A Year of Theatre

In 2018 I decided to expand on my annual trip to the theatre on New Years Eve by having ‘A Year of Theatre’. I’d started to see more theatre in 2018 but expanded things this year. It’s been such an amazing experience I won’t be stopping in 2019. I really wish I’d written about each play/show I’ve seen but I didn’t go that route. So, by way of keeping a record for myself I’m going to list each play with key actors and maybe a comment or two. (Photos and links to follow)

1. Glengarry Glenn Ross – Playhouse Theatre – Christian Slater, Robert Glenister, Kris Marshall, Stanley Townsend, Don Warrington, Daniel Ryan and Oliver Ryan 

The year started with a play I really didn’t enjoy, I booked because I wanted to see Christian Slater and he was worth going for. But the play itself I didn’t enjoy at all, there was far too much swearing and I found the content quite pointless. The accents of the English actors were poor.

2. 42nd Street – Theatre Royal

The sheer scale of this show has to be seen to be believed, it was like watching one of the films I’d see as a child, with a stage full of dancers. Thoroughly enjoyable!

3. Anthony & Cleopatra – The Barbican, Josette Simon, Anthony Byrne

How I got to my age without seeing Shakespeare live I don’t know! I was joined by my good friend Monica for this one. The Barbican is a different experience, the seats are comfortable! While I enjoyed this play, I found it heavy going and decided I should probably watch Shakespeare in the afternoon, I did feel sleepy in the first half.

4. Beginning – Ambassador’s Theatre – Sam Throughton, Justine Mitchell

I was nervous about this one, having been so disappointed by Glengarry, but wow, I loved it! My seat was in the front row of the stalls, which almost made me feel I was in the room with the 2 actors. This is a modern tale, teh acting held the audience for the duration, it was funny, witty and incredibly touching. (no photo for this one)

5. Boycott & Aggers Live – The New Wimbledon Theatre

As a long term cricket fan this was a magical evening, a mix of chat and video footage it was well worth the horror drive my Satnav took my friend Stella and I on!

6. Beauty & The Beast in Concert – The Royal Festival Hall, The Novello Orchestra

My first experience of a live orchestra and wow it was a bit special! The live Disney film with the beautiful music played by the Novello Orchestra was magical. It was strange, however, that a good third of the audience walked out as soon as the film credits rolled, it was as if they’d forgotten they were there for the orchestra! One of the benefits of going into London to watch lie theatre etc is the chance to see the sites of our Capital City (as above)

7. Rope – Queens Theatre Hornchurch – James Sutton, George Kemp

An entertaining Comedy/Thriller with James Sutton of Hollyoaks fame, it’s good to watch actors close up, from Row C thanks to my lovely friend Sheila!

8. Classical Spectacular – Royal Albert Hall

This does what it says on the tin, the very best of British in a wonderful setting, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra taking centre stage. It’s a flag waving, patriotic affair with Orchestra, Choral singing, Dancing and Opera. I went with my friends Stella and Tina to this, my partners in crime for several New Years Eve Theatre jaunts.

9. 5 Guys Named Moe – Marble Arch pop up Theatre –

I have to show you a trailer for this one – I went with my friend Maria and met the lovely Linda Jonpierre there, at that time Linda was a theatrical agent, (more of Linda later!) she knew several of the Moe’s , which meant we were lucky enough to meet all 5 after the show! The theatre was an unusual one, almost a circus tent. The performance, spectacular, all singing, all dancing https://www.fiveguysmusical.com/about/ 

10. Kindertransport – Queens Theatre – Hornchurch

A poignant, heartbreaking tale exploring a Mother’s past and her relationship with her daughter. Another visit to the theatre with Sheila, John and Roma.

11. Simon & Garfunkel Story – Lyric Theatre

I arrived at the theatre which was decked out in Michael Jackson hoardings, there was a small bill board advertising the show I was going to see. I thought I was seeing a tribute act to start with, and I guess in a way I was, but this was so much more. The performers played and sung Simon & Garfunkel, but they also told their story through talk and film footage of the time.

