Theatre Review of the Decade!

Having just reflected on my top 10 shows of the year, as I do every year, I couldn’t start a new decade without looking back on my favourite shows, performances and moments in theatre over the last ten years.

Although I’d been a theatregoer prior to 2010 and had started to go to more shows the year before, it was the start of 2010 when I think I can officially say that I became a regular theatregoer, seeing more shows that year than I ever had in other years. From then on, it truly became a passion and the more I immersed myself in theatre, the more I realised just how much there was to see!

So, starting with the numbers, for those curious about such details, over the decade I visited theatres 732 times, seeing 596 shows (and seeing 67 of those shows more than once). My total includes 75 musicals and 2 walk outs at the interval (and a few I wish had had an interval so I could escape!). The show I saw the most times was the RSC’s Richard II, with David Tennant in the title role (although I’ll keep the number I times I saw it to myself)!

It’s been an incredible decade for theatre and looking back on it for my blog has been a fantastic experience, bringing back memories I’d not thought about in some time.

So, let’s start with my favourite shows of the decade. I considered picking one from each year, but that felt wrong, as some years offered better shows than others and a top 10 should be a top 10!

Top 10 Shows of the Decade!

1. After The Dance (National Theatre, 2010)

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Despite the years of theatre that followed it, I’ve known for some time that the top of this list would almost certainly be the National Theatre’s 2010 production of Terence Rattigan’s After The Dance. Where do I even start with this production? There’s so much to say (so I’ll direct you to my previous writings on it), but ultimately it takes first place because it was one of the first productions I saw that truly affected me.

I will never forget crying as Nancy Carroll struggled on stage to hold back her pain from the husband she was too afraid to tell she loved, after years of their marriage carrying on as if a playful game. Carroll was the reason I’d booked to see the show and yet it also introduced me to actors who have since become firm favourites – John Heffernan, Adrian Scarborough and Benedict Cumberbatch (who was on the cusp of fame, with Sherlock airing during the run of the show).

It was beautifully acted, Thea Sharrock’s directorial choices truly drew out the heart of each scene and the set (an expensive London living room in the pre-war 1930s) was one I wanted to move in to. Having adored it, there was no other option but to queue for day seats for the final performance, seeing me outside the theatre at 6 a.m. and being rewarded with the last pair of front row stalls tickets. A combination of a superb, unforgettable show and some special personal memories mean this will likely be at the top of my lists for years to come.

2. Hamlet (Almeida Theatre / Harold Pinter Theatre, 2017)

The end of the last decade was crucial in showing me that Shakespeare could be far more enjoyable than I’d ever found it while at school and that was all down to my first Hamlet at the RSC with David Tennant. As I saw more Hamlets, none could match it for the quality of production and overall ensemble (having just a great Hamlet isn’t enough for me).

That was until I saw Robert Icke’s production at the Almeida in 2017 (which later thankfully transferred to the West End for further visits). Why was it so special? It took a play I am very familiar with and played with certain scenes in new, exciting, refreshing ways, resulting in me seeing certain actions and characters in a different light. I’ve written plenty on this before, but it’s simple changes to the final duel, which paint Laertes in a totally differently light is just one example. As with the 2008/2009 RSC production, the ensemble was also strong. Yes, it had a big name lead in Andrew Scott, but he didn’t carry the show. It wasn’t all about him and that strengthened the piece as a whole. Add in the fact its final moments remain some of my favourite minutes I’ve ever experienced in a theatre and this show had to be in second place.

3. Groundhog Day (Old Vic, 2017)

I’m fussy when it comes to musicals. Some are perfectly enjoyable, but don’t stay in my mind and for me, I need the songs to be memorable and serve a purpose for the story. As I’ve already said above, I’ve seen a fair few in the last decade, but the one that I think on the most fondly and which I’d still be booking to see monthly were it still here in London, is Groundhog Day.

I admit, I thought I’d hate it, having not been a fan of the film, but having loved Matilda and with Tim Minchin attached, it was enough to draw me to the Old Vic. As my reviews at the time explained in much more detail (you can read here and here), this was an unexpected gem for me. It was a musical that made me happy. It was funny, moving and ultimately hopeful. The music and lyrics from Minchin were both clever and perfect for the show and Andy Karl’s leading performance was a highlight too. The fact it was here for so short a time, before heading to NYC where it wasn’t really appreciated, will always frustrate me. Maybe it’ll be back one day. I hope so.

4. The Inheritance (Noel Coward Theatre, 2018 / 2019)

Few theatre experiences have affected me as profoundly as The Inheritance. Over the course of its two parts and 7+ hours, I was completely absorbed in the characters in front of me, similar to when I’m pulled in to a good book. The use of Howard’s End and indeed its author, to help tell a multi-generational story, weaving the past and the present together, while also asking some important questions about community, resulted in this being a play that I found hard to forget. I’ve never cried as much in a theatre as I did during this story and the performances by its cast were superb. Having recently seen the Broadway transfer in NYC, I still prefer the London ensemble, but the emotional power of this play remained as strong as it was the first time. An unforgettable theatre experience.

5. Hello / Goodbye (Hampstead Theatre, 2015)

This is perhaps going to be a surprise for some people. It wasn’t a big West End show, or one that drew lots of attention, but it struck a chord with me and has stayed with me over the last five years. Its story of a couple, moving through their relationship from the first meeting, through their romance, to more difficult painful times, felt very real and Shaun Evans and Miranda Raison ensured that you felt connected to their characters. I cared about them and wanted them to come out the other side together and on each of the three times that I saw it, its story brought a tear (or two) to my eye. You can read my original review here.

6. King Charles III (Almeida Theatre, 2014)

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

A second show on the list for the Almeida (which has seen some truly superb productions on its stage this decade, especially since Rupert Goold took over) and one by a favourite contemporary playwright of mine, Mike Bartlett. This was another show that I first went to see having no idea quite what to expect. Could a play looking in to a possible future reign of Prince Charles really work?

The answer for me was yes and Bartlett’s decision to write the play in the style of a Shakespeare History play was inspired. The future set in the style of the past, added to the authenticity of the play as a whole. It also posed some interesting questions about the role of the monarch and the dynamic between them and the government. Yes, a certain ghost did make me cringe, but a Shakespeare-style play needs one and other than that it didn’t feel like a soap opera and some of the scenes were incredibly compelling, thanks to strong performances led by the late Tim Pigott-Smith, Oliver Chris, and Lydia Wilson. I wasn’t as big a fan of the BBC adaptation, but at least it means this show has been preserved in a form that I can have on my shelf at home! You can read my original review of the show here and of the BBC adaptation here.

7. Richard II (RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre; Barbican Theatre & BAM, NYC, 2013 & 2016)

I’ve seen a fair few Shakespeare productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company over the last ten years, but my favourite is Richard II, which I first saw in 2013 and then again (with a couple of cast changes) when it returned as part of the King & Country cycle in 2016. Yes, I am a huge David Tennant fan, especially his stage work and will always be enthusiastic about such productions, but interestingly, I didn’t love Richard II immediately. It took a bit of time for the ensemble (and indeed Tennant himself) to find its feet and really start to impress. Yet, by the end of each run, impress me it did.

Bringing RSC veterans such as Oliver Ford Davies and Jane Lapotaire together with young upcoming talents, was thrilling to watch, with the performances of first Oli Rix in 2013 and then Sam Marks in 2016 in the role of Aumerle truly standing out. Their characters’ relationship with Richard, strengthened by their chemistry with Tennant, resulted in another theatre highlight of this decade – the simply beautiful Flint Castle scene. I’ll never forget it and thankfully, with the release of the DVD, I at least can experience one version of this any time I want. You can read my original reviews here and here and also my review of the superb understudy performance in which Oli Rix played Richard II here.

8. A Streetcar Named Desire (Young Vic, 2014 & St. Ann’s Warehouse, NYC, 2016)

Photo Credit: Nigel Norington

Another highlight of the decade has to be the Young Vic’s production of Tennessee William’s play, which I was lucky enough to see again two years later in Brooklyn. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or has read this blog in the past, that the big draw of this for me was Gillian Anderson, an actress I admired throughout my teens and beyond due to The X-Files.

Thankfully she regularly appears on the stage here, but it is her role as Blanche DuBois in Benedict Andrew’s production that raised her to the next level for me. It was a towering performance. Yet, Anderson wasn’t the only strength here, as the cast also included another longstanding stage favourite of mine, Vanessa Kirby, whose star continues to rise following her portrayal of Princess Margaret in The Crown and Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski. You can read my original review here.

9. Once (Phoenix Theatre, 2014)

Once is another musical that I loved from the minute I first saw it. It almost doesn’t feel like a musical, but a love story that happens to have songs thrown in. Based on the film of the same name, I actually think the show is better (which doesn’t happen often), adding depth to the characters, the story and the world in which it is set and the pairing of Zrinka Cvitesic and Arthur Darvill truly brought it to life in a beautiful way. I’m still sad this show is no longer in the West End. You can read my original review here.

10. Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s Theatre, 2011)

Photo Credit: Nigel Norrington

The last entry on my list is another Shakespeare starring Mr Tennant and that’s Much Ado About Nothing. Yes, I know many didn’t enjoy this, finding the setting a bit naff, but honestly, I loved it every single time. Bringing Tennant together with Catherine Tate, with whom he already had such a strong acting chemistry resulted in a great deal of fun for both the actors and the audience. They bounced off each other wonderfully in the roles of Beatrice and Benedict, bringing a smile to my face, while the soundtrack left me humming long after I’d left the theatre (and always makes me smile when it pops up on my playlist shuffle). Throw in some other entertaining performances, particularly from Adam James (still my favourite Don Pedro) and this show helped my through some personal ups and downs in 2011 and I will always remember it very fondly.

My Favourite Actors of the Decade!

There have been so many wonderful performances over the last ten years, from actors I’ve long admired, to newcomers who, over the decade, have gone on to wider recognition. It’s always fun to be able to say you were aware of them before they were famous! Which actors were favourites this decade? There are certainly a few that I’ll book to see in anything.

Top of that list is Andrew Scott. He may now be famous as the Hot Priest, but it’s also been a busy decade of stage roles for Andrew Scott and I’m fortunate to have been able to see all eight of them! The variety of production and role perfectly highlight his versatility and I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve seen so far. I can’t wait to see what he’ll choose next.

