I”d like to praise One Man (and punish a few, too)
As the year draws to a close, it’s time for the Mail’s Theatre Critic Quentin Letts to hand out his Q Awards.
Who’s been very, very good And who’s been bad verging on horrid Read on, Macduff, to find out . . .
Hitting the spot: Oliver Chris, James Corden and Jemima Rooper in One, Man, Two Guvnors
MAN OF THE YEAR
Arise, Richard Bean. Playwright Bean not only had the comic hit of the year with One Man, Two Guvnors — which began at the National Theatre and is now in the West End — but also wrote The Heretic, which was refreshingly naughty about climate change. It was staged at the Royal Court.
Artistic director Dominic Cooke this week announced his intention to leave the Royal Court in 2013.
Cooke is a prolific and clever man. Under him the Court has regained its position, alongside the Donmar Warehouse, as London’s best fringe theatre (if we can properly call two theatres so well-known and so generously supported by the state ‘fringe’).
You never quite know what to expect at the Royal Court. You might be in for a jaunty, watchable show such as Jumpy, starring Tamsin Greig, or the above-mentioned The Heretic, which starred that most committed of actresses, Juliet Stevenson.
And yet the Court still throws up the occasional dud, such as Simon Stephens’s cliched, monotonous Wastwater.
Empty seats: Imogen Doel in Marat/Sade
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
Matilda opened in Stratford-on-Avon last year but its arrival this autumn in the West End brings it to a wider audience.
In my review I was so carried away by describing the superb performances (look out for Bertie Carvel’s terrifying Miss Trunchbull) that I failed to mention composer Tim Minchin. I happily put that right now.
ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Eve Best lived up to her surname in Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, where director Dominic Dromgoole continues to stage productions far better than such an ersatz venue necessarily deserves.
The Globe Much Ado was lyrical, happy, beautifully spoken — and far better than the swanky West End version which starred David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Miss Best’s co-star Charles Edwards deserves a mention in despatches, too.
CAMEO OF THE YEAR
Lead actors do not always make a show. The most memorable moment in Richard Bean’s splendid One Man, Two Guvnors was Tom Edden as the waiter.
The moment he is sent flying down the stairs had me almost blacking out, I became so short of breath from laughter.
Wonderful dancing and show tunes in Singin’ In The Rain at Chichester. The drumming in Richard III at the Old Vic was initially amazing.
If they overdid it, perhaps that was only understandable. What an awesome din. Written On The Heart at the Swan, Stratford on Avon, also had some haunting music.
And the lads from Backbeat, which described the rise of The Beatles, did pretty well, too. Sadly, audiences did not agree and the show is closing in February.
Duds: Oliver Cotton and Ian McKellen in The Syndicate at Chichester
I CAN’T A-BOYD IT!
With distinctly mixed reviews, and with its Left-wing boss Michael Boyd soon to leave, the Royal Shakespeare Company is riding low in the water.
The rebuilt Royal Shakespeare Theatre is not an unqualified joy and has left some of us pining for the Courtyard Theatre, which filled in for the RST for a couple of years.
Boyd’s decision to revive the Sixties shocker Marat/Sade saw empty seats (particularly after the interval) and had some actors looking uncomfortable on stage.
Rupert Goold’s The Merchant Of Venice, set in Las Vegas, reduced its star, Patrick Stewart, to the role almost of a bit player.
DUDS OF THE YEAR
Oh dear, what on Earth persuaded Sir Ian McKellen to play a mafia don in The Syndicate at Chichester It was like something off ’Allo ’Allo. ]
Joanna Lumley may be reliable on the box but she was pretty wretched in
The Lion In Winter (Theatre Royal Haymarket).
The Young Vic’s Hamlet, starring Michael Sheen, was a mess, despite a memorable sandpit.
The Donmar also gave us two huge duds with Inadmissable Evidence and Moonlight.
Nor, much though we would like to, let us forget The God Of Soho at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Twelve reasons to take in a show in 2012
Stage turn: John Simm
The biggest show in Britain next year will obviously be the Olympics. But British theatre is booming, too, and will be boasting fine performers from home and abroad.
Tyne Daly, of Cagney And Lacy fame, stars as Maria Callas, the diva whose life was as dramatic as her operatic roles, in Master Class. It comes to the Vaudeville Theatre after selling out on Broadway (from January 21).
Also in full throat, Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley and Scarlett Strallen will be crooning — and getting soaked in the process — in Chichester’s transfer of Singin’ In The Rain (Palace Theatre from February 4).
Among 70 productions at the World Shakespeare Festival, watch out for Gregory Doran’s RSC Africa-set Julius Caesar (Stratford-upon-Avon from May 28, and the West End later in the summer), as well as Rupert Goold’s multi-media Troilus And Cressida with New York company the Wooster Group (Stratford from August 3).
Meanwhile, Mark Rylance returns to Shakespeare’s Globe in a new, all-male Richard III (from July 14).
Kara Tointon, until recently most famous for EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing, surprised many with her assured performance in Pygmalion this year. Next month, she’ll appear alongside Katherine Parkinson and Reece Shearsmith in Alan Ayckbourn’s 1974 comedy Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly The Comedy, from January 26).
The National has Oliver Goldsmith’s romp She Stoops To Conquer, starring Steve Pemberton, Katherine Kelly and Sophie Thompson (from January 24, on the Olivier stage). And Lindsay Duncan and Jeremy Northam sound like ideal casting for Noel Coward’s Hay Fever (Noel Coward Theatre from February 10).
On a darker note, Olivier award-winning Eve Best returns to the Old Vic in John Webster’s Jacobean tragedy The Duchess Of Malfi, the story of a widow on the wrong end of avenging brothers (from March 17).
And John Simm returns to Sheffield’s Crucible, where he played Hamlet last year, to star in Betrayal — Pinter’s drama about marital breakdown (from May 17).
But it’s not all doom and gloom. RSC director Adrian Noble will be taking a stage version of The King’s Speech, starring Charles Edwards as George VI and Jonathan Hyde, on the road from February 1. And Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths are teaming up in The Sunshine Boys — Neil Simon’s 1974 comedy — in the spring.