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RETURN OF THE REGGIES (Part 1)

Such was the reaction to last year’s Reggies, we felt compelled to beg Brian to stage a sequel; so yes, we are proud to announce that the Reggies are back. Newly expanded to a ridiculously comprehensive seven categories, it’s a barometer of the best in London theatre during 2018. There may be only one person bestowing the Reggies, but there is a slavish dedication to fairness; sleepless nights agonising over who should be in, who should be out; yes Brian suffers for his art. But enough of this nonsense let’s do it.  So, over to you Brian…

Best Venue: once again I have excluded larger venues and concentrated on the small but beautifully formed world of the fringe. In third place, no change from last year, it’s the Old Red Lion in Islington. A venue that reminds us what pubs used to be about; a place to meet and talk, oh and see some quality theatre upstairs. Hitting and holding in second place is the Jermyn Street Theatre. Sardines would struggle in this intimate space but the breadth and quality of shows is second to none. Straight in at number one is the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. Until this year I’d never visited this cosy venue tucked behind the tube station. A stylish cafe bar doubles as the reception area offering a studio space and main theatre. Some have complained that railings surrounding the balcony leave very little leg room: one of my favourite gripes about theatre venues, but I’m not backing this one. The balcony offers a unique drone style view allowing the audience to look down on the action.

The first new category is for best actor. One of the many pleasures of fringe theatre is watching new talent breaking through; young Turks eager to make their mark in a wonderful hotbed of innovation. In third place, Niall Bishop who delivered a brilliant performance as Anthony in Tiny Dynamite at the Old Red Lion. Charles Aitken takes second spot for his versatile performance in Billy Bishop Goes To War at the Jermyn Street Theatre. But the inaugural Reggie for best actor goes to Matthew Needham with his turn as sinister Dr John in the Almeida’s brilliant production of Summer and Smoke.

So we also need a category for best actress. The girls, just like the guys have delivered some excellent performances, but I’ve whittled it down to three; the bronze medal goes to Madison Clare as Lisa, in Kenneth Emson’s slow burning classic Plastic at the Old Red Lion. Katy Daghorn takes silver playing a host of characters in a delightful version of Burke and Hare at the Jermyn Street Theatre. However, a richly deserved gold goes to Milly Thomas in Dust at the Trafalgar Studio. She delivers a gut wrenching, all too realistic performance portraying a squandered life.

A staple feature of the theatre calendar are the musicals, and 2018 offered a mixed bag with its various sub genres. Checking in at number three then in the Best Musical category is Urinetown at the Bridewell Theatre; although conceived as a dig at corporate excess it also includes some strong tunes. In second spot we have Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Park Theatre; a minor exaggeration as it might appear to be more a play with songs; but it seems to fit the musical genre best of all. However, top of the heap is the cool, sexy and unbearably funky Six, currently on tour prior to a new run at the Arts Theatre in January. Comparisons with Hamilton are obvious, but a musical featuring the six wives of Henry VIII?….more than a match for our cousins across the pond!

Part two will follow shortly, where Brian will reveal his Best Play, set design/special effects, and the best Shakespeare production of 2018.

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.