12. The Best Man – Playhouse Theatre – Martin Shaw, Glynis Barber, Jack Shepherd, Maureen Lipman

A star studded cast back at the theatre that housed the one play I didn’t enjoy in 2018. This was a group pf mostly English actors playing Americans. But this time they got the accents right and the play itself was very entertaining. It was great to see some of this cast in the flesh after watching them on a screen for years

13. Harold & Maude – Charing Cross Theatre – Sheila Hancock,

The wonder of seeing Sheila Hancock live on stage, a funny little play, she was wonderful!

14. Hamlet – Hackney Empire – Paapa Essiedu

https://hackneyempire.co.uk/whats-on/hamlet-royal-shakespeare-company/

I’ve highlighted Paapa Essiedu because his performance was an outstanding one. A Royal Shakespeare production in a beautiful old building, The language was more accessible than Anthony & Cleopatra, which made this more enjoyable for me.

15. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – The Royal Festival Hall

My first true experience of an Orchestra in full flow, I was joined by the lovely Linda, we were lucky to be upgraded to great seats and it was marvellous!

16. Frozen – Haymarket Theatre – Suranne Jones, Nina Sosanya, Jason Watkins

Nothing like the film of the same title, this was a chilling tale of the loss of a child and the child murderer. As someone who’s lost a son it touched a nerve with me. A sensitive subject brilliantly portrayed.

17. Fanny & Alexander – The Old Vic – Penelope Wilton

https://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2018/fanny-alexander/cast

My first visit to the Old Vic, this was on the same day as Frozen and was again some serous theatre. A family tale, Penelope Wilton was amazing but the real stars of the show were the 2 children, Fanny & Alexandra 1

18. Kinky Boots – The Adelphi Theatre

http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk/synopsis.php

I couldn’t understand how people went to see a show or play more than once until I saw Kinky Boots. What a feel good show this is, wonderful songs and the spectacle of men with legs up to my armpits dancing in 6 inch heels – one of my must see shows!

19. Dream Girls – The Savoy Theatre

Having seen Mowtown in 2017 it was interesting to see a slightly different take on the Diana Ross Story, an upgrade saw me sitting in a great seat in the stalls. The anthem from the show – And I am telling you I’m Not Going – was amazing to hear live, worth the ticket money on its own.

20. The Grinning Man – Trafalgar Studios

Another double theatre day, so a stroll along the Strand to the Trafalgar Studios. I loved the theatre and the production too, there was puppetry included, which was very cleverly done. Very different to the Dream Girls, I was captivated by the story and the acting.

20. Amadeus _ The National Theatre – Lucian Msamati, Adam Gillen

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/amadeus

This was quite honestly, wow! Adam Gillen as Mozart was incredible and Lucian Msamati wasn’t far behind. I got the feeling during the year that some theatres only deal in excellence and that certainly held for the National.

21. Kinky Boots – The Adelphi

My first double if that makes sense, this time I went with my good friends Alun and Sharon, it was great to share this wonderful show with them.

22. Strictly Ballroom – Piccadilly Theatre – Will Young

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/apr/24/strictly-ballroom-the-musical-review-baz-luhrmann-dancefloor-disaster

Another trip with my lovely friend Monica, this time we paid £10 to be upgraded to great seats in the stalls. I am a Will Young fan and he didn’t disappoint. I don’t think I’ve seen the film to compare, but I loved the show! Dancing, singing and Will, what wasn’t to love! The reviewer above disagrees with me, but I enjoyed the show!

23. Quiz – Noel Coward Theatre

https://www.whatsonstage.com/west-end-theatre/reviews/quiz-noel-coward-james-graham_46268.html

Based on the scandal of cheating in Who Wants to be A Millionaire this was a very clever play, portraying events 2 different ways and asking the audience to vote on guilt, it produced some interesting results.

