Well, it’s been a while since I last posted. I thought some more about putting together an end-of-year best-of list to put on here, but in the end decided against it. This is was partially down to festive procrastinating, mainly based around chocolate consumption and the fact I was given Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicles for Christmas and have spent every spare moment since dipping into it. The odd hangover may have played a part too. But mainly down to what I felt was the pointlessness of the task – there were a lot of supposedly important shows that I missed, some because they weren’t my cup of tea, some I will attempt to catch up on this year if I can – but, while it’s impossible for one person to see everything, it does rather impact on my ability to pick an over-arching best-of. Plus the time-banding is rather restrictive: one of the best things in a long way, I saw in 2006 was Deavid Eldridge’s Festen, which I finally caught on tour at Richmond Theatre – in fact my eagerness to tell everyone how brilliant I thought it was, was one of the things that prompted me to start this blog. Trouble is, having been around for some time, first at the Almeida and then in the West End, it's hardly a 2006 show.
Anyway - the venue that made me happiest last year was, without a doubt, the Orange Tree in Richmond. Every show I saw there engaged me in some way, from the fluffy delights of The Pirates Of Penzance to their staging of Ben Brown’s Larkin With Women which, for various reasons, left a major impression on me. My favourite single scene of any production was that wonderful moment in the Arcola’s production of Yerma when the village women gathered together to wash their clothes and a perfect synergy developed between their onstage actions and the percussive backing music. Huge arcs of water filled the air and the sheer energy of the moment reminded me why theatre is still such a vital and wonderful medium, an experience unlike any other. Running a close second, was the haunting closing scene of Kneehigh’s Nights At The Circus at the Lyric, as Fevvers and Gisli Orn Gardarsson’s Walser spun in mid-air, reaching for each other, clinging to each other; sometimes I find physical theatre techniques can trample the narrative, but in this case they worked in perfect harmony with Angela Carter’s rich and magical source novel.
In the absence of any Big List, I thought I’d at least share my theatre resolutions for the year.
1) I will attempt to be less lazy. I told pretty much everyone I know that I was determined to see The Life Of Galileo at the National before it finished its run, and did I go? No. Despite it being part of the Travelex £10 season and being at my favourite venue. I really regret missing it, as nearly everyone I’ve spoken to who did see it, loved it.
2) In a similar vein, I will make a real attempt to see productions of plays I haven’t seen before (something I’ll be doing next week in fact – I’m down to see both the RSC's Antony and Cleopatra and Kneehigh's Cymbeline, neither of which I’ve seen on stage before).
3) I will try and see more productions later in the run. Press nights have their perks undoubtedly, but seeing a play surrounded by critics and the cast members’ mums doesn’t really reflect the reality of going to the theatre. When you see a play gradually connect with a gang of rowdy teenagers who’ve been dragged along by their teacher, as Roy Williams’ Little Sweet Thing did so well when I saw it on a weekday matinee, nothing quite beats that.
4) If I’m going to see a production on the weekend, I will phone and check just exactly what sections of the underground they are digging up that day, or I’ll just leave with an extra hour to spare even if it means sitting in the theatre bar for an age beforehand (not exactly a chore) – I have no intention of repeating my experience at the Bush in November.
5) If I go back to the Menier Chocolate Factory I will not do so on the hottest day of the year. Twice I’ve found myself slowly melting in what I’m sure is an otherwise lovely venue. (This year I learned my lesson and packed a little Chinese paper fan, while my fellow audience members struggled with those little battery-powered ones they were handing out on the door).