“A hit, a very palpable hit.”

Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2

William Shakespeare

I’m taking up the ‘Top Ten Theatre Shows of 2014’ challenge the rest of the #LDNTheatreBloggers have been doing all this week. Over the past year I’ve seen around 35 different productions, which, considering I spent 19 weeks away from the UK and started university is not too bad imho!

Out of those 35 odd shows, however, there were some clear highlights that shone out far and above the rest (although I don’t regret going to a single one!):

10. A Streetcar Named Desire  at Young Vic Theatre

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Squeezing Forbidden Broadway and My Perfect Mind out of the top ten, this classic play by Tennessee Williams starred three incredibly powerful actors in a beautifully staged production with some of my favourite music from a non-musical theatre show this year.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“All in all, this is a great production of a fantastic, classic play. I can’t quite give it top marks, simply because I felt Anderson took quite a time to build up to the marvellous power of the second act. The acting is brilliant and the production captures the essence of sleazy, dirty, hot, vibrant New Orleans perfectly. And, to be honest, it’s worth seeing simply for the last scene, which is just sheer flawlessness.”

9. Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe

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I didn’t actually write a blog for this at the time, but this was a spectacular show; despite being one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays,the audience was enthralled constantly in the unceasing action that played not only upon the stage, but in the groundling pit and even outside the theatre. William Houston was great in the main role, and Indira Varma  was beautifully evil as Tamara, Queen of the Goths. And how can I talk about Lucy Bailey‘s production without mentioning the gore?! I mean, we had 23 fainters at the midnight showing (well worth going to by the way) – watching multiple 6ft+ men topple over when confronted with a handless, tongueless, blood-dripping Lavinia was worth the ticket price alone!

8. The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre

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The action starts from the minute you walk into the theatre, and the speed of the jokes is quite incredible. The performers know their characters and their characters’ characters inside out and they know exactly how to make their audience laugh. What more can you ask for?

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“The pace of this production is extraordinary, and the amount of energy expended by each and every actor (even including Greg Tannahill, playing the dead body!) is that of a million Duracell bunnies. In fact, after laughing so hard for so long, I think even the audience feel they’ve been for a work-out after seeing ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. Sometimes the jokes are repeated perhaps once too often, but overall this is farce at its finest.”

7. Much Ado About Nothing at Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre

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I love this play so much, and this production finally lived up to the amazing script! The staging was beautifully Downton Abbey-esque and the two leads sparked off each other just as Beatrice and Benedick should.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“Basically this is a really warm and inviting production with two superb leads who definitely carry the play on their capable shoulders. A perfect show for Christmas, for comedy and romance, and for drama; whilst the Dogberry scenes aren’t quite as hilarious as they could be, they still elicited a great big response from the audience and the ending is beautifully sentimental without being cheesy (although I love a bit of cheese, so who am I to judge?!) A show that will leave you hugging yourself with happiness.”

6. King Lear at National Theatre

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This seems like so long ago… But Simon Russell Beale was absolutely superb in this insanely demanding role. I loved the twist with the Fool in the middle, Sam Troughton was a great Edmund and Olivia Vinall was surprisingly tough as Cordelia. This was King Lear on an epic scale, and it really, really worked.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“In fact, overall the production was basically flawless… What I’m trying to say here is: if you can possibly get tickets, do. I enjoyed this more than last year’s much lauded ‘Othello’ and this is from someone who wasn’t that big a fan of King Lear previously. This is the most emotional, real and balanced production I’ve seen so far; usually Edmund dominates, but here it is Lear, the real star, who shines out.”

5. Skylight at Wyndham’s Theatre

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A clean, beautifully designed production, carried completely by three actors who fully understood their complex characters. Understated and thoughtful, but with some lovely light-hearted moments, this was seriously good theatre.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“As I hope you’ve picked up, this is a seriously good piece of theatre.
Light-hearted enough to be an enjoyable evening out, but interesting enough to leave you contemplative afterwards. Basically an amazing production of a great play. Go and see it while you can!”

4. The Scotsboro Boys at Garrick Theatre

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Another one I didn’t actually have a chance to write about, but a fantastic show nonetheless. Like Kandel and Ebb’previous shows Chicago and Cabaret, it’s full of energy and gets your foot tapping along before you realise quite how serious the subject matter is; it makes you complicit in the evil events. The performers are brilliant, the songs are so clever and the dancing is ridiculously energetic. Plus we saw it with two of the understudies – yet I wouldn’t have realised it for a second because they inhabited their roles as if they did them every night. Kudos to everyone involved.

3.The Crucible at Old Vic Theatre

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Dark, disturbing and ridiculously gripping, this tense production of Arthur Miller‘s classic just kept the suspense building over the long three hours and did not let go. A great performance by Richard Armitage brought it all together.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“I think you can already tell, this is a fabulous production of a great play. Despite its length, I wasn’t bored for a second. One cannot help but be gripped by the uncontrollable chaos that sweeps the town of Salem and its residents. Both the acting and staging are superb, heightening the tension to an almost unbearable pitch, with the tragic ending leaving you wanting more. If you can possibly get tickets, I urge you to go! You will not be disappointed.”

2. Urinetown at Apollo Theatre

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I love anything that surprises me, and Urinetown certainly did that! Great cast, great songs, great production, all that satire I love. Go and see it guys!

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“As far as I’m concerned,Urinetown is highly recommended and it’s shocking that the theatre wasn’t fuller when I went – admittedly, it was a Thursday matinee, but still. Theatre-goers, I expected more of you! This is a brilliant, unique musical, in an age where people complain of the non-originality of ‘new’ musicals on Broadway and in the West End. If you enjoyed Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon, you’ll love this as much as I did.”

1. King Charles III at Wyndham’s Theatre

blog 6I mean, this was just so brilliant (not that I’ve over-used my superlatives in this post at all…) The thing that gives it the number one spot is that it wasn’t just the actors that made it amazing. Don’t get me wrong, the cast was great, but it was them combined with the set and the music and the script and the whole concept that all came together and just blew me away.

What Mingled Yarns said at the time:

“…it’s a play I came out of exhilarated and amazed. It made me laugh, and despair, and it made me think. It’s well acted all round, the staging is brilliant, and, most importantly almost, the script is so interesting. It’s the sort of play that could be played to generations in the future and they, too, would be both amused and gripped by it. Unlike many modern plays, it doesn’t rely on clever modern references for its success, but at the same time it plays up to the current times for a current audience. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy for our times, and for future times, and that is why this is a must see.”

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