The year may be over, but after 24 trips to the theatre, it’s been a good one. From the absolute stinkers (Treasure Island, I’m looking at you) to some of the best performances on stage this decade, it’s been a mixed bag, but fun none the less. To celebrate the year in theatre, here are my top 10 productions of 2015:
#1 A View from the Bridge, Wyndham’s Theatre ★★★★★
I may have missed this in the theatre at both the Young Vic and the Wyndham’s, but I did manage to catch it as part of the year’s NT Live showings, and I sure am glad I did. Arguably the best thing I have seen performed on stage ever, let alone this year, it was anchored by Mark Strong’s captivating performance as Eddie, but ultimately there wasn’t a single weak link in the cast. Visually stripped back and yet incredibly striking, it is hands down my top pick from the year and thoroughly deserves its place over on Broadway in its current transfer. Read my full review here.
#2 Gypsy, Savoy Theatre ★★★★★
It may have been a poor year for new musicals, but proving that sometimes picking from the back catalogue can be more of an audience pull is Gypsy. Imelda Staunton has been getting all the praise as Momma Rose in this Chichester Festival Theatre production, and she’ll be getting a lot more as we move into awards season. With an old school feel, intricate design and strong performances from the whole cast, it charmed audiences during its limited run at the Savoy, and has set the tone for two more upcoming revivals at the same theatre: Guys and Dolls and Funny Girl. Read my full review here.
#3 Matilda, Cambridge Theatre ★★★★★
A new one for me, but not to the scores of families who have loved and supported it for the past few years. There’s a real shortage of family friendly musicals in London at the minute, but the West End is all the better for holding onto this one. With plenty of humour, a cracking score and a stunning design, it’s hands down the best choice for anyone wanting to see something with the kids, while still having enough adult humour to please the parents. Read my full review here.
#4 Splendour, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★★
Not universally loved, and it had a mixed response from the critics, but I really engaged with this one, and it was my favourite production at the Donmar Warehouse this year. While Sinead Cusack played the lead, it was really about all four of the women, and the cast did an incredible job at keeping the momentum during the two-hour running time. But it was Abi Morgan’s script which had me hooked, weaving narratives and timelines seamlessly to build tension as the play went on. Read my full review here.
#5 The Vote, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★
It may have been an inconsistent year for the Donmar, but here’s another entry from them. This time, it was the two-week long run of The Vote, which culminated in a live performance broadcast on election night. While the comedy played out more like a TV sitcom, this was largely well received for providing a humorous look at the intricacies of an archaic voting system. With great performances from all the leads and an f-bomb from Judi Dench, this was a truly one of a kind play. Read my full review here.
#6 The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios ★★★★
It was on my list of productions to watch back at the start of the year, but while it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that James McAvoy put everything he had into playing the unlikely aristocrat Jack Gurney with an erratic and zany edge that must have been truly exhausting. Watching was both terrifying and uncomfortable, but for those that opened themselves up to the spectacle of slightly odd side of the production were rewarded with a great evening. Read my full review here.
#7 City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★
The third and final showing on the list from Donmar Warehouse is City of Angels. This revival had a real sass about it, with a film noir feel, an unbeatable cast made up of musical theatre’s top names of the moment, and a score that took you back to the 40s. In the Donmar it had an intimacy that would have been lost in larger venues, and it all made for an evening that stood out as a one of a kind opportunity to see a rarely-revived musical at its best. Read my full review here. Read my full review here.
#8 Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre ★★★★
So good was this Broadway transfer, I’ve already been a second time. The story of an unlikely partnership of a traditional shoemaker from Northampton and a drag queen from London, this is a camp musical with songs by Cyndi Lauper. This is fun over substance though, so while it won’t have you questioning the norms of society, it will have you up and dancing by the end, and in a lot of case off to the shoe shop to buy a pair of red high heels. Read my full review here.
#9 Man and Superman, National Theatre ★★★★
57,000 lines, two intervals and a running time of nearly four hours, this is by no means an easy ride for any actor, so to deliver a flawless performance the way that Ralph Fiennes did at the National earlier in the year was some feat! The production wasn’t flawless and the showing I went to had a rather dramatic set malfunction that got the biggest gasp of the evening from the audience, but this was up there in witnessing an actor at the top of his game. Read my full review here.
#10 Jersey Boys, Piccadilly Theatre ★★★★
My first viewing of Jersey Boys after seven years of it being the west end, this didn’t disappoint. After moving into the Piccadilly Theatre, there are parts of the production that are looking a bit rough around the edges and the design itself is poor, but with a score as strong as this has and a cast doing a cracking job with the material, it’s hard to see how this could be anything other than a really good fun night at the theatre. Read my full review here.
Disagree? What would your number one have been? Let me know in the comments below!