Another “must-book to see” actor ever since 2010’s After The Dance is John Heffernan who has tackled everything from monarchs, to physicists and I’ll watch him in anything. David Tennant will always hold a special place in my heart, as the actor who helped me to see how wonderful and accessible Shakespeare can be and seeing him on stage will always be an event for me. Jamie Parker is another favourite actor of mine, who seems able to take on anything – musicals; plays; Shakespeare, as well as making me a Harry Potter fan! Benedict Cumberbatch is now a worldwide star, but he’s been on this list ever since After The Dance blew me away a decade ago. He was superb in both roles in Frankenstein and was the main strength of his Hamlet. Hopefully screen roles won’t keep him off the stage for too long.

It’s not just the men on the must-book list of course. I’ll be in the theatre for anything Imelda Staunton appears in, after 3 incredible musical theatre performances and one play this decade and thankfully she’s back in 2020 (see my post of tips for 2020). As I’ve already mentioned, I adore Gillian Anderson and she’s a superb stage actress and I feel lucky that she still continues to regularly return to the theatre. Following After The Dance (now you see why it’s at no.1!), Nancy Carroll is another name I look for when booking shows. She’s wonderful in absolutely everything. Vanessa Kirby is a great example of an actress I’ve admired for years, who is now getting the wider recognition she deserves and I look forward to her next stage appearance.

Stand Out Performances of the Decade

The decade has also seen me have a chance to witness some truly remarkable performances / roles, which have stood out from the rest. These are just some of the highlights.

  • Ben Platt – I’ve only seen him on stage in one role so far, but it’s easily one of the highlights of the decade for me. That role was Evan in Dear Evan Hansen in 2017 and he was so astonishing I booked to go back on a later trip to NYC.
  • Andy Karl – The fact that I so loved 2016’s Groundhog Day is in large part due to Andy Karl’s performance as irritating weatherman Phil Connors, who you can’t help but love by the end. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.
  • Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow in 2011 was simply astonishing. The voice, the emotion, the physicality. She became her character so completely.
  • Lia Williams’s compelling performance in 2015’s Oresteia was a night in the theatre that stayed with me for a long time afterwards. She’s taking it to NYC in 2020 too, so go if you can!
  • Bertie Carvel – another superb actor, but as the original Miss Trunchball in the RSC’s Matilda in 2010/2011, he set the tone for that role.
  • Anthony Boyle was another example of an actor creating a blueprint for a role. His superb performance as the original Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child was the first subject my friends and I talked about after leaving the theatre.
  • Cynthia Erivo thankfully transferred to NYC with The Color Purple, which meant I had a second chance to catch it and she was even better than I’d imagined.
  • David Dawson’s performance in The Dazzle is another performance that I’ve not been able to forget. Both he and Andrew Scott were superb, but for me, Dawson was the emotional heart of the show.

Memorable Moments of the Decade!

Before I start looking towards 2020’s theatre offerings, I also wanted to mention just a few of my memorable theatre moments of decade. Most happened on stage, but a few are personal to me.

  • A superb food fight that I wanted to join, during Rules for Living at the National Theatre.
  • John Simm superbly using Hamlet’s speech about the stupidity of theatre audiences to show his displeasure about the man on the front row of The Crucible in Sheffield whose phone rang three times!
  • Some impressive sets including My Fair Lady in NYC, Design For Living, Treasure Island and the details of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man and Sleep No More.
  • Sitting in a hotel suite bedroom watching Tobias Menzies’s impressive performance in The Fever, while Andrew Scott was sitting on a cushion at my feet!
  • Adam James’ unscripted antics during Much Ado About Nothing one night, causing him to chuckle so much, that he spat out his champagne all over David Tennant, as Adam stood behind him. Only those who’d been before truly appreciated how funny this was!
  • The sheer surreal experience that was the RSC/Wooster Group’s Troilus & Cressida. I still can’t quite believe I witnessed such a nightmare!
  • The day I spent 8 hours (there were breaks) as the entire text of The Great Gatsby was performed so magnificently during GATZ.
  • The Flint Castle scene from the RSC’s Richard II. It was truly magical every time.
  • Being reminded of the importance of cherishing the past thanks to Daniel Kitson’s Analog.Ue at the National Theatre.
  • The end scene of Part 1 of The Inheritance. I’ve never been quite so emotional in a theatre.
  • Having the chance to see so many admired actors perform, especially British greats such as Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and others from TV shows I’ve adored, such as Allison Janney; Richard Schiff; Elisabeth Moss; Josh Charles and Ben Whishaw.

I could go on, but I better not (is anyone still reading?!), so I’ll wrap up by saying that it’s been a wonderful decade for theatre and I look forward to many more memories from the next one!

Theatre Review of 2019!

It’s that time of year again and as life has got in the way in the last few months, this is also my first blog post in quite a while. Hopefully looking back at the year will kick start my blogging ready for next year, but as far as 2019 is concerned, I saw fewer shows than I usually do (blame life again), brining my final total to 48 productions (11 musicals, the rest plays), 4 of which I saw for a second time, resulting in 52 theatre visits in total, across 3 countries. The year also saw only my second walk out ever (sorry Top Girls at the National, but you just were not my type of show).

I’ll be reflecting on my favourite theatre of the decade in a separate post, but for now, these were my top 10 shows of 2019! Do let me know what yours were.

1. A German Life (Bridge Theatre)

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks

This really could be a joint first place, but when seeing Dame Maggie Smith on stage in a play was at the top of my theatre bucket list and was something I never thought I’d be able to see, the Bridge Theatre’s announcement of this show made my year. Thankfully, it also lived up to my expectations on both visits (as you can’t just book one ticket for Maggie Smith!), as this was more than a monologue; this was Maggie Smith taking us inside one woman’s life, but also vividly in to the past of Nazi Germany which, by the end, presented some very stark warnings to us about the world we live in today and where we could find ourselves. I’d certainly love to see her on stage again, but if this is the only time, then I’m so so grateful I was able to see her.

2. Present Laughter (Old Vic)

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Any announcement of Andrew Scott on the stage is cause for celebration in my view and I ended the decade seeing one of my favourite actors, on stage, at the very theatre where I first saw him, in Design For Living, back in 2010. I loved this production. Everything about it was wonderful; the superb cast, none of whom put a foot wrong, the gorgeous set design and costume and the fabulous music choices before and during the interval. It made me laugh, it made me tear up and I left the theatre both times with a big smile on my face and more than anything, it reinforced just how versatile Andrew Scott is as an actor, able to turn from over the top dramatics, to a vulnerable soul in moments. And the good news? It’s now an NT: Live production, which is just as enjoyable on a cinema screen.

3. Betrayal (Harold Pinter Theatre)

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Betrayal is my favourite of Pinter’s plays and this production is my favourite so far. Each of Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston were excellent in conveying the complicated dynamics of the inter-relationships between these three characters and the simple set really helped in keeping the focus on the actors.

4. Death of a Salesman (Young Vic & Piccadilly Theatre)

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Despite seeing a fair few Arthur Miller plays on stage, I’d never actually seen Death of a Salesman and I think I’ve likely been spoiled with my first experience thanks to the Young Vic’s production. Watching Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell’s re-imaging, which changes the Loman family to a black family in New York, it’s honestly hard to imagine how this wasn’t the original intention. Led by the superb Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke, this was an incredibly powerful production, which stayed with me for a long time after both my visits to it. As it closes its West End run on 4th January, you still have a few days left to see it if you can.

5. The Watsons (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

The fact I saw less shows this year may be why this is the first of two that appear on this year’s list, as well as last year’s one. It may though simply be because of just how damn good they were. Having first seen The Watsons in Chichester, I was thrilled when it arrived in London and with almost all of the same cast too. It’s hard to talk about this play without giving things away, but what I loved about it is that it’s not simply a typical Jane Austen story. It also speaks to what it’s like to write, to bring stories and characters to life on the page and I loved that so very much. The good news is The Watsons is getting a deserved West End run in 2020 and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

6. The Inheritance (Noel Coward Theatre & Barrymore Theater, NYC)

Photo Credit: Samuel H. Levine

This play took the top spot on last year’s list and the final London performance was one of my first shows of 2019 too. Therefore, I couldn’t miss the chance to see it again when it transferred to Broadway, especially when all of my favourites from the London cast were going too. It was fascinating watching it in NYC and seeing which scenes evoked the strongest audience reactions (some I thought would, didn’t). The changes made since London (mainly to Part 2) were largely beneficial to the story and the experience of seeing The Inheritance proved to be just as powerful and emotional as it was in London (although, overall, I preferred the London cast). The show is still running in NYC, so if you have a chance to see it, it’s certainly worth your time.

7. Nine Night (Trafalgar Studios)

Photo Credit: Helen Murray

Most people saw this during its original National Theatre run last year, but after missing out due to work, I thankfully had a second chance to go once it transferred to the Trafalgar Studios. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nine Night, but it was so brilliantly written and performed and the lasting memory I have of it is how much I laughed and how much the audience loved it, creating such a wonderful atmosphere in the theatre.

8. All My Sons (Old Vic)

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

The second entry for the Old Vic on my list and another Arthur Miller classic. With such a strong cast, including the mighty Sally Field (and young British talents Colin Morgan and Jenna Coleman), my expectations for this were high, but I wasn’t disappointed, as the play weaves through the complex relationship of a family touched by tragedy, before ending with a big emotional gut punch. I hope this isn’t the last time we see Sally Field on a London stage either.

9. Les Miserables In Concert (Gielgud Theatre)

I’ve always loved Les Miserables and every few years, I return to the theatre for a top up and in 2019 I saw both the show (before the original staging disappeared – why something unique to London had to go, I don’t know) and the staged concert performance next door. I’ve watched the anniversary DVDs, so knew what to expect from the experience, but the sheer power of the vocals during this concert couldn’t fail to impress, especially John Owen Jones as Valjean, able to convey the performance element, as well as the voice.

10. & Juliet (Shaftesbury Theatre)

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

My last choice for 2019 was a show I had no idea I’d enjoy as much as I did and that’s & Juliet, a musical that combined Shakespeare and some of my favourite songs from the 1990s! It may sound like an unlikely combination, but it really does work, in a story that asks what Juliet might have chosen to do, had she not killed herself at the end of Romeo & Juliet and tells this story with the help of the songbook of Max Martin (so, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Bon Jovi and more). The songs fit in such a clever and often funny way, that those in their 30s upwards in the audience started laughing after just a couple of bars of a track. It was an unexpectedly fun and entertaining night at the theatre, which had me reaching for my old CD collection when I got home!


