Theatre).
5.  Talk Show  – Alistair McDowall (Royal Court).
6.  A Boy and His Soul  – Colman Domingo (Tricycle).
7.  A Mad World My Masters – Thomas Middleton (Swan).
8.  Jumpers for Goalposts –  Tom Wells (Bush Theatre).
9.  Blink – Phil Porter (Soho Theatre).
10. Chalk Farm  – Kieran Hurley and A.J. Taudevin (Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
11.  There Has Possibly Been an Incident – Chris Thorpe (Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
12.  Same Deep Water as Me – Nick Payne  (Donmar).
13.  Feast -Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Rotimi Babatunde, Marcos Barbosa, Tanya Barfield, Gbolahan Obisesan (Young Vic/Royal Court).
14.  The Victorian in the Wall – Will Aamsdale (Royal Court).
15.  Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist and Jack Thorne (Royal Court)
16.  The Weir – Conor McPherson (Donmar)
17.  Wot? No Fish! – Danny Braverman (Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
18.  Home – David Storey (Arcola).
19.  Candide – Mark Ravenhill (Swan).
20.  Choose Your One Documentary – Nathan Pennington (Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).


1. David Bowie (Victoria and Albert)
2. Pre-Raphaelites (Tate Britain)
3.  Life and Death in Pompeii (British Museum)
4.  Lowry (Tate Britain)
5.  Elizabeth I and Her People (National Portrait Gallery)
6.  Paul Klee (Tate Modern)
7.  Manet. Portraying Life. Royal Academy
8.  Summer Show (Royal Academy)
9.   Peer Doig (National Gallery of Scotland)
10. Glam The Performance of Style (Tate, Liverpool)

Places and Spaces and the play of two halves. The Winter's Tale (Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Grand Opera House, York)


Much has been made of the thrust stage in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST)  and how it would change the way the RSC approached its productions. I was particularly fascinated by the way that a production could be developed for both a thrust stage and a proscenium arch tour. That’s why I wanted to see their latest production of The Winter’s Tale in both York (at the Grand Opera House) and at the RST in Stratford Upon Avon. I was particularly interested in how this production transferred from one playing space to another, and whether it would look considerably different in each space.

The obvious change was that at the Grand Opera House, the actors played out front and at points Jo Stone-Fewings (as Leontes) sat on the edge of the stage to deliver some of his soliloquies.   The set design was heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite painting in the first part of the play and seaside postcards in the second half of the play. The programme discussed this idea in some detail, and what struck me was that this idea worked much better watching it in front of a proscenium arch than it did from the side of the stalls in Stratford.  The first half of the production played on a fantasy, and a relaxed recreational way of life that  resembled an early Pre-Raphaelite painting in its detail.  As the production moves on and Leontes becomes increasingly paranoid and jealous, the production darkens and becomes more threatening.  For example, the characters moved from bright clothes into dark suits. In the second half, when the  play moves on sixteen years the action moves to a Northern seaside resort.  I was given the impression that the two places being different aspects of the same country and this is reinforced by Leontes presence on stage, as he looks down from a tower during the second part of the play.

One of the key features of Lucy Bailey’s The Winter’s Tale was the use of a multimedia background. I felt that the multimedia in her production of Julius Caesar was problematic and though in this production the multimedia worked much better,  it did not add much to the production overall and at times became very distracting. On the back of the stage was projected a seascape that presented the changing seasons, locations and shifts of mood. On the Royal Shakespeare Theatre thrust stage the multimedia was not as effective at  all from the sides of the thrust stage.   In some seats it was difficult to see the bear appear.   However, the multimedia worked much better on the proscenium arch stage with the audience in front of it.

In the last RSC production of The Winter’s Tale (dir David Farr), there was a moment, when the bookcases collapsed and as everything unravelled. In this production, a tower grinds upwards from the stage . Was this an image from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games?  Was  I supposed to think that it represented the Industrial Age in the middle of the Pastoral world? I wasn’t clear about this and I felt that the imagery was a little muddled.

Hermiones of the recent past have appeared in the trial scene in dresses stained with the birth fluid.  In contrast, Tara Fitzgerald’s Hermione was dressed in black for her trial and there were clearly echoes of Anne Boleyn’s trail here.   The swordsman stands in the background. Though this was a very dramatic image, it seemed to be out of place and anachronistic in a production that couldn’t make up its mind about which idea/ideas it really wanted to focus on.

I enjoyed the Bohemia scenes more than I normally do. I think was because I could see how they related to the first half of he play in this production. Peace Quigley played a very dry Autolycus, and Nick Holder was a great stand up Clown’s son.

This was a violent production. Leontes punches Hermione in her swollen pregnant stomach and the audience gasped. When Leontes sat on his ivory tower looking down, there was a real sense of him being in purgatory and undergoing a punishment for his wife’s ‘death’.  The audience was always aware of his presence throughout the second half, and when Polixenes is violent to Florizel, history is repeating itself. The fight between Mopsa and Dorcus became an ironic commentary on the way that the court had behaved in the first part of the play.

Though I enjoyed this production and was entertained by the Bohemia scenes, I felt that overall it played with ideas on the surface and didn’t really get to grips with the emotion in the play. I still think of the image of Greg Hick’s crumpled Leontes being revealed slumped at the back of the stage in David Farr’s production was such a powerful image, and the tower just didn’t have the same effect. Again, I think the set design distracted from the play itself and added little particularly in Stratford on the thrust stage.  I was left wondering whether the set had been designed for the tour, and it had been hoped it would work in the RST as well.

Short Review: The Winter's Tale (Propeller, Sheffield Lyceum, 4th February 2012)

Thinking back to this production, I have a memory of sand, snow, models, and a rather sinister Mamillius (Ben Allen), who doubles as Perdita in the second half.

What I find fascinating about Propeller’s work is that I am always aware that this is men playing women’s parts.  There is never an attempt to pretend to look like women, but at times the effect is to give a fresh perspective on the issues.  In casting the most masculine man in the company, it brings a very different perspective on Paulina (Vince Leigh).  Propeller has a habit of being brilliant at portraying characters and then being able to give the sense of being anonymous.  In this production, the company were able to turn themselves into sheep with great effect.

My colleague, Saffron, has written about this production here:

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)

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).