Our reviewers give us their favourites of the past year
Normally we’d have put together some ‘Best of 2021’ features to see us out of the year, but 2021 being what it was, many of our team never managed to see enough to really be able to pick their favourites. We thought we’d throw the question out to our reviewers anyway and see what responses we got back.
Here then are some of our team’s ‘Best of 2021’ offerings.
Selected by Mike Carter
Riotous laugh-out-loud merriment performed brilliantly by three young actors just as we came out of lockdown – perfect timing!
Selected by Steve Caplin
In an environment of social distancing and Covid-prone performers, theatre companies have had to be especially inventive this past year. How do you keep your audience and cast safe, while still providing engaging, thought-provoking entertainment? The show which best accomplished these disparate aims was, for me, The Drop. It’s still running so I can’t give too much away, except to say that it combines the mechanism of an escape room game with truly innovative live theatre. You’re only once face to face with the cast, and that’s safely outdoors in a nearby street; you only see the the rest of the actors on a video screen, and interact with them by intercom and phone. With immaculately constructed sets spanning several rooms, the tense mystery sees you solving puzzles and researching clues before a shocking revelation in a nearby hotel room. If you’re a fan of immersive theatre, catch this while it’s still running.
Selected by Irene Lloyd
So, the best thing I saw in 2021 was Patti Smith at the Royal Albert Hall. A two year wait but worth every second. Awesome.
Oh, OK, not exactly answering the question. My favourite piece of theatre was Mr and Mrs Nobody at Jermyn Street Theatre, a piece of light-hearted silliness, which was very welcome in the midst of depressing news stories. It’s a great venue too, where everyone is always friendly and welcoming.
Selected by Mary Pollard
My outstanding show of 2021 was undoubtedly Dante or Die’s Skin Hunger. Based on the ‘hug tunnels’ used at Brazilian care homes during the Covid pandemic, it allowed participants to experience touch from others – which was critically absent from our lives at that time – through plastic sheeting, and asked questions about what touch means to us.
It merited its full five stars on the flawless performances alone, but beyond that the intelligent intricacy of the production left me reeling. It was completely exhilarating to have such an intimate relationship with the actors, whilst being simultaneously conscious of sharing the immersive experience with a mere handful of audience members; all of us challenged to undertake a highly emotional understanding of the human need for touch. It was visceral, innovative and intellectual. Subsequently it became a base from which to open wider conversations about the subject, being made into a book and also a film, which is now touring to schools, care homes and prisons.
This was a unique production marking a particular moment in time, but if I could I would see it again in a heartbeat.
Selected by Maria McKenzie
The best play I saw this year was Hymn, streamed by the Almeida Theatre. The story was engaging, Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani’s performances were energetic, truthful and connected, and the wonderful music and singing transported me to my youth! I never expected to love a piece of theatre which I did not see performed live in a venue as much as I did this.
Selected by Rob Warren
The play that left me most stunned this year was Jamie Sefton’s A Thousand Sons. It was also up there as one of my more surreal theatre visits, with it’s 11.30 in the morning start time! A play about the long-term effects on those present at the nuclear tests of the 1950s is always going to be slightly niche in its audience, but for those who like to be pushed, it was an incredible piece of theatre. In just one hour Sefton took us through sixty years of fighting for the truth and recognition for those affected, whose lives were altered from that moment onwards. Powerful and emotional, it is a piece of theatre that I really hope gets a bigger run in 2022 so more people can experience this.