So, that’s my list of my favourite theatre shows of 2019. Next year is already looking promising and I’ll be posting a list of tips for 2020 over the next few days too. As always, thanks for reading!

Theatre Review – Maggie Smith returns to the London stage in A German Life, Bridge Theatre!


Over the last decade, as theatregoing became an even greater passion, I’ve had the privilege of seeing so many of the iconic British greats on stage. Yet, there was always one that I wished I could see and yet I thought I’d missed my chance. That person was Dame Maggie Smith. She’s an actress intrinsically linked to my ’90s childhood through her film career of that period and someone whose stage career in past decades had me wishing I had a time machine! I remember reading in Nick Hytner’s book, Balancing Acts, that his biggest regret during his time running the National Theatre was not finding a role for Maggie Smith.

It was therefore unbelievable news to hear that he’d finally been able to right that regret at his new theatre, the Bridge Theatre and last week I finally ticked the biggest item off my theatre bucket list.

A German Life is a one-woman show, in which Smith plays Brunhilde Pomsel, who through unplanned twists and turns in her life found herself working in the Nazi Propaganda Bureau for Goebbels and over the course of 1 hour 40 minutes, we hear the story of her life, from young girl, determined to make her own way through a job, to a woman who ended up spending five years after World War Two interned by the Russian authorities.

The play starts with Smith entering the 1970s-style Germn kitchen set and taking a seat in a chair and what follows in Christopher Hampton’s new play is drawn from the testimony Pomsel gave to documentary filmmakers Christian Krones, Olaf Muller, Roland Schrotthofer and Florian Weigensamer, who turned it in to the film A German Life. It isn’t clear if she’s talking to them, to an imaginary person, or simply to us, the audience, but by the end I felt as if she’d been talking directly to me; that it was just us sitting in that kitchen, as she told the story of her life.

Pomsel confesses early on that she tends to forget things now, which was an effective way too of giving a nod to the fact that some of the audience (including, I admit, myself) were wondering how, at 84, Dame Maggie Smith would cope with carrying a show on her  own. We needn’t have worried, as she is simply superb, so inhabiting the woman whose story we are hearing that you almost forget this isn’t just Maggie Smith talking about herself.

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Over the piece, you laugh with her at some of the anecdotes she’s remembered, while also gaining a chilling insight in to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s and how ordinary citizens were drawn in to their rhetoric. Knowing what we know now, it seems unbelievable that people could allow such dark and horrifying events to come to pass and yet, A German Life, feels frighteningly relevant to today’s world; a world in which intolerance, division and growing hostilities within our societies only seem to be getting worse. Part of the power of this play and Smith’s frank and honest performance is that you leave questioning whether you could have ended up in her shoes, caught up in events the way Brunhilde Pomsel was and for which she states she feels no guilt; she was simply a typist in an office doing a job. the fact it was in the Propaganda Bureau for Goebbels doesn’t make her responsible for the atrocities carried out by the regime she worked for and her attitude felt very authentic and refreshingly honest.

With just one person talking constantly for 100 minutes, in the wrong hands it could feel dull, or drawn out, but Smith demonstrates what an incredible performer she still is and all without moving from her chair. Yet, the fact Smith is in the same seat for the duration of the show doesn’t mean she doesn’t move, thanks to the clever set design from Anna Fleischle. It’s a testament to Smith’s performance, drawing me in so completely and the subtlety of the set design, that it took me over an hour to notice that the floor of the kitchen was moving forward, bringing the actress closer and closer to the audience as the play progressed. It only added to the feeling that you were being pulled in to this woman’s life and allowed Smith to engage with the 900-strong audience without having to move.

This certainly isn’t a comfortable show due to the story being told, but thanks to Smith’s superb performance, it is one that elicits so many emotions, from laughter, to sadness, to horror and more importantly, leaves you questioning what you would have done, while also leading you to realise that as the world seems to grow more extreme, we haven’t learnt nearly enough from that period of history as we should have. We may tell ourselves we’d never let it happen again, but A German Life tests that belief and leaves the audience considering the truth of that statement and feeling deeply uncomfortable at the answer.

Seeing Dame Maggie Smith on stage was a dream come true for me and she didn’t disappoint. If you are able to pick up a ticket, I urge you to do so.

A German Life continues at the Bridge Theatre until 11th May 2019. Although the show is “Sold out,” £15 day seats will be available from the theatre box office each morning from 10 a.m. (one per person), TodayTix is running a £20 lottery each morning too and a returns queue will start from 6 p.m. before every show. I also know of friends calling up the box office and being sold returns for later dates, so that’s always worth a try too. For more information, visit the theatre’s website:



Theatre Review – Three compelling performances from Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton & Charlie Cox in Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre


The Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End has been home to an ambitious exploration and celebration of the work of Harold Pinter over the last [6] months and last night I made a trip to see the final production in the Pinter at the Pinter season. Clearly, this is a highly anticipated show due to the casting of Tom Hiddleston, whose popularity has continued to skyrocket thanks to his involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and who was last seen on stage (for more than a handful of people successful in the RADA Hamlet ballot) in 20[14]’s Coriolanus and I was keen to see whether it would meet my expectations.

I admit, I struggle with some of Pinter’s work, but Betrayal is a play I genuinely enjoy and Jamie Lloyd’s production is a superbly executed interpretation of what is always an emotionally complex story, as we venture in to the lives and histories of its three characters.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The story structure is also one that I find particularly engaging; the play starts not at the beginning of events, instead dropping the audience in to these lives and expecting it to catch up, which adds a very real element to the experience. Life isn’t neat and tidy and Pinter’s structuring of this play highlights that fact. It’s painful and awkward and very human.

It also quickly becomes apparent that we are seeing their lives backwards, gradually moving back through the previous nine years, pausing to witness key moments that shape their relationships with each other. It’s a fantastic way of pulling the audience in and when handled correctly, results in a much more powerful and emotional punch.

The good news is that this production delivers an incredibly satisfying and compelling 90 minutes of theatre, thanks to the combination of a simple set from Soutra Gilmour, which emphasises the raw emotions on display. There are no distractions, which means your focus remains solely on the actors from start to finish and indeed my audience last night was so engaged by the performances that you could have heard a pin drop (or annoyingly, the occasional mobile phone ring – seriously turn them off theatregoers!). It’s also wonderfully lit by Jon Clark, often silhouetting the performers against the pale backdrop in such a way that you could be looking at a wall in an art gallery and I found myself admiring the artistic choices the creative team had taken to add to the emotion. The music is also kept to a minimum, yet compliments the simplicity of the staging.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The success of Betrayal depends on the strength of its three actors and each of Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox are superb at not only brining their own characters to life, but also at creating very believable connections with each other, adding to the tension and emotion of the piece and none of them stand out as the lead, each bringing equal weight to the story.

It quickly becomes apparent that Ashton’s character, Emma, is married to Robert (Hiddleston), but for a number of years until relatively recently, was having an affair with his best friend Jerry (Cox). What Jerry doesn’t realise though, is that Robert not only knows, but he’s known for some time. Over the course of the play, Pinter offers us glimpses in to their past as a trio, how they feel about each other and how that changes, how they deceive each other, sometimes in surprisingly comic ways and how they each suffer betrayal in one way or another.

Jamie Lloyd holds the tension throughout, in no small part by his decision to keep all the actors on stage for the duration, a revolve helpfully moving them around as if pieces on a game board, as their lives cross paths over the years. This staging choice also adds great weight to the betrayal at the heart of the play; seeing Emma and Jerry together, as Robert sits silent and motionless on a chair, sometimes right beside them (and in one heartbreaking instance, cradling his daughter), is a very strong image and Tom Hiddleston does a superb job of conveying Robert’s pain once he becomes aware of their deceit. The scene in which he discovers the truth is handled so beautifully, with quiet surprise and hurt, rather than anger and the combination of Jamie Lloyd’s direction and two excellent actors, truly heighten the tragedy of the moment for the audience as well as the characters.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

It could’ve been easy to portray Emma and Jerry as the villains of the story, yet Pinter’s play is much more complex than that, instead presenting us with people making very human choices and the strength of the performances by both Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox mean they are compelling characters to watch and over the course of Betrayal your emotions shift depending on the scene, for example, Jerry’s sense of betrayal on discovering Emma has told Robert feels very authentic, despite the fact he is just as guilty as she is!

The story structure also allows the audience to have more insight than the characters, heightening the tension in key scenes, particularly the excruciating scene in which Robert and Jerry have lunch, neither of them fully realising the extent of knowledge the other has and Cox and Hiddleston play it perfectly, as if it’s the game of squash their characters keep intending to play. Full marks also to Hiddleston’s “angry eating’ talents! This scene is also an example of how Betrayal is able to move from sadness and pain, to moments that are surprisingly comedic and indeed very much needed by the audience due to the emotional weight of the playas a whole. This again captures the realities of real life and when the story ends we are left unsure of what the future will hold for any of them. Life will go on without us there to witness it.

This is a fantastic way to end Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious season of Pinter and more than lived up to the high expectations I had. If you haven’t picked up a ticket yet, I strongly recommend you do so and quickly!

Betrayal continues at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London until 1st June 2019. For more information, visit the website. I will also be posting a separate post of helpful (hopefully!) tips for visitors coming to the show who are new to London, including places to eat, theatre information and my thoughts on the stage door. 


Tips For First Time Visitors to the Noel Coward Theatre (or London) for All About Eve starring Gillian Anderson!

As a longstanding fan of Gillian Anderson, every time she returns to the London stage is an exciting event for me and now that I’ve seen All About Eve this weekend (review will follow), I thought I’d write a similar post to my previous one for Harry Potter visitors, of some helpful tips for anyone new to the area, coming to see All About Eve over the next few months. I’ll also update it with anything significant, such as transport strikes (if any arise).

1. Getting There

All About Eve is at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. The good news is it’s very easy to get to, with plenty of transport options. The closest tube is Leicester Square (through which runs the Northern and Piccadilly lines), which is a 5 minute walk away. It’s best if you exit from that station at Exit 1 and then turn left immediately down the side of the Wyndham’s Theatre, down the narrow St Martin’s Court, pass through the courtyard in which you’ll see the theatre’s stage door (more on that later) and then simply follow the theatre building round the side to the front entrance on St Martin’s Lane (see the map below).

