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)

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).

Antony and Cleopatra. Part 2 (Theatre Royal Newcastle, 15th October 2010)

On the 15th October matinée, Katy Stephens (text in hand) took on the role of Cleopatra in the RSC Antony and Cleopatra when Kathryn Hunter ‘was indisposed’.  Though for most of the scenes Katy Stephens held the book in her hand, she only looked at the script now and again to remind herself of  odd lines. I felt that Katy Stephens’ portrayal of  Cleopatra was much more emotional than Kathryn Hunter’s and she didn’t play the comedy as much.  On Antony’s death there were tears in her eyes.  At times Katy Stephens was a little uncomfortable in the way she stood.  However, watching her demonstrated that two different approaches to a character can work within the same production.  I felt there was certainly a lot of chemistry between Stephen’s Cleopatra and Darrell D’Silva’s Antony.

The shuffle that inevitably comes from an understudy taking on a key role resulted in some real treats.  My favourite was Greg Hicks taking on the role of the messenger Thidias. It was a lovely performance, and Hicks seemed to revel in the part, flirting with Cleopatra and taking notes in Rome with great relish.  Tunji Kasim  (normally Mardian) gave a very sound performance as Eros and I felt that this was better casting than the eunuch and even Edmund.

There were a couple of moments that didn’t seem to go to plan.  At one point Alexas was not on stage when he was asked to find out information from the messenger and the gun did not go off when Cleopatra shot at the messenger.  Maybe the safety catch was still on or because Katy Stephens hadn’t practised that much they didn’t want to take the risk.

When an understudy takes on a role, there is a bit of observing the blocking and some mimicking of the way lines are said by the original actor.  On the other hand, there is also a sense of the actor trying to bring their interpretation to the role.  The RSC policy is for the ensemble to understudy other parts. It’s enormous undertaking to understudy Cleopatra as well as play Regan and Rosalind.  In the past two years I have seen Ed Bennett’s Hamlet, Mariah Gale’s Rosalind, and Dyfan Dwyfor’s Romeo. I have also seen the understudy performance of Twelfth Night.  What the understudy does is give a very different perspective of a role in a production.  For example, I thought that Dyfan Dwyfor’s Romeo was much measured and quieter than Sam Troughton’s.  I was really pleased to see Katy Stephens play Cleopatra and in future she may get the opportunity to really make the part her own.

My review of the production with Kathryn Hunter

As You Like It (Theatre Royal Newcastle, 24th October 2009)

photo 5
Fans queue to see Katie Price at Newcastle book signing

Outside Waterstone’s in Newcastle, young women wearing clothes with flashes of pink, are queuing to see Katie Price signing copies of her new novel.   The former glamour model, who is also known as Jordan, experiments with different identities, and  she could be described as an independent woman making it on her own in the savage and brutal world of a celebrity-focused culture.  About 100 yards away from where Katie Price is about to undertake her book signing for her fans, another Katie prepares to take the stage as another independent woman who also experiments and explores different identities.  As the fans queue to meet Jordan, Kay Stephens is about to play Rosalind in the RSC’s inventive and interesting interpretation of As You Like It.

I have written about the RSC’s As You Like It before and the other two productions I saw at The Globe and The Curve, Leicester earlier this year, and it felt that seeing the RSC again in Newcastle is like visiting an old friend.   One of the exciting things about seeing an RSC production in Newcastle, is to see a production in a different space from The Courtyard Theatre.  I felt that Michael Boyd’s As You Like It has transferred beautifully to the Newcastle Theatre Royal’s  proscenium arch space.  Some of the key ideas behind the Courtyard space are retained such as keeping the house lights on through most of the production.  As Newcastle’s Theatre Royal  isn’t a very large theatre, seats aren’t too far from the stage even at the back of the stalls which is in keeping with having the audience close to the performance.   The overall vision and aesthetic of the production is retained in the new space.  It’s still a bleak winter world in the Forest of Arden.  In being able to move a production out of the Courtyard does make me think a little of the Courtyard experiment and how experimental it is if the productions transfer so well.

There are some problems to be overcome in the new space.  How do you get Audrey and Touchstone on stage for the wedding, especially in that skirt for example?   In Newcastle, the couple had  to make their entrance for their wedding by squeezing by people very close to the stage on Row B and Audrey has to find a free seat arm to stand on.  There are other entrances and exits that have to be changed and characters now enter from the aisles in the auditorium instead of the vomitoria.

The formal court scene early in the play worked really well on this stage  as  proscenium space promotes the sense of order and formality in the scene.   Nevertheless that formality didn’t undermine other less formal moments.  The surprises in this production continue to work well in Newcastle.  Forbes Masson’s wonderful cynical Jaques enters centre stage as he does in Stratford paying his guitar.  I’m sure that he managed to prolong the ‘more’ with the Newcastle audience much longer than I saw him do in Stratford.  His seven ages of man speech is delivered in a very original way.  Corin’s skinning of the rabbit after the interval has to be carried out with the audience all in front of him.  An addition in Newcastle is that Touchstone adds his ‘Meat is Murder’ sign alongside Orlando’s love poetry.

Some members of the audience  gasped when they saw the dress that Rosalind wears for her wedding.  It didn’t look like anything Katie Price would wear, but it was elegant and at the same time simple.  The embroidered  flowers picked up the designs in the other character’s clothes.   The dress signified Rosalind’s transformation, and  she does not return to the formal clothes she wore at the start of the play.   Nevertheless, Rosalind has made her mark and got her way and she speaks the epilogue as well.  In many ways both Katie Price and Katy Stephens’ Rosalind are role models for young women, but they are women who also play a part so that they can succeed.