24. Chess – The Colisseum – Michael Ball, Alexandra Burke, Cassidy Janson

https://www.eno.org/whats-on/chess/

This theatre takes the prize for the most uncomfortable seat I sat in during the year! The production itself was on a different level to most musicals I saw. Michael Ball has the most amazing voice, one everyone should try to hear live at least once. And another signature song, I Know Him So Well was beautifully performed, it brought a tear to my eye.

25. Priscilla Queen of The Desert – Queens Theatre

Another trip with Sheila and John and what a joyful, poignant show this was! Again we were up close to the stage and wow it was great!

26. Mood Music – The Old Vic – Ben Chaplin, Jemma Redgrave, Neil Stuke

https://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2018/mood-music/cast

An interesting look at the Music industry, I’d bought a seat in the top tier at the Old Vic which then wasn’t open, I ended up with a wonderful view of what was an intriguing play.

27. The Ideal Husband – The Vaudeville Theatre – Edward Fox, Freddie Fox, Francis Barber, Susan Hampshire

https://www.londontheatredirect.com/play/852/an-ideal-husband-tickets.aspx

My first Oscar Wilde Play, I went with my good friends Alun and Sharon to this one. Harking back to gentler days I thoroughly enjoyed this, a star studded cast added to the magic.

28. The Moderate Soprano – The Duke of York Theatre

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/apr/12/the-moderate-soprano-review-david-hares-glyndebourne-play-hits-the-high-notes

This play was in a way a history lesson as well as entertainment, it told the tale of Glyndebourne, another gentle tale it’s a tale of a marriage as much as the start of an institution.

29. Matilda – The Cambridge Theatre

https://www.londontheatre.co.uk/show/matilda-the-musical

A joyous musical, the children are quite simply amazing! The experience was spoilt slightly by a family who thought it was fine to talk loudly all the way through.

30. Sleeping Beauty – The Coliseum – The English National Ballet

As I’m writing this up I realise how much time I spent with good friends at the theatre in 2018, This time it was Sue and Henry who kindly booked the tickets a long way in advance. A magical experience, we were in Row B so could literally hear the points on the stage floor.

31. Macbeth – The National Theatre – Rory Kinnear, Anne- Marie Duff

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/macbeth

Keeping things highbrow with a bit of Shakespeare, I was interested to see Anne-Marie Duff on stage and she didn’t disappoint, The National is a lovely theatre, no fear of poor leg room, its almost like sitting in a comfy chair at home!

32. Macbeth – The Royal Shakespeare Stratford-upon-Avon – Christopher Ecclestone, Niamh Cusak

https://www.rsc.org.uk/macbeth/

This was the culmination of a 10 day trip watching England beat Australia at cricket. What a treat to watch an actor as accomplished as Christopher Ecclestone at the RSC in Stratford. It was interesting to see how different this version was to the play I’d seen at the National. The witches were children in this version. I preferred Ecclestone as Macbeth and Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth.

33. The Lieutenant of Inishmore – The Noel Coward Theatre – Aidan Turner

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/jul/04/the-lieutenant-of-inishmore-review-aidan-turner-martin-mcdonagh

The chance to see Poldark on the stage! Who wouldn’t! I was very lucky with this one, I met a lovely American lady Elsie outside of the theatre, we went for a drink and then sat together to watch what was a highly entertaining, funny play. Aidan Turner was great, but Chris Conway and Denis were the stars of the play for me, their comedic timing was brilliant!

34. Killer Joe – The Trafalgar Studios – Orlando Bloom

https://www.thestage.co.uk/opinion/2018/killer-joe-starring-orlando-bloom-trafalgar-studios-london-review-round/

Now then, I admit I booked this because Orlando Bloom was the lead, I then spent the whole of the first act telling myself he was much taller and greyer than I’d imagined before I had to tell myself it wasn’t Orlando at all. I’d missed the emails offering me a different date to ensure I saw the star of the big screen. However I didn’t really mind , his understudy James Groom was great as ‘Killer Joe”, the play was an interesting one, with one of the central themes not sitting very well in todays society. But, I enjoyed Killer Joe in spite of no Orlando and the Non PC nature.