However, you can just as easily take the underground to Charing Cross station and then just walk the 10 mins (ish) up from there, up the side of Trafalgar Square, up the side of the National Portrait Gallery and then you’ll be able to walk straight up St Martin’s Lane (head towards the Coliseum with its revolving globe on the top of the building, as that’s the bottom of the street). Equally, walking from Piccadilly Circus through Leicester Square doesn’t take long either (although it is a bit busy with people).

There are also bus routes that go through Central London too. The theatre says that the best ones are 24, 29 or 176. My best advice is to download the Citymapper app to your phone, as this calculates the best route from anywhere in London and breaks down the options by transport option (whether bus, tube, walking etc). I live here and still use it all the time! You can also use the Transport for London website journey planner too:

2. When to arrive?

You don’t need to arrive at the theatre hugely early. It’s really more of a personal preference. I tend to get to a theatre about 15 -30 minutes before the start time, so I have time to collect tickets, buy programmes and get comfortable in my seat, but you certainly don’t need to be there too early. Plus the auditorium itself won’t open until 30 minutes before the show starts. If you’re collecting your tickets, at the Noel Coward they only asked me for my name, but I’d recommend taking your credit card and order confirmation with you just in case you are asked to show it.

3. Inside the Theatre / Seating chart

The Noel Coward Theatre has 4 levels, Stalls, Royal Circle, Grand Circle and Balcony. No doubt you know where you’re sitting, as you chose your seat when you booked, but for reference I’ve included a link to the Theatremonkey website, which offers invaluable insight in to seats and their views in London’s theatres. I use it all the time! There is also the SeatPlan website, where you may find a photo taken from the seat you have booked. The theatre bars (there are 3 of them) open at 6:15 pm before an evening show and at 1:45 pm before matinees, where you can buy snacks and programmes (which are £4.50). The theatre does also have a small cloakroom, but it’ll fill up quickly, so I’d suggest taking just a small bag with you (security will do a bag check before you enter the theatre).

4. Food & Drink

Being located in the heart of the West End, there are plenty of options for food and drink closeby, with something to suit all budgets. If you just need a cup of tea and a sandwich, or snack, there’s an Eat literally opposite the theatre, with seats upstairs and downstairs (plus some handy plug sockets too for charging your phone in certain spots). There’s also a Starbucks on the street and Pret on the corner. Fast food options are also a few steps from the theatre, with both a Five Guys and McDonalds at the top of the street, as well as a number of pubs offering traditional British pub food.

If you’re looking to make a day / night of it and want a sit down meal, then there are plenty of options too. On the same street, there’s Brown’s, which offers a decent range of British classics and I love to pop in for a pre-theatre meal or drink at Cafe Koha in the square at the back of the theatre. For those feeling a bit more extravagant, there’s the seafood and fish restaurant, J. Sheekey, down the side of the theatre. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard you might spot the odd celebrity in there.

If you’re looking to go a bit further afield, Covent Garden isn’t too much of a walk and has some nice options, or Chinatown is just at the back of Leicester Square too, with some very reasonably priced options. The location does of course mean it tends to get quite busy in the area, so if you’re wanting to eat before the show, give yourself plenty of time.

5. Running Time

All About Eve has a running time of 2 hours. There is no interval. Matinees begin at 2:30 pm and evening performances at 7:30 pm.

6. Stage Door!

My successfully signed programme!

I’ll start by saying that signing autographs is not part of the ticket price and no actor is under any obligation to sign for fans, or if they are willing, there may be performances after which it’s not possible. Therefore these tips are just a guide and there’s no guarantee Gillian will be signing after your show. I can share some tips based on my experience last night, as I’m fairly confident that on days she does sign, she’ll be sticking to this routine. The last two theatres at which I’ve seen Gillian (at the Young Vic in London and St Ann’s Warehouse in NYC), she chose to sign inside the theatre, in warmth and comfort and where the crowd could be better controlled and it seems she’s sticking to that at the Noel Coward as well.

If you are interested in getting signatures from the other cast, I’d perhaps go straight to the back of the theatre, in to St Martin’s Court and get a spot at the barrier of the stage door (you’ll see it says the theatre name and stage door above the blue door). Some of the other cast came out quite quickly on Saturday, so if you don’t do that you might miss them. Also, the stage door security did announce when Gillian had started signing, so people knew when to go and join her queue. I did that and then popped back to the stage door again afterwards too.

Gillian signing in the theatre foyer

As Gillian is signing inside the theatre entrance, behind the desk in the middle, you need to be at the front of the building for her queue. The queue will form from the front entrance of the theatre and around the side of the theatre. It may look long, but don’t panic, as it moves quickly and Gillian signed for everyone last night. The most important tip is not to lose your ticket once you’ve entered for the show, as the security were checking for tickets before letting you in to the theatre to get an autograph. They also say only show items (programme or ticket) can be signed, although I did see some who had photos they’d had taken previously (at comic con-style events) with Gillian that she’d signed for them. You only get a few moments with Gillian and no photos with her, but people who were there in pairs were able to take a photo as their friend got an autograph, or if you’re on your own like I was, I simply took a quick one from the side after I’d had my programme signed (no flash though).

Another point to remember is that she won’t be signing after any matinee performances, so if you are going to a matinee and are able to stay around until after the evening show, then try then (you’ll have a valid ticket for that day and when they don’t sign after matinees, it’s perfectly fair for you to join the queue then in my opinion)!

7. Still Looking for tickets?

(a) Official Website – There are still some tickets available, so check the website for availability here:

(b) Daily Front Row Lottery – You can enter the daily lottery for the front row of the stalls via the TodayTix app. You can enter for 1 or 2 tickets and winners will be drawn at random and notified 2-4 hours prior to the selected performance. If successful, you have an hour to claim your tickets through the app.

(c) Day Seats – A limited number of Day Seats are released in person at the Box Office, every day for that day’s performance(s). Maximum 2 tickets per person, strictly subject to availability and at the discretion of the Box Office. I’d recommend getting there early to be in with the best chance.

8. Unable to come in person, but still want to see the show?

The good news is that All About Eve will be screened in cinemas in the UK on Thursday 11th April, in conjunction with NT Live. There will also be international screenings, but the details of that (it may be another date) are yet to be announced. Keep checking the All About Eve NT Live web page for more details of participating cinemas:

9. Unable to see the show and need to return / exchange your tickets?

According to the show’s website, tickets may be exchanged for the same production up to 48 hours prior to the performance. Call 0344 482 5138 (Calls cost 7 pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) and speak to one of their clerks who will exchange your tickets to your preferred performance. All exchanges are subject to a £2 administration fee per ticket. Within 24 hours of the performance tickets may be returned to the box office for resale, but will be subject to a 10% levy, and no guarantee of resale can be given. If you are contacting the theatre from overseas and cannot get through on the main box office number, call: 0207 812 7498.


Hopefully those tips are useful! If you have any questions, feel free to ask and if I can help, I’ll certainly let you know. All that’s left to say is, enjoy your visit!!



Theatre to See in 2019 (in London & Beyond)!

Having looked back on my favourite theatre productions of 2018 and a little later than I planned (sorry about that!), I’m taking a look at some of the exciting theatre already announced for 2019. It’s worth bearing in mind that at this time of year, we still don’t know what shows will be arriving in many theatres in the back half of the year, but there are already a number of productions on the horizon that should be on your radar. I also admit that my list is always weighted towards London, as it’s my base, but I’m always keeping an eye on regional theatres and have included some I’m planning to see within this list (as well as a few NYC highlights).

So, here’s my snapshot of 19 shows I’m excited to see in theatreland in 2019!

1. All About Eve (Noel Coward Theatre, 2nd Feb – 27th April)


Top of the list for 2019 for me is All About Eve, which moves in to the Noel Coward Theatre next month. There are a number of reasons I’ve been looking forward to this production. First and foremost, I’m a huge Gillian Anderson fan and having seen her in A Doll’s House and A Streetcar Named Desire (both here and in NYC), it’ll be thrilling to see her on stage once again. Throw in to the mix the director, Ivo van Hove, whose work I always find thrilling and I’m counting the days until my first visit.

2. Death of a Salesman (Young Vic, 1st May – 29th June)


Arthur Miller seems to be the trendy choice in London theatres this year, with a couple on this list as well, but I’m probably most excited about the Young Vic’s new production of Death of a Salesman, an Arthur Miller classic that I confess I’ve never seen. Director Marianne Elliott’s work is always superb (from Curious Incident, to Angels in America and rewriting Sondheim for the new production of Company), plus the cast includes Wendell Pierce (which is exciting for me as a Suits fan) and Sharon D. Clarke (who is certainly having a busy theatre year; more from her later). The Young Vic is producing such brilliant work at the moment, that I’m sure this will be another hit.

3. All My Sons (Old Vic, 15th April – 8th June)


The Arthur Miller continues just down the road at the Old Vic, which has assembled an impressive cast for London’s latest production of All My Sons, which includes Sally Field, Bill Pullman, Colin Morgan and Jenna Coleman. I always enjoy this play (the David Suchet one from 2010 my current favourite), so it’ll be fun to see how this one compares. If you’re hoping to pick up a cheaper ticket for this, then register for emails about the PwC previews, which will go on sale five weeks before the show starts, offering £12 tickets for the first few previews.

4. Three Sisters (Almeida, 8th April – 1st June)


The Almeida is another one of my favourite theatres right now and I’m incredibly excited that the dream team of director Rebecca Frecknall and actress Patsy Ferran are back together again for their new production of Chekhov’s play, following the superb Summer & Smoke (which finishes on Saturday, so you still have a couple of days to see it).

5. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Barbican, 25th March – 13th April)


There’s always something I was intending to book and then forget, only to find myself hoping for returns, or day seats later and on this list that award goes to Grief is The Thing With Feathers. I’d been tempted to try and go and see this in Dublin last year, so I’m kicking myself that, for the moment, this is sold out for its Barbican run. Cillian Murphy is a fabulous actor and I’d suggest that, like me, you keep your eyes peeled for tickets for this.

6. Betrayal (Harold Pinter Theatre, 5th March – 1st June)


I admit, I’m not a huge lover of Pinter, but I actually rather enjoy Betrayal and having enjoyed his performance in Coriolanus at the Donmar, I’m looking forward to seeing Tom Hiddleston back on stage again (no, I don’t count the RADA Hamlet that was near impossible to get tickets for!) and directed by Jamie Llloyd. This will hopefully be a strong end to the current Pinter at the Pinter season.

