Tag Archives: LDNTheatreBloggers

Top 10 Theatre Shows of 2014

You’re asking me to pick just 10?

I’ve basically binged on theatre this year, totting up over 50 different shows, some with multiple visits. Thank goodness reviewing has permitted me to see a few shows for free (Thank you to Bargain Theatre and #LDNTheatreBloggers for letting me see shows with you/on your behalf and lessening the impact on my bank balance). The vast majority of what I’ve seen this year has been of a really high standard, which has made it hard to choose. I should point out that the ranking on the first few is purely arbitrary – they’ve made it into my top 10 ahead of 3 or 4 other shows that I really really liked.

10. 1984 – Playhouse Theatre
Oh God, this was harrowing. I can’t say it was an enjoyable play to watch, but as a piece of theatre, it was incredible. Every bit as visceral, unnerving and horrifying as I expected it to be. For theatre that moves you to feel something, it doesn’t get much better than this.

9. Ring – Battersea Arts Centre
This was probably the best piece of audio theatre that I’ve experienced this year. This show proves just how heightened your sense of hearing becomes when you’re sitting in complete darkness (and I really do mean complete darkness). It plays tricks with your mind and your perception of the space around you. Definitely worth “seeing” again.

8. Forbidden Broadway – Vaudeville Theatre
Just the right balance between jazz hands and acerbic wit, Forbidden Broadway packs in showtune after showtune, each with new lyrics. If you’d seen the shows in question, it was hilarious – even if you hadn’t, the humour was well pitched for the uninitiated.

7. Good People – Noel Coward Theatre
From the very beginning, Imelda Staunton gave one of the greatest performances on the West End stage. She machine-gunned through her desperate pleas to her boss, barely stopping to draw breath. She was fragile, unlikeable at times, yet funny and sweet. A very complex character, with faults and foibles.

6. The Knight of the Burning Pestle – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Pure Jacobean silliness and my first visit to the breathtakingly beautiful candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe. This was a well observed satire about badly behaved audiences, with a good dose of slapstick thrown in. A play outside of a play filled with mirth and mayhem.

5. The Nether – Royal Court
Probably one of the best “this could really happen” plays I’ve seen in recent years. The uncomfortable dilemma of how to deal with paedophiles, brilliantly written and cleverly staged (another incredible set by Es Devlin) – yet it never told you what to think or how to feel. I was stunned into silence for 5 minutes after. A real thinking play.

4. Titus Andronicus – Shakespeare’s Globe
Gloriously gory and wickedly funny, I first saw Lucy Bailey’s production of Titus Andronicus 8 years ago and was thrilled at the prospect of a revival. It didn’t disappoint – the ever accelerating cycle of revenge and politics played out in a mêlée of tit-for-tat violence and careful manoeuvres, all the while, making us laugh at some pretty chilling stuff.

3. The Play That Goes Wrong – Duchess Theatre
A sheer comic delight – everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Things fell to pieces, stuff went missing, people couldn’t get on (or off) the stage… but meanwhile, the cast did everything they could to downplay – and adapt to – the chaos unfolding around them, and valiantly carried on with the show. A fresh take on the old art of coarse acting.

2. Let The Right One In – Apollo Theatre
This was more than just another teen vampire love story – the staging was exceptional. As a portrayal of the horror genre, they made good use of suspense – there was a tortuous wait for the impending ‘jump’. There was a real elegance to the scene changes, making the whole thing completely seamless.

1. The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable by Punchdrunk
Could it really be anything else?  The show that changed my life and redefined everything I know about theatre? From the multi-layered stories to the performance logistics of 32 actors each having to be in the right place at the right time. From the meticulous detail in the set to the glorious choreography, to the sheer inter-connectedness of everything, I take my hat off to everyone involved. I still miss this show, but I’m just thankful that I had the chance to go as many times as I did.

Possibly the best Christmas present I could ask for (short of them reopening Temple Studios), they’ve released footage of the final finale.  I am in that crowd somewhere, on the verge of tears.

Here’s to another year of fantastic theatre!

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La Soiree – Spiegeltent, Southbank

My Mum has been on at me to see La Soiree for about 4 years.  So when I heard it was coming back to the Southbank for a limited run, I was determined to get a group together to go and see it.  So you can imagine my excitement when the chance came up to go with new friends, the #LDNTheatreBloggers.  Even on a miserable drizzly November evening, the Spiegeltent is warm and inviting, with old fashioned circus-style music seeming to pour out of the red draped ceiling.  The ‘big top’ isn’t all that big, so even the booths right at the back aren’t too far from the central stage.

Given all the hype of acrobats, burlesque and saucy mischief, it didn’t start quite how I expected.  Our opener was the Puddles Pity Party, a rather morose pierrot-style clown.  He appeared a few times through the evening, adding a bit of shade to all the light.  But we were soon onto the act my Mum had told me about: The English Gents.  Defying what should be possible for the human body under the laws of physics, I can only assume that they’ve done away with their skeletons and replaced their tendons with bubblegum – acts of strength, balance and flexibility are made to look terrifyingly easy.  But under their pinstripe suits, they have muscles on their muscles.  We were also treated to Hamish’s incredible pole act.  Be prepared to scoop your jaw off the floor.  Several times.

The English Gents

The English Gents

Ramping up the wow-factor is the infectiously adorable Jess Love.  She skilfully whirls around in a blur of hoops and works magic with a skipping rope, bringing a little bit of feel-good vaudeville every time she appears on the stage.  One of my favourite acts of the evening had to be Scotty the Blue Bunny – he looks like a spangly turquoise Slush Puppie in acrylic stripper heels and he gleefully cavorts around the stage, telling stories and bursting balloons.

La Soiree brands itself as a cabaret of misfits, but this does mean that the show is a bit jumbled.  While all the acts are all of a very high standard, some appealed to me more than others.  With all of the acts on a rota (which seems to be a closely guarded secret), it’s anyone’s guess who you’ll get to see.  A quick skim through the programme gave me a good overview of all the things I’d missed!  But saying that, there were plenty of acts in the same vein.  Everything from life-threatening juggling to geeky contortionism to hilariously smutty filth, with little let-up in between.  Until I saw Ursula Martinez, I didn’t realise quite how well I “speaka Spaaaanish” – or quite how many dirty words I knew (in Spanish).  For those of a prudish disposition, perhaps this isn’t the show for you…

All in all, this is a night of deliciously grown-up naughtiness – a great antidote to the gloomy autumn weather.

La Soiree is on until Sunday 11th January 2015 at Spiegeltent, London Wonderground, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX.  Contains strong language and nudity – not suitable for children.  For tickets and more information, go to http://www.la-soiree.com/