35. Consent – The Harold Pinter Theatre

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/consent-harold-pinter-theatre

A National Theatre Production in the West End, this was a very modern tale as suggesting looking at the whole question of Consent, played out across relationships of those dealing with a court case. Thought provoking!

36. It Happened in Key West – The Charring Cross Theatre – Wade McCollum

https://www.keywestmusical.com

This was weird in the extreme, based on a perverse true story, it was very probably one of my favourite musicals of the year. Wade McCollum opened his mouth to sing, and what came out was quite simply incredible. A Broadway actor it was a privilege to watch him perform and help make this funny tale into an amusing musical.

37. Pirates of Penzance – Hatfield Forest

Some opera in the Forest – With Alun and Sharon we were very lucky with the weather and I was very lucky they were far more organised with a lovely picnic. A very enjoyable way to spend an evening.

38. Abigail’s Party – Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

This was one I didn’t really get, so didn’t overly enjoy. The acting was very good, but maybe the subject matter was rather dated. A trip with Sheila and John, Sheila and I looked at each other at the end and uttered some surprised words (not to be repeated here)

39. You Win Again – Towngate Theatre Basildon

This was a trip with my god friend Monica, while the performances of the ‘Bee Gees’ were very good I’m afraid we both spent an awful lot of our time laughing, which was bad. Almost like two teenagers, I certainly got into that hysterical mode. It certainly made for a fun evening.

40. The Importance of Being Earnest – The Vaudeville Theatre

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2018/importance-earnest-sophie-thompson-review-vaudeville-theatre-london/

A second Oscar Wilde play, the review above isn’t very complimentary, but one of the benefits of going in cold is that I had no preconceptions of how things should have been. I enjoyed the play, I went with Alun and Sharon, we had our second attempt at watching The Little Shop of Horrors in Regents Park in the afternoon, to be rained off for the second time. We spent the afternoon in the IMax cinema in Leicester Square watching The House with Clocks in its Walls on an enormous screen! The play was a delight.

41. Simon & Garfunkel – The Lyric Theatre

My second viewing of this musical, Alun & Sharon’s first. A real reminder of just how good the music of the original artists is.

42. Exit The King – The National Theatre – Rhys Ifans

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/exit-the-king

An extremely weird affair, but, the chance to watch Rhys Ifans, who was fantastic. Bizarrely the two elderly ladies sat next to me with fell asleep at times during the performance!

43 & 45. Once – The Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/once/

It was the Queens so this was an evening with Sheila and John, this was one of the best things I’ve seen at the theatre. This is a mix between a musical performance and a show, the songs are lovely and they were perfectly performed, so much so that Sheila and I went twice while it was running.

44. Pinter 1 – The Harold Pinter Theatre – Paapa Essiedu, Kate O’Flynn, Jonjo O’Neill, Antony Sher,

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2018/pinter-at-the-pinter-review-at-the-harold-pinter-theatre/

This was once I should probably have read about before I went, I literally had no idea what was going on for the duration. However the acting was amazing, Paapa Essiedu and Kate O’Flynn in particular were brilliant, and how wonderful to see Anthony Sher on the stage!

45. Love – The Queens Theatre Hornchurch

https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/love/

A National Trust production at the Queens, Sheila and I went along to this one. An powerful portrayal of life in temporary accommodation, with heartfelt performances showing the difficulty of living in close quarters with strangers

46. Misty – Trafalgar Studios – Arinze Kene

https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/misty-trafalgar-studios-arinze-kene_47592.html

I booked this at the last minute and really had no idea what I was going to see. I arrived early so sat in the bar chatting to a young man who knew very well what we were there to see, he’d been there several times. Arinze Kene performed that was pretty much a one man show, his was the best performance of the year in a year when I saw many great actors and performances . Kene performed his own work, a look at what it means to live in London from the perspective of a black man. It was entertaining and incredibly powerful, I was still saying wow as I walked to my front door an hour and a half after the play had finished.