7. Dear Evan Hansen (Noel Coward Theatre, TBC)


Dear Evan Hansen was one musical I’d heard so much about and in 2016 I was fortunate to see it twice in NYC. It’s an emotional story, with a powerful message that no matter how low you feel, you’re never truly alone, if you reach out for support and I’m thrilled it’s finally making its way across the Atlantic. I’m sure the British cast will be fantastic and the musical’s message is universal, but I admit, as someone who saw Ben Platt in the lead role, I find it difficult to picture anyone else in the role of Evan.

8. Emilia (Garrick Theatre, 8th March – 15th June)


Emilia was another production that I missed during its first run at Shakespeare’s Globe which, thanks to a West End transfer, I now get to enjoy. Everyone I know who saw this story about Elizabethan poet, Emilia Bassano, (who I confess I knew very little about before this play arrived in 2018), loved it. Bassano wrote the first published work of poetry by an Englishwoman and is rumoured to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, yet her life is just as fascinating and worthy of exploration and attention. I certainly won’t be missing out on this show again!

9. Blues In The Night (Kiln, 18th July – 7th September)


Currently wowing audiences at the Playhouse in Caroline Or Change, Sharon D. Clarke is heading back to North West London (having opened Caroline Or Change at the Hampstead Theatre last spring), to the Kiln (formerly Tricycle) Theatre later in the year, to star in this revival of Sheldon Epps’ musical, which was last seen in London 30 years ago. This is after she’s stopped by the Young Vic for a previous entry on this list, so she’s certainly keeping busy! She has an incredible voice and the Kiln continues to be a wonderful venue following completion of its transformation work, so this should be a treat for the summer.

10. When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other (National Theatre – Dorfman, 16th January – 2nd March)


I have mixed feelings about this entry. It’s absolutely one of the most talked about productions of 2019, which caused a great amount of grumbling when tickets were only available by ballot. The combination of Martin Crimp, Katie Mitchell and Cate Blanchett is intriguing though and having been lucky in the ballot, I’ll be seeing what all the fuss is about next week. A limited number of day seats are available from the National each day.

11. Dear Elizabeth (Gate Theatre, 17th January – 9th February)


This new play by US playwright Sarah Ruhl, whose In the Next Room (or “The Vibrator Play”) I saw a few years ago, has just started its run at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre. The play will tell the story of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, who exchanged regular letters for decades. The production is also choosing to switch its cast, with two different actors taking on the play each performance. The list includes some brilliant talent including Alex Jennings, Jonjo O’Neil and Tamsin Greig.

12. A Very Expensive Poison (Old Vic, TBC)


No clear dates yet, but this forthcoming new play already sounds very promising and is certainly addressing current global tensions. It’s written by Lucy Prebble, whose wonderful work includes The Effect and ENRON and is set to tackle the story of the death of Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko. This is certainly one to keep an eye on for further details.

13. Come From Away (Phoenix Theatre, from 30th January)


Another Broadway musical opening shortly in London is Come From Away, which I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of years ago in NYC. Through just 90 minutes, it tells the heartwarming story of the community of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada which, on 11th September 2001, found itself the temporary home of thousands of stranded airline passengers. The link to 9/11 may make you think twice about booking, but it’s a lovely show, that reminds us of the goodness we are capable of, which is these crazy times, is something everyone needs to be reminded about.

14. Mother Courage and Her Children (Manchester Royal Exchange, 8th February – 2nd March)


Manchester’s Royal Exchange is collaborating with the theatre company Headlong for this new adaptation of Brecht’s work, which will see Julie Hesmondhalgh taking on the role of Courage. The website suggests that this production will bring the story “bang up to date” and I’m intrigued to see exactly what they have in mind.

15. Standing At The Sky’s Edge (Crucible, Sheffield, 15th March – 6th April)


I’m a huge fan of Sheffield Theatres, which continues to produce some fantastic shows and the one I’m most looking forward to from its upcoming season is Standing At The Sky’s Edge, which is a new musical about Sheffield itself, telling the story of the residents of Park Hill flats over 50 years (Doctor Who fans will recognise the buildings from the latest season too). Having grown up in the city, it’ll be fun to see a musical all about the lives of people in Sheffield!

16. Peter Gynt (National Theatre – Olivier, 27th June – 8th October)


Further details of this production have been released today, but this is a show that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. No, I haven’t seen Peer Gynt before, but I have seen James McCardle on stage a number of times and he’s such a superb actor that I’ll see him in anything and this will see him take on one of Ibsen’s most famous characters in a new “radical” adaptation by David Hare. I imagine I’ll be seeing this one more than once!

17. Barber Shop Chronicles (Tour – multiple venues, 12th March – 25th August)


The Barber Shop Chronicles is another show that I was stupid enough to miss during both its runs at the National Theatre (I know, I know, I’m rubbish), but this regional tour will mean others, as well as me, will be able to see this story about a group of African men, gathering and exchanging stories in barber shops in six different cities across the world. The tour will visit Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, Sheffield and London’s Roundhouse.

18. Richard III (Tour – multiple venues, 1st March – 25th May)


Theatre company Headlong will be bringing their new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III to multiple venues this year. I’m a big fan of the work of Headlong, as they tend to find original ways of telling classic stories. In addition, this production is also stopping at the newly restored theatre at Alexandra Palace, which is a venue I’ve been waiting to be finished. It’ll be thrilling to step foot in the space, now it’s been restored to its former Victorian glory. The play will visit Bristol, Northampton, Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford and will finish at Alexandra Palace.

19. The Color Purple (Curve Theatre, Leicester, 28th June – 13th July & Birmingham Hippodrome, 16th July – 20th July)


Having missed the original run of the Menier Chocolate Factory’s musical production of Alice Walker’s novel in 2013, I managed to catch it, including that superb performance by Cynthia Erivo, on Broadway and I loved it. I’ve always been surprised that a West End run didn’t happen and so it’s fantastic to see this musical will be making a return to the UK stage in Leicester and Birmingham in July.


That’s already a promising list, with many more I could have included.

.…….And I haven’t even mentioned New York, although the first ones that spring to mind across the pond are:

(1) To Kill A Mockingbird, adapted for stage by Aaron “The West Wing” Sorkin, which continues its successful run until November;

(2) Ben Whishaw & Renee Fleming in Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, at new arts venue The Shed;

(3) Oklahoma at The Circle in the Square, which I’ve only heard good things about, following its run last year at Brooklyn’s St Ann’s Warehouse; and

(4) Hilary and Clinton, in which Laurie Metcalf and Nigel Lithgow, explore the dynamics of a certain political couple during 2008’s Presidential Primaries.

There’s also of course the transfer of the Almeida’s superb Ink, which I loved and of course, surely it’s only a matter of time before the incredible The Inheritance makes it way across to NYC?! If it does, I’ll certainly be following it (queue for day seats this Saturday for its final day in London if you can. You won’t regret it!).


Excited yet? Hopefully there’s plenty on the stage this year to appeal to everyone. I’ll be getting back to reviewing more theatre in 2019, so keep an eye on the blog for my latest reviews!


My 2018 Theatre Review – Productions of the Year!

Where has the last twelve months gone? I probably say that every year, but it means it’s time for me to look back on the last twelve months as a theatregoer. I’ll start by saying I’ve seen fewer productions this year than I expected to and I’ve seen far less regional theatre than I wanted to as well, which only gives me something to aim for next year.

That being said, my final total for 2018 was 60 shows, with revisits to six of those shows (including three Hamilton trips), resulting in a total number of theatre trips of 67. Not bad, but I’m well aware that I’ve missed a fair few shows I’d been hoping to see this year.

As I’ve already mentioned, my theatre trips outside of London have been low this year, with the exception of a theatre-packed NYC trip in the spring. London and New York aside, my regional visits have been limited to Chichester and Stratford-Upon-Avon and I fully intend to improve on this in 2019.

Finally, when choosing my favourites of the year, I think about which shows resonated with me on an emotional level, so I’m sure there are productions which appear on other lists, as ground-breaking or significant shows for other reasons, but which weren’t at the top of my list.

So, without further delay, here are my favourite productions of the last twelve months!


1. The Inheritance (Noel Coward Theatre)

As in previous years, my list is in no particular order, with the exception of the top spot, which was clear to me as soon as I left the Noel Coward Theatre.

I’d had a ticket for a full Wednesday at the Young Vic to see The Inheritance, but due to work commitments, I had to give the tickets back. I was gutted at the time, as this promised to be something special and so the news of a West End transfer was wonderful.

I have been intending to write a specific review of this show ever since I saw it and yet I struggle to put in to words just how stunning it is on so many levels. I’m not a gay man, but nevertheless, I couldn’t fail to be moved by a story which reaches in to the past and connects it so beautifully with the present and the importance of a sense of community between the men on stage. Not only that, but the writing is just magical, as you are told a story of love, loss, compassion and forgiveness, which still captures moments of such fun and playfulness along the way and all of its 7+ hours is so superbly acted by the show’s cast. I laughed, I cried (many times) and having seen it twice, it continues to stay with me. I’ll be there for the final shows on 19th January and if you can go before it closes, you simply must. It’s that simple. (The Inheritance continues at the Noel Coward Theatre until 19th January 2019).

2. Summer & Smoke (Almeida & Duke of York’s Theatre)

Credit: Marc Brenner

I was lucky enough to see this superb show during its initial run at the Almeida, before revisiting it in the West End only a couple of weeks ago, where I was still able to have a fabulous close-up view thanks to TodayTix. I wasn’t familiar with this play beforehand, having seen some of the better known and more regularly revived pieces by Tennessee Williams and yet I quickly fell under the spell of this hauntingly atmospheric production. I loved the simplicity of the set and the use of light to draw out the electricity between the two central characters. The stand out element though? An utterly compelling performance by Patsy Ferran, who I honestly felt transformed in to Alma before my eyes in such a nuanced portrayal of a character I was almost instantly invested in. Combined with strong support from Matthew Needham, Forbes Masson, Nancy Crane and all the cast, this again was a show that had a profound emotional impact on me and is one I won’t forget. (Summer & Smoke continues at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 19th January 2019).

3. Twelfth Night (Young Vic Theatre)

Credit: Johan Persson

Twelfth Night is a Shakespeare play that I’ve seen quite often and I admit I was possibly a little tired of it. Yet, I’d heard so many glowing reviews about this production since it was staged in New York in 2016, that I couldn’t miss it when it arrived in London, as the first show during Kwame Kwei-Armah’s tenure as artistic director of the Young Vic. It’s one of the best decisions I made all year and is, without question, the best interpretation of this play that I’ve seen to date. Turning this well known Shakespeare story in to a musical was bold in itself, yet this show was inventive, colourful, fun and fresh and is easily one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in a theatre, which brought the story to life in an entertaining, yet accessible way. Although the whole cast was great, the stand out has to be Gerard Carey as Malvolio. He was simply perfect. I might never need to see another version of this play, as I doubt this one will be beaten.

