Anyone who knows me will know that going to the theatre is my favourite way to unwind and I try and see as much theatre as I can humanly can. 2018 has been a fantastic year for theatre I have watched this year in the West End, and excitingly on and off Broadway. It is only fitting that for my review of 2018 I share my favourite shows that I have watched this year.
The play written by Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem) had an Olivier winning run in the West End in 2017 and closed in London in May 2018, and transferred to Broadway in October 2018 and received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. The play tells the story of the Carney family in rural County Armagh who are living through the Troubles in 1981. The play is fantastically written and felt incredibly realistic to the time and part of recent British history that many people, me included lived through. The play was based on the true family history of actress Laura Donnelly (who originated the role of Cate Carney in London and in New York). I urge anyone to watch this tour de force of writing and acting, which will have audiences laughing and crying throughout.
The Ferryman is currently playing the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, and tickets can be bought here.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
I was lucky enough to see the recent West End production of Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy which tells the story of INLA terrorist Mad Padraic (played by Poldark star Aidan Turner) in 1993 and took the audience on a dark and funny journey through the love of a cat. I know this sounds totally bizarre but it had me laughing throughout, helped in no small part by the amazing direction from Michael Grandage. Turner was fantastic as the crazy and incredibly scary Padraic, and the entire cast shone in this production. As someone who grew up in Northern Ireland, it was slightly odd to see not one but two plays telling the story of the Northern Irish Troubles in the West End in 2018.
“You can’t sit with us!” and “On Wednesday we wear pink” have become phrases that are widely used to those who know and love the 2004 movie Mean Girls which starred Lindsay Lohan. Now the Plastics have a new life in musical form, with Mean Girls currently playing at the August Wilson Theatre in New York. The musical written by Tina Fey doesn’t deviate from the plot of the original movie, however, there have been some wonderful updates made to make the musical relevant to a modern audience. I saw the show in November whilst in New York and the songs written by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin are catchy, and Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Dreamgirls) continues his golden touch with strong and clever dance numbers which never felt out of place. The cast were all phenomenal, with Barrett Wilbert Weed and Grey Henson who stood out as Cady’s friends Janis and Damien. Constant rumours abound that the Plastics will be crossing the Atlantic and I for one hope this happens sooner rather than later.
Mean Girls is playing at New York’s August Wilson Theatre and tickets are available here.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
In this current political climate, a revival of Brecht’s allegorical play on the rise of Hitler may seem to be a brave and possibly strange choice, however, director John Doyle (Company) was brave and incredibly clever in his recent revival of the play at New York’s Classic Stage Company. The show which closed on December 22, starred Raúl Esparza (Company, Law and Order: SVU, Hannibal) as the eponymous gangster. The story tells of the rise of Arturo Ui from low-level Chicago gangster to a power crazy dictator who is willing to stop at nothing in his desire for control of the Cauliflower Trust. The production was stark and chilling with one of the strongest ensembles I have had the pleasure of watching, with Esparza completely controlling every scene he was and I was left with chills after his final truly horrifying closing scene. The chilling nature of the story was amplified given that the theatre had a seating capacity of less than 200 people so there was nowhere to hide and audiences were left feeling like they were the Cauliflower Trust and we were all willing accomplices to Ui’s schemes and murders. This play was definitely put on at the right time in our climate, and like any great piece of theatre, you left the theatre not knowing whether you enjoyed the play or were horrified by how current it felt.
Other stand out shows I have watched this year included Red (starring Harry Potter and How To Get Away With Murder’s Alfie Enoch), The Girl From The North Country, and of course Hamilton continues to enchant me on every visit. Let’s hope that 2019 is just as exciting.