2012 was a big year for Britain… The Olympics and Paralympics in London, the Jubilee, numerous sporting and cultural events – including The World Shakespeare Festival, the Globe-to-Globe Festival, the biggest ever Edinburgh Fringe Festival and one hell of a lot of plays and musicals…
Who knows what 2013 has in store for us: the recent “speak-out” from Danny Boyle and Nicholas Hytner on the importance of regional theatre implies that this element of England’s theatrical scene is truly under threat. We can only hope that this lobbying will have some effect on Maria Miller, culture secretary. As Boyle says –
Not one of those [artistic directors, including Hytner] has been even approached by this woman […] That is outrageous. This is cultural life of our country. She is the minister of fucking culture. I mean, come on.”
Time will tell, and hopefully the pressure will continue. Big names hit London next year with exciting new fixtures including the Michael Grandage Company’s offerings – I’m particularly excited about the Whishaw/Dench combination later in the year, despite their ridiculous “we’re newbies!” marketing campaign – and the Tony-award winning smash hit The Book of Mormon. The Life of Galileo at the RSC should be good, but who knows what the rest of the year will hold after March when the Arts Council are due to announce their funding. What will the government do with the generation that it has “inspired” in 2012? Leave them hanging? Follow up on promises? Or drop them completely…? The playwright Fin Kennedy has launched a campaign alongside his petition against the Ebacc, in this case for theatre-makers urging them to document the effect of Arts Council cuts on their work – so fingers crossed for a continued group effort (get involved).
But what did happen this year? From this end, I can only report what I have seen – and can only document that for which I haven’t lost the ticket – and although for me 2012 has been my biggest theatrical year in terms of seeing and writing about theatre, there is so much I have missed. Nonetheless, the following is both a log of most of the shows seen, links to reviews and features, and the highlights of 2012.
JANUARY began with my old theatrical home in the West Midlands, catching Caroline Catz in Top Girls at the Warwick Arts Centre, alongside WUDS’s very own A Clockwork Orange – a film noir version that involved copious amounts of facepaint and some psychedelic set perspective. Shakespeare this month was restrictd to Bailey’s Taming of the Shrew at the RSC, a bed-time romp that made an interesting interpretation of the “Kate problem”. The RSC’s Matilda in London was a childhood dream – and swings will never be the same again.
FEBRUARY was less delicate with some slightly less comforting renaissance drama, with Cheek by Jowl’s audacious ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore on tour at the Warwick Arts Centre and the original incarnation of The Changeling at the Young Vic, which to my memory was considerably more disappointing than reviews seem to be saying it is this time around. Mogadishu caused havoc with its Midlands audience, and Whole Hog Theatre Company – who are producing Princess Mononoke with Studio Ghibli’s blessing at the New Diorama in April next year – had their inaugural production, Dangerous Liaisons.
I saw Jerusalem for the second time in MARCH at the Loft theatre in Leamington Spa, in its first amateur production. Without the sterling cast of the Ian Rickson production, some characters didn’t read – an interesting insight into the most recent British “modern classic”. Orla O’Loughlin’s touching For Once at the Warwick Arts Centre spurred me on no end with my own production of Agatha which showed at the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning in Coventry. Student writing flourished elsewhere with Warwick’s own Vile Bodies also showing at the V&A in London. The month ended with a trip to New York – which included a rather ridiculous War Horse – that was only saved from its huge, loud audience with some astonishing puppetry.
APRIL brought a tonsillectomy and a disappointing Comedy of Errors at the RSC. The Chis Mullins diaries in the form of A Walk on Part at the Soho Theatre were a merciful break from domestic monotony, but I didn’t venture out much otherwise.
More student work in MAY included Joe Boylan’s intimate and classy production of Statements After Arrest Under the Immorality Act at IATL in Coventry, and Lulu Raczka’s Knock was similarly small and claustrophobic in a site specific location. There was student writing in the WAC Studio again with Lovely Rita which couldn’t match Kathyn Hunter’s mesmerizing Kafka’s Monkey in the same space. At the Belgrade theatre in Coventry, there were two raucous and musical productions, Propeller’s The Winter’s Tale and a problematic Avenue Q. I ventured down to London to have my brain broken by Simon Stephen’s Three Kingdoms – doesn’t that man write lots of plays?!
In JUNE Our Fathers in the Warwick Arts Centre studio was a lovely little piece, honest and careful in comparison with The Blake Diptych: Experience which, although image-powerful and full of ideas, ultimately failed to come off. Doran’s Julius Caesar at the RSC nearly caused a domestic rift, as I was totally uninspired – apparently unlike everyone else who saw it. I fell in love with GATZ – my favourite book done superbly – and was underwhelmed by Democracy at the Old Vic. Student-wise, I saw a soaring Kiss of the Spiderwoman and The Pillowman both in the WAC Studio, the latter of which was long-listed for NSDF 2013.
JULY was a quiet one, only seeing The Tempest at the RSC, with a wonderful Jonathan Slinger: I’m looking forward to his Hamlet this year. All the while preparing for a MEGA:
AUGUST. My biggest fringe yet, both reviewing and performing (never again…). I wrote a Picks of the fringe feature if you want the shortened version, but for the more hardcore, here’s the full list:
Blink, The Economist, Vitamin, Request Programme, The Shit, Mephisto Waltz, Swamp Juice, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Thread, The Boy With Tape on His Face: More Tape, How a Man Crumbled, A Strange Wild Song, Bane (2), Inheritance Blues, Roma, Medicine Show, What The Heart Remembers, What I Heard About The World, The Most Dangerous Toy, From Harry to Houdini, Piatto Finale, Death Boogie, Strip Search, The Pride, The Blind, Dream Plays (Scenes From A Play I’ll Never Write), Everything Else Happened, Peter Panic, Rambling in an Empty Room, Boris and Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure, Duality, Bottleneck, Wrecked, After the Rainfall, (remor) and Swordy-Well.
After which I had to lie in a darkened room.
I moved to London in SEPTEMBER and caught both Morning (having missed it in Edinburgh) and Desire Under the Elms at the Lyric. I was also lucky enough to go to the opening night of Twelfth Night at the Globe theatre, and was inches away from Mark Rylance’s Dalek-like Olivia.
OCTOBER brought a Ding Dong The Wicked that I can’t really remember from the Royal Court, a sorry swap for the Love and Information tickets I was unable to get. I was overjoyed to see a friend of mine in Loserville which had a sorry script but some dazzling young talent.
I started to wind down in NOVEMBER with a spooky but slightly cheesy (which is great if you like that sort of thing) The Bodyguard Musical, and a truly appalling Damned by Despair at the National. I was entertained by Dr Ezra Tallboy’s Travelling Nightmares by Kill the Beast! and I am extremely excited for their London transfer of the Lowry-developed The Boy Who Kicked Pigs in 2013.
DECEMBER was my final 2012 theatrical fling, which began with Seussical! for which I interviewed the charming David Hunter. A Christmas Writer’s Bloc at the Old Red Lion was a good laugh, and I’m looking forward to Fat Git’s Winky when it goes to the Soho theatre next year. Both Ignorance at the Hampstead downstairs and Julius Caesar at the Donmar were trying to be too clever (there’s more to say but no space to say it…) and my final trips to the National this year included a pompous but ultimately lovely The Magistrate, and Alan Bennett’s quite wonderful People, which also brought about this encounter…
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s quite enough for one year! 78 shows seen – it’s a new record. Happy New Year to all – may your next be as bright and theatrical as my previous!