4. The Watsons (Minerva Theatre, Chichester)

Credit: Manuel Harlan

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I travelled to Chichester to see Laura Wade’s latest play, but being a fan of her previous work and a lover of Jane Austen, I had high hopes that this would be right up my street and that certainly proved to be the case. I loved the cleverness of this script, as it’s not just an Austen story (one which Austen mysteriously never finished, despite it not being the last one she wrote), but it’s also a story about what it’s like to be a writer and it was this added element that really appealed to me, as an aspiring writer. I don’t want to give too much away for those not familiar with this play, as I’m certain it’ll have another life on stage before too long, but all I will say is that its mix of Austen and contemporary life resulted in a show that was a lot of fun to watch and had me leaving the theatre with a big smile on my face. All my fingers are crossed for a London transfer.

5. Three Tall Women (Golden Theatre, New York)

Credit: Brigitte Lacombe

Having seen her brilliant return to the stage as King Lear after 23 years in 2016, I couldn’t miss the chance to see Glenda Jackson’s second show, this time in New York, during my visit in April/May and it was certainly a highlight of my trip. With a cast of just three (Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill), Three Tall Women tells the story of one fierce woman, whose life is cleverly told by herself at three different ages. It may have been short, but it certainly packed a punch and seeing Broadway so in awe of Glenda Jackson was wonderful.

6. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar Warehouse)

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Over the years Lia Williams has become one of my must-see actresses and I’ll book anything she’s in and in this year’s Donmar production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, she yet again proved what an incredible artist she is on stage. Having not read the novel, nor seen the film made famous by Dame Maggie Smith, I wasn’t sure what to expect, yet found myself caught up in the world of her and her students, as her desire to inspire them starts to become questionable as the play progresses. I’m only sorry I didn’t have the chance to go back for a second time.

7. Fun Home (Young Vic Theatre)

Credit: Marc Brenner

Fun Home had been on my list of shows to see when I was in NYC a few years ago, but I just didn’t have time and had been wondering if it would ever make its way across the Atlantic. It’s clearly been a strong year for me when it comes to the Young Vic, with this beautifully touching musical being the third show from the theatre on my list. In a way it didn’t feel like a musical, but more of a play with songs, but regardless of how you categorise it, the story of one girl’s relationship with herself, her sexuality and her father left me rather emotional by the end and a return visit was essential. I admit, I’m still surprised there hasn’t been news of a West End run for the show. Hopefully 2019 will rectify that.

8. A Monster Calls (Old Vic Theatre)

Credit: Manuel Harlan

I only had to walk a few minutes down the road for a similarly emotional theatre outing, this time to see the Old Vic’s staging of Patrick Ness’s tale of love, grief and forgiveness. I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t read the book, but I adored the recent film and found this adaptation equally powerful, as we see one young boy’s struggle to come to terms with his mother’s illness and death and the confusing emotions they stir up within him. It’s not an easy story to stage, with so much resting on the fantastical stories the monster tells him, but this production truly evoked the same emotions through its imaginative staging. It wasn’t an easy show to watch, but it’s one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

9. I And You (Hampstead Theatre)

Credit: Manuel Harlan

This was a lovely little surprise of a show at the Hampstead Theatre for me this year, which also saw the stage debuts of two wonderful acting talents, one I was very familiar with and the other I’ve now added to my “keep a look out for them” list. Lauren Gunderson’s play saw Maisie Williams, fresh from Game of Thrones as a sickly young teenager, cooped up in her room, who is forced to engage with the world through the arrival of one of her classmates, played superbly by Zach Wyatt, with a last minute poetry project centring around Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Yes, I worked out the ending quite quickly, but that didn’t take away from the emotional punch I felt at the end, as the lines from the poem they’d been discussing became so poignant. The production also saw the Hampstead Theatre testing out a new way of reaching new, younger audiences, when it was made available to stream for free on Instagram. Anything that encourages people to try theatre gets my support and the play was just as moving a second time on my small phone screen.

10. Girls & Boys (Royal Court Theatre)

Credit: Marc Brenner

I’ve been hoping to see Carey Mulligan on stage for a few years now and this incredibly powerful one-woman play at the Royal Court finally gave me a chance to see her. This was another instance where I had no idea about the story before stepping foot inside the auditorium and what I loved most about this play was how it started as one thing and all of a sudden took a sharp turn down a much darker, devastating road. The power of such a play depends on the actress and Mulligan was simply outstanding as a mother telling the story of her life and that of her children to the audience, right down to the mimed interactions with her children, who I soon forget weren’t actually there on stage with her. This was yet another emotional experience and one that certainly stood out as a highlight this year.


Special mentions also go to White Teeth at the newly reopened Kiln (formerly Tricycle) Theatre, which took me completely by surprise with how much fun it was, The Humans, which I was thrilled to see arrive at the Hampstead Theatre, complete with the full Tony Award-winning cast, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which provided the type of black comedic fun I expect from Martin McDonagh and some wonderful performances (all of which I enjoyed from a £10 front row seat!), Lobby Hero in NYC, with wonderful performances by Micheal Cera and Chris Evans in particular, Sweat at the Donmar Warehouse, where the 2000 US setting felt just as relevant in 2018 Britain and The Madness of George III from the Nottingham Playhouse, which I was able to enjoy via NT Live.

Last year saw my list filled with plenty of musicals after a year in which I saw more than usual and although far fewer make the shortlist this year, there were certainly some musical highlights, in particular the recent NYC stagings of My Fair Lady and Carousel, the impressive Hadestown, here prior to its Broadway opening and the Old Vic’s much publicised Sylvia. Yes, it was rough and needs tightening up, but I expect the final form to be something rather special when it returns and it contained one of my theatre moments of the year (see my separate post for those coming soon).

Although I try and keep repeat trips to shows out of my annual favourites list, I couldn’t write this without giving special mention to some of the shows that I loved this year and which I’d already seen before. Top of this list was a joyous visit to Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in NYC, to see the original London seven back in their roles. Although I’ve enjoyed later West End casts, there’s something special about that group and in particular Jamie Parker as Harry and Anthony Boyle as Scorpius. My time in NYC also enabled me to revisit the National Theatre’s stunning production of Angels in America for a third time and spending another day wrapped up in these characters was a privilege. 2018 also saw Andrew Scott return to London in Sea Wall, which made my favourites list back in 2013 and was indeed a highlight of this year as well. It may be only 30 minutes long, but it remains one of the most emotional theatre experiences I’ve ever had. And of course, it would have been rude had I not returned multiple times this year to Hamilton, including the very special performance in August in aid of the charity Sentabale, attended by Harry & Meghan!


So, that was my 2018 theatre year! Yes, I missed some shows that I wish I’d seen (The York Realist, Misty and Notes From The Field being at the top of that list), but overall, I enjoyed almost everything I saw this year and even those that I found disappointing had something I could appreciate (the Almeida’s current Richard II may not be my cup of tea, but Simon Russell Beale’s performance was very good and I may have found A Very Very Very Dark Matter disappointing, but the two central actors were great, as was the set). That’s certainly better than years when I’ve had a list of shows I’ve found truly painful!

Looking ahead, there are some fantastically promising shows arriving next year and I’ll be highlighting my 19 shows to see in 2019 in a separate post. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your highlights from the last twelve months!

My 2017 Theatre Review – Memorable Moments

I’ve already set out my favourite productions of 2017, so this post will look back on the my most memorable moments, whether a performance, a scene, or a personal experience during a show, these are the moments that I’ll remember most from the last 12 months of theatregoing.


1. David Tennant declaring he was “magnificently f*ckable” as Don Juan in Don Juan in Soho!

A theatre year is always a little more special for me when Mr Tennant is on the stage and earlier this year he took on the lothario Don Juan. It may not have made my favourite productions list, but he had some wonderful dialogue, this being my personal highlight!

2. The continued excitement and joy of the audience at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Next spring Broadway will finally welcome the Harry Potter play to the stage (with me in the audience), but until then the only place to see it remains London and being lucky enough to return to see the show a few times this year (including the final show of the original cast and a trip to see the new one), I continue to love the atmosphere in the Palace Theatre. It’s one of the two happiest theatres in town and you can feel the buzz of excitement from everyone around you. It’s simply magical.

3. Realising about 15 minutes in to Hamilton that I was under its spell

The Palace is one of the two happiest theatres in town and since early December, the other is the Victoria Palace Theatre, now home to the mighty Hamilton. You can read my review and my end of year review for thoughts, but I will always remember the feeling of knowing that not only was the hype justified, but that I was watching something very special indeed.

4. Getting to see another of my favourite actors on stage for the first time

I made two trips to NYC this year, but the first was driven by one aim – to see Josh Charles on stage! I’ve been a fan of his film and TV work for quite a while now and couldn’t miss the chance to see him in The Antipodes at the wonderful Signature Theatre. And the cherry on the cake – getting a chance to speak to him afterwards, plus an autograph and photo. He was one of the most genuine actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak to and it made my trip!


5. A final trip to Groundhog Day and frustration that Broadway didn’t appreciate it more

Poor poor Groundhog Day. If only it had stayed here in London. I know it’ll be back here soon enough, but I’ll always be a little sad that Andy Karl won’t get longer in the role of Phil Connors. He really was wonderful and I’m so pleased I had one last chance to see it earlier this year in NYC.

6. Ian McKellen bringing Gandalf back to life for a few minutes on stage!

In July, Ian McKellen helped raise money for the Park Theatre in London through a week of special performances on a one-man show about his life and career. It was a very special experience, the highlight being the opening: a pitch black theatre, Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score playing and the voice of Gandalf, as if back in the Mines of Moria, coming out of the darkness as McKellen walked on to the stage. Unforgettable!

7. Being on the front row of the first official performance at the new Bridge Theatre!

I’ve been looking forward to this new theatre opening ever since it was announced and being able to be at the first official performance (there were two soft opening performances put on early) of a new London theatre was quite a thrill. The smell of fresh paint and new leather and a whole new building to explore. I look forward to many more visits to come.