47. A Guide For The Homesick – Trafalgar Studios

This was in the small studio at The Trafalgar Studios and the day after I saw Misty, I wasn’t quite ready for another play after the power of Arinze Kene, but I did enjoy this 2 man play about 2 strangers who meet up in Amsterdam.

48. Haunting Julia – Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/haunting-julia/

Another theatre trip with Sheila and John, another unusual production exploring grief and the supernatural. Another enjoyable evening.

49. Pinter 3 – The Harold Pinter Theatre – Keith Allen, Tom Edden, Lee Evans, Tamsin Greig and Meera Syal

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2018/pinter-3-lee-evans-tamsin-greig-review-harold-pinter-theatre-london/

Another slightly strange gig, I thoroughly enjoyed this set. Lee Evans was a revelation, his timing was immaculate and this was a very funny evening. It was also another evening that I didn’t really understand, but I enjoyed it all the same.

50. Summer & Smoke – The Duke of York Theatre – Matthew Needham, Patsy Ferran

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/mar/08/summer-and-smoke-review-tennessee-williams-patsy-ferran-almeida

A wonderful play, Patsy Ferran was sublime I enjoyed this Tennessee Williams play so much I took my daughter to watch it over Christmas

51. Pinter 4 – The Harold Pinter Theatre – Robert Glenister, Bríd Brennan, Janie Dee, Isis Hainsworth, Peter Polycarpou, Dwane Walcott, Al Weaver, Jessica Barden, Abbie Finn

This was my third Pinter production and I was working things out by now. 2 plays in this one, Moonlight and Night School. Pinter is clearly nothing buy unusual but I’m learning to enjoy.

52. The Book of Mormon – The Prince of Wales Theatre

https://thebookofmormonmusical.com/london/show/

I’d been told time and again to go and see this show, and I’m so glad I finally made it! It is fantastic, highly irreverent, funny and the performers are to a ‘man’ wonderful.

53. Chicago – The Phoenix Theatre – Caroline Flack, Todrick Hall

https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/chicago-phoenix-theatre-cuba-gooding-jr_46281.html

I did something I hadn’t done all year for this one, walked into the box office on my way to The Book of Mormon and got a very good deal. Seats on the Stalls with a drink voucher for just £32.50. I met my friend Maria after BOM and we had a meal on Shaftesbury Avenue before walking round to the Phoenix. A very enjoyable show, but not a patch on BOM.

54. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – The Apollo Theatre

This was my first visit to watch Jamie in 2018, but I did see it on New Year’s Eve 2017. I loved it so much I was more than happy to go again, those time with Sue and Henry, in a box! Very posh, and the show was just as good second time round.

55. The Convert – The Young Vic – Jude Akuwudike, Paapa Essiedu, Ivanno Jeremiah, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Pamela Nomvete, Letitia Wright

https://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-convert

It may look like I’m stalking Paapa Essiedu and that would be because I’m going to try to watch everything he’s in, he’s a great actor. This play was no exception, another powerful production with an important message.

56. Aladdin – The New Wimbledon Theatre – Paul Merton, Lee Ryan, Pete Firman, Lauren Chia, Linda John-Pierre, Adam Pearce, Cassandra McCowan

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2018/aladdin-review-new-wimbledon-theatre/

And here is my lovely friend Linda! Performing as The Empress in this panto – Aladdin. Sheila and I went along to Wimbledon and had a wonderful time. I hadn’t been to a panto for years, but hadn’t forgotten how much fun it could be! Linda was great!

57. Summer & Smoke – The Duke of York’s Theatre

So good I saw it twice! Alexandra, my daughter loved it too!

58. Hansel & Gretel Go Down in the Woods – An Adult Panto – Hitchin

https://www.thecomet.net/what-s-on/theatre-arts/hitchin-adult-panto-at-market-theatre-1-5800847

I’m not sure this was finishing off the year in style, but it was certainly good fun. An evening with Alex, Alun and Sharon and a friend Oli. We laughed lots and I can see I’ll be finishing off 2019 the same way!

Hamilton is up next for me, Im going to write about each visit to the theatre in 2019


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