8. My front row seat experience for Network and having Bryan Cranston look me straight in the eyes from mere inches away

Network is on my list of favourites of the year and not only did I enjoy the play and its commanding lead actor’s performance, but this was made all the more special, when Mr Cranston ended up sitting behind me during one of the scenes, resulting in him giving a direct performance to those of us sitting around him for a few minutes.


9. The brilliance of the final scene of Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road at the Trafalgar Studios

I won’t ruin it for those yet to see this lovely show, but the final moments were so clever and fun that it had me smiling long after I’d left the building. It’s a show that I’m so pleased I didn’t miss.

10. The OTT reaction of the Broadway audience to Bette Midler in Hello Dolly

Now, first things first, I enjoyed the show and I thought Bette Midler was fantastic, but what wasn’t quite as enjoyable was the reaction of the audience during the show. I know the NYC custom is to applaud the famous names on their first appearance on the stage (as annoying as I find it), but every time she appeared, everything she said or did, was met with prolonged applause and cheers. Ultimately it distracted me from the show and drove me crazy!

11. Witnessing Ben Platt sob his way through “Words Fail” in Dear Evan Hansen

Hello Dolly may have been a less than satisfying theatre experience, but the same couldn’t be said for Dear Evan Hansen (on both visits). I will never forget watching Ben Platt’s performance and Words Fail in particular, as he managed to sing so beautifully through sobs, as the audience sniffled along with him.

12. The thrill of the unexpected in Robert Icke’s Hamlet, particularly Laertes in that final duel

I’ve talked enough about how much I loved this production, but it was filled with moments that surprised me, despite having seen Hamlet quite a few times now. No moment sums up the freshness of this production more than when I realised that Laertes doesn’t want to have the duel at the end! I have never seen an interpretation where Laertes has had second thoughts and when asking for a new foil is wanting to swap the poisoned one for another. It changed how I saw that character and made the end so much more powerful. Such unexpected thrills at the theatre are what make it such a wonderful experience.


13. The RSC’s sound effect of the year that made an auditorium gasp

I only made one trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon this year, which was to see the RSC’s latest production of Julius Caesar and the moment I have not been able to forget was the moment a young boy seemingly had his neck broken. Yes, I know nothing is real on stage, but the sound effect used to create the illusion of murder in that moment was quite shocking!

14. Andrew Garfield bringing a tear to my eye, as he bid the audience a final farewell at the last performance of Angels in America in London

I loved this production, as I’ve already mentioned in my annual round-up and it was very special to be in the audience for the last performance (I was in good company as Mr Cumberbatch was there too). It’s a powerful piece of theatre, but watching Andrew Garfield give those final lines as Prior Walter, talking directly to us, was something I’ll never forget: “The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”

15. Experiencing the wonderful staging of The Great Comet from a stage seat

I didn’t love The Great Comet as a musical, but I could certainly appreciate the staging and the fun of the interaction with the audience when I watched the show from a banquette seat earlier this year. I wasn’t in a position to be picked on, thank god, but I did enjoy some fresh bread to eat and my own little egg shaker to join in with the percussion during the show, not to mention a close up seat for Josh Groban’s gorgeous singing!

16. My horror at the result of my audience’s vote on letting latecomers in to The Majority at the National Theatre

The Majority was a fun theatre experience, requiring each of us in the audience to engage directly in the journey of the performance through a series of votes on our keypads. The most horrifying for me? The narrow victory of those who voted to let latecomers in to the auditorium once the show had started! Fools!

17. My first ever time leaving a show at the interval

I know some people do this often, but I’ve never left a show early. I usually hold on, in the hope I’ll enjoy the second half more. However, on one trip this year, I just couldn’t face it. Ironically, Travesties was a show most people loved and many will no doubt say it was a travesty that I left, but it just wasn’t funny to me and I was bored. Maybe it caught me on an off day.


So, what were your most memorable, personal theatre moments this year? I’d love to hear them and look forward to finding out what’s in store next year in theatre land!

Photo credits (besides me!): Don Juan In Soho = Helen Maybanks; The Antipodes = Joan Marcus; Groundhog Day/Hamlet = Manuel Harlan; Ian McKellen = Mark Douet; Network = Jan Versweyveld; Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road = Gavin Watson; Dear Evan Hansen = Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; Julius Caesar = the RSC; The Majority = Ellie Kurttz; Angels in America = Jason Bell; 






My 2017 Theatre Review – Productions of the Year!

It’s hard to believe it’s that time again, when I look back at my theatregoing year and look forward to the year to come (that’s coming soon in another post). I’ve seen a slightly smaller number of shows in 2017, with a total of 56, but with repeat viewings of 13 shows, I’ve actually visited a theatre 80 times in the last twelve months, which isn’t too bad!

Although I’ve seen fewer productions, 2017 has struck me as a fantastic year in theatre land. I’ve seen far more hits than misses and choosing a top ten is practically impossible, so this list is going to run a little longer. The other interesting aspect of the year (well, for me anyway) is, as someone who tends to prefer plays to musicals, I’ve seen more musicals this year than any other, with a total of 12 of 2017’s list. This is undoubtably helped by my two trips to NYC, where Broadway continues to showcase far more musicals than plays.

So, after looking back through programmes, my reviews and most crucially, my memories, these are the standout productions for me in 2017!

1. Hamlet (Almeida/Harold Pinter) & Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)

There was one production, for which I had huge expectations and on first seeing it in February, was so impressed by, that it seemed certain to claim my top spot. Well, that was until three weeks ago when I finally witnessed the newest musical to hit London. Therefore, this year’s top spot has to be shared between the Almeida’s utterly stunning production of Hamlet and Lin Manuel Miranda’s incredible musical, Hamilton. It was impossible to choose between them, as they both took my breath away in a way nothing else matched in 2017.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare play and Robert Icke’s production managed to exceed my expectations. You can read more thoughts in full on this here, but in short, it is a production that made Hamlet new again. It was thrilling, original, emotional and exciting, pulling new people to the theatre and Shakespeare and had me seeing scenes I know so well in a whole new light. Supported by a strong ensemble cast, led by the incredibly talented Andrew Scott, this was a sheer joy each and every time I saw it. It will be airing on the BBC in 2018, so don’t miss it!

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

And then there was Hamilton. Everyone has heard of it, whether you know all the words, or nothing other than the hype. Crucially for me, a Hamilton newbie on my first visit, it more than lived up to the hype. My first visit was the 2nd preview and already the cast was so good, you could believe they had been performing it for years. You can read my full review, but in summary, it’s an intelligent, exhilarating and unforgettable theatrical experience that you will want to relive over and over again.

2. Ink (Almeida Theatre)

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Next on my list is another success from the Almeida Theatre, which continues to go from strength to strength under Rupert Goold. Having missed this show in Islington, I’m so pleased it moved to the West End, as it’s just too good to miss. The play, written by James Graham, whose previous work I’d thoroughly enjoyed (This House, The Vote & Privacy), shines a light on the first year of  The Sun newspaper under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. You may not think it’s your cup of tea, but it’s a fascinating insight in to the creation of the tabloid, which manages to be sharp, gripping and incredibly funny during its running time. I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did and that’s thanks to the brilliant writing, but also the calibre of the acting, with two superb central performances by Richard Coyle as editor Larry Lamb and Bertie Carvel (who just doesn’t look like Bertie Carvel!) as Murdoch. It closes on 6th January, so if you can still make time to see it, I urge you to do so.

3. Angels In America (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

There was huge anticipation before Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking American play returned to the NT 25 years after its original production, with tickets selling out almost instantly. I had never read it, nor seen the HBO miniseries, but I knew this was a must-see due to the casting choices and was lucky enough to experience two separate “two-play days” over its run. It was not a comfortable play to watch, set in America during the mid-1980s, as AIDs caused the deaths of so many in the gay community, but was a sweeping theatrical epic, told across eight hours, which laid bare the horrors of the disease, the pain of those suffering from it and those who love them, as well as highlighting the difficulty many had in accepting their sexuality.

Marianne Elliot, one of Britain’s finest directors, ensures this is a powerful production, which takes hold of your emotions and holds on to them until the very end. The cast was also a treat, with Nathan Lane shining as the equally humorous and vicious Roy Cohn, Russell Tovey impressing as the ambitious Republican lawyer confused and afraid of his true sexuality, together with Denise Gough as his fragile, yet often darkly humorous wife, James McArdle as the man struggling to cope with the possibility of watching his lover die, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the wonderfully supportive and witty friend Belize and Andrew Garfield, as Prior Walter, trying to cope with his diagnosis and illness, the loss of his partner and the strage dream-like visitations from a rather scary looking angel. It was sensational and I’m thrilled to be able to see it again on Broadway next spring (with most of the London cast). Ticket details can be found at:

4. Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box Theatre, NYC)

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen was another show I had heard a lot of buzz about, but had managed to avoid listening to, before my trip to NYC in May. Personally, I prefer to see a musical fresh, without knowing all the lyrics in advance. I therefore didn’t know what to expect and a few hours and a few tissues later, I had another highlight of my year in the bag. The story of the show may be a little uncomfortable when you hear it – a shy teenager, isolated from the world because he feels he doesn’t fit in, finds himself at the centre of a local tragedy and its aftermath, through which he is able to find his place and his voice, as well as love and a family environment he feels he has never had.

Why did I love it so much? Well, the songs are rather lovely, the acting is superb (I saw the original cast on both of my two visits) and its central message that no one is alone; that we just need to reach out for help, is one that is more important than ever in the crazy world we live in now. However, on top of all of that was the simply breathtaking Ben Platt as Evan. It was an emotionally raw, incredibly moving, vulnerable performance, during which you truly believed Evan was real. How Platt was able to give such a performance emotionally and vocally (his voice reminded me of the first time I heard Josh Groban on Ally McBeal) through tears, I will never know. Yes, I cried. A lot. It was a privilege to witness something that will be talked about for years to come. Read my full review if you want to know more.

5. An Octoroom (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond)

Photo credit: The Other Richard

After years of meaning to visit, I finally made it to Richmond’s wonderful Orange Tree Theatre this year and what a show to start with! Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ play (more from him later) was one I heard about through word of mouth. Everyone I knew who saw it, loved it and it was easy to understand why. Shows like this one are what theatre is made for; a show that was so original, inventive, powerful and funny and which turned stereotypes on their heads and made you laugh one moment, before being deeply moved the next. The play uses the plot of the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama The Octoroon to shine a light on identity, race and culture in a way I hadn’t experienced before. The cast were wonderful, including Ken Nwosu, who has three different roles to tackle, sometimes two at once, Celeste Dodwell as Dora and Iola Evans as Zoe. Luckily, for anyone who missed it (or, those of us desperate to go again), it will have a run at the National Theatre next year, so add it to your must book list!

6. Consent (Dorfman, National Theatre)

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Another favourite from early in the year was Nina Raine’s new play, which dealt with the difficult and emotive subject of assault and the perceptions and attitudes that surround what is and what is not consent, made all the more fascinating by having the key characters be criminal barristers, now experiencing the issues from a very personal perspective. It was strongly written, superbly acted (including Anna Maxwell Martin and Adam James) and gave me plenty to think about for quite a while afterwards.

7. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Harold Pinter Theatre)

Photo credit: Johan Persson

Otherwise known as Imelda Staunton’s first hit of 2017, this was my first time seeing a production of Edward Albee’s play and it will take some beating, as Staunton unleashed her incredible force on to the stage, as the domineering Martha. Her chemistry and interplay with Conleth Hill, as her husband George was at times deeply uncomfortable to watch, as they emotionally attacked each other, but three hours have never flown quite so quickly. You can read my full review for further thoughts.

8. Follies (Olivier, National Theatre)

Photo credit: Johan Persson

To say I’m not a huge musicals fan, the fact three are in this list says quite a lot about how much I enjoyed Follies, especially as, I admit, I’m not a huge Sondheim fan either! A musical that takes a nostalgic look back at a different time, through the eyes of its four central characters, I loved the blending of the past and present, to highlight young hopes and dreams and how life changes us, as we grow older. The central performances, particularly Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton were phenomenal, yet, it was the entire ensemble that brought the story to life so vividly on stage, from Tracie Bennett and Di Botcher, through to Josephine Barstow and Alison Langer’s incredible operatic duet. Combine this with a live orchestra and the glorious utilisation of the Olivier stage to put on a true spectacle and this was a show I enjoyed so much, that I had to go back and see it for a second time.

9. Gloria (Hampstead Theatre)

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The second entry for Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins in my list was the heart-stopping Gloria. With a pre-interval twist (well, I admit, I did see it coming) that required a sealed section in the programme, it provided one of the most shocking theatre moments of the year, whether you were expecting it or not. Jenkins’s writing brilliantly lays the foundations for that moment from the start (on a second visit, I was able to appreciate this even more), but this didn’t make it any less traumatic to watch, turning the second half in to an analysis of how we all deal with trauma differently. Would it break you, or would you capitalise on it for personal, monetary gain? This question is answered with dark humour, as we see how the characters are changed by what has gone before. Director Michael Longhurst did a superb job with the staging (including that pre-interval moment) and the acting was fantastic (including Colin Morgan and Kae Alexander to name just two). You can read both my spoiler and spoiler-free reviews for more details.

10. Oslo (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

Photo credit:Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

I had wanted to see this Tony award-winning play in New York, but decided to wait for its arrival at the National Theatre, where a ticket would cost me a fraction of the price. It was certainly worth the wait, proving to be an insightful, intelligent, engaging play about the lead up to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine; a story I knew almost nothing about. It may have been long, but it certainly didn’t feel it, as JT Rogers’ script moved us through the ups and downs of the behind the scenes negotiations, where a Norwegian couple unexpectedly found themselves at the centre of such important talks. The acting was very good (putting aside Toby Stephens’ wavering accent) and I left the theatre keen to learn more about the subject matter, which, following recent world events seems more relevant than ever. Oslo finishes tomorrow (30th December), so you still have a couple of days left to catch it if you are quick.

11. The Ferryman (Royal Court Theatre / Wyndham’s Theatre)

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

It’ll come as no surprise that Jez Butterworth’s latest play makes my list, as it is appearing on every 2017 theatre list at the moment and with good reason. Following the wonderful plays Jerusalem and The River, his latest success tells a powerful story, set in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1981, which weaves The Troubles in to the history of one family and their struggle to confront the past and move forward. This may have been Paddy Considine’s stage debut, but he was superb and had fantastic chemistry with Laura Donnelly. I laughed, I gasped and held my breath as the tension grew. The Ferryman continues to run at the Wyndham’s Theatre until at least May 2018 and it is certainly worth a visit.

12. Network (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

Photo credit:Jan Versweyveld

I had never seen the film the play is based on and so didn’t really know what to expect, my excitement peaked by the chance of seeing Bryan Cranston on stage and he certainly didn’t disappoint, as the news anchor, who has finally had enough of the world and decides to let everyone watching know exactly how fed up he is. The production’s staging is quirky, but the on-stage audience restaurant did feel a little unnecessary to me. However, with such a powerful, commanding central performance from Cranston, you couldn’t help but be drawn in. Plus, hearing almost 1000 people shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” in unison was quite a unique experience, which in 2017 couldn’t have been more timely. Although tickets are scarce, you have until 24th March to try and see this production.

13. King Lear (Minerva Theatre, Chichester)

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

There had to be some Shakespeare in my top productions of the year list and this year it was Chichester’s production of King Lear, which I admit isn’t one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. However, this version, with such a brilliantly talented cast, managed to bring both intimacy and a sense of vast scope to the small space of the Minerva theatre. Ian McKellen was excellent in the lead role, clearly revelling in having a second chance to take on Lear and he had strong support from a cast that included Kirsty Bushell, Dervla Kirwan and Danny Webb.


So, those are the productions that truly stood out for me in 2017 and which I’d happily see again in a heartbeat. Special mentions also to The Girls (a musical that deserved a longer London life), Jodie Prenger’s heartwarming Shirley Valentine and a final visit to Groundhog Day in NYC (Broadway, I’m still disappointed in you for letting this one go so soon).

I’d love to hear your highlights! Over the next couple of days I’ll be continuing by look back at the theatre year, with my most memorable theatre moments from the last twelve months and my favourite performances.





Tips for First Time Visitors to the Victoria Palace Theatre for Hamilton


Hamilton has finally arrived in London, with previews beginning a few days ago. In 2015, I wrote a post on this blog containing tips for those travelling to London to see the Barbican’s Hamlet and as so many found it useful, I thought I’d try and think of some helpful tips for anyone new to the area, coming to see Hamilton. As I’ve already seen the show twice here, I can also give some insight in to the entry process. Oh and I’ve also written my thoughts, as a newcomer to the show, which you can read here if you’re interested.

1. Getting There

The Victoria Palace Theatre is very easy to get to, due to the fact it is located so close to the Victoria underground station! If you want to go straight to the theatre on arrival in Victoria, take the Cardinal Place exit from the underground station and you will exit on the same side of the road as the theatre, which will be to your right. The photo below shows this exit and the theatre is just hidden by the station itself. It is also worth downloading the Citymapper app to your phone, as this is an easy way of finding out the best route to somewhere in London.


There is also a useful map via the Delfont Mackintosh website here: Area Map

and another here: Victoria Palace Theatre – Google Map

2. When to arrive?

The theatre recommends that you arrive 60 minutes beforehand, although it is opening 90 minutes before the performance time (6 p.m. for evening shows and 1 p.m. for matinees). The queue to enter does move quickly (provided you have the right documents ready – more on that below), but the advantage of arriving early is that you have more time to join the merchandise queues! There are kiosks on stalls and circle levels, but the queues do get quite long, so make time for it if you plan to buy anything. Hopefully an online shop and perhaps even a physical shop, as in NYC will open in the future, but for the moment, the kiosks are the only option.

3. Meeting the rest of your party?

As all of your party must be together before you are allowed to enter the theatre, you should arrange to meet at a designated spot. The area in front of the theatre can get quite busy the nearer it gets to show time, so I’d suggest standing to the side, or meeting outside the tube station.

4. What do you need to bring with you to enter?

On both of my trips to see the show this week, the process for entry has been very strict, but very efficient too. Unlike other shows where you are told you’ll need ID and then no one checks it, the Victoria Palace is very serious about its requirements, to try and dissuade people from buying inflated tickets on a secondary market.

Only join the queue to enter once all of your party has arrived, as you won’t be allowed entry until then. You will be asked to present your email ticket confirmation, photo I.D (passport or driver’s licence) and the credit/debit card that you paid with. After documents have been checked, you’ll be directed to a door to enter, on which your bag will be checked. Following the bag check, you’ll enter the theatre and your credit/debit card will be swiped and your souvenir ticket slip will be printed. At that point – you’re in!

5. Inside the theatre / Seating chart?


The newly refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre is a lovely theatre, with plenty of bars on its various levels, as well as lots of toilets! Above is the Ticketmaster seating chart and a couple of my photos from the inside of the auditorium are below. I’ve also added a link to the indispensable resource that is Theatremonkey, which offers insight in to seats and their views of London’s theatres and will become very helpful once seat reviews of the newly refurbished building start to be submitted.



6. Food & Drink

There are plenty of places to eat around the area of the theatre, thanks to the regeneration that has been taking place for the last few years. There is everything on offer, no matter your budget or taste, for example sandwiches and snacks from Pret, Costa and Eat, or various restaurants including Bills, Browns, Jamie’s Italian, Zizzi, Wagamama. Oh and there’s also a Shake Shack for those in need of a good burger! A great site on the Victoria area can be found at the Create Victoria website:

7. Stage Door

The stage door itself is out of sight at the moment, due to the on-going building works. However, for those hoping for autographs, there is an area behind some barriers at the side of the theatre, where fans can gather to wait for any actors who exit that way, but there are no guarantees of who you will see and whether they will stop to sign. Wrap up warm though, as it gets very cold!

8. Still looking for tickets?


Although most tickets for the first block of dates have been sold, you can still pick up tickets in a variety of ways:

(a) Official Website – Keep checking the website for availability, as the odd ticket is still available for certain performances until June 2018. Tickets for the next booking block (from July 2018 onwards) will be released in the next booking period. Visit the website here: Tickets

(b) Daily lottery – £10 tickets are available every day via the Hamilton lottery. To enter, you need to download the official Hamilton app from the website, or enter online. Lotteries open at 4 p.m. and close at 2 p.m. the following day. You can enter for a maximum of two tickets in each lottery draw.

(c) Late Release Premium Tickets – A limited number of premium-priced tickets will be released online at 12 noon every Monday for all of the following week’s performances.

(d) Standing Tickets – As yet, there are no standing tickets available, but the website refers to further details of the Grand Circle (top tier) stand-in tickets being announced at a later date.


If I think of anything else that may be useful, I’ll be sure to add it to this post! Enjoy the show!