Best of the year
In London theatre, 2019 has had some high points but is unlikely to be remembered as a sensational year.
One of the more notable developments has been the return of the musical, with a number of memorable productions falling into each of the major categories, revivals, American imports and home-grown creations.
Attempts to get closer to equalising gender and racial presence on stages and amongst creative teams have been prevalent, in a trend that is clearly commendable and frequently leads to wonderful results but doesn’t, of itself, guarantee artistic perfection. In particular, over 400 years after his death, Shakespeare has been a particular beneficiary or sufferer from this kind of ethos.
Artistic Directors always come and go and this year has seen some significant changes, for example at the Donmar, Hampstead and the Bush.
Perhaps the most exciting development as the country blundered its way into what looks increasingly like a recession is the arrival of a series of often spectacular new theatres in the London area. Troubadour has opened two, in White City and Wembley Park, while the Boulevard recently arrived in Soho and the Turbine in the shadows of Battersea Power Station. In addition, although it is not technically new, the Alexandra Palace Theatre opened its doors for the first time in several generations.
Once again, we present selections of the very finest theatrical productions and performances for which there are no prizes other than this recognition and my profound thanks for the pleasure that each has given me. These are selected from all that I have seen, not just London productions.
- Best New Play – Small Island Adapted by Helen Edmundson from the Novel by Andrea Levy at the National Theatre
- Best Revival – Noises Off by Michael Frayn at the Lyric Hammersmith and the Garrick Theatre
- Best Musical – Come from Away, book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein at the Phoenix Theatre
- Best Actor – Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse
- Best Actress – Cecilia Noble for Downstate at the National Theatre
- Best Director – John Crowley for A Very Expensive Poison at the Old Vic
- Best New Writer – Jasmine Lee-Jones for seven methods of killing kylie jenner at the Royal Court
- Best Newcomer – Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre
- Best Designer – Rob Howell for Present Laughter at the Old Vic
- Best Theatre Book – This is Shakespeare by Emma Smith
Many congratulations to the winners. They have made trips to the theatre (and bookshelf) really special once again and no doubt given great pleasure to numerous other theatre lovers as well your critic.
I append the usual apology to those that have inadvertently been missed out of the 2019 overview. An omission is as likely to be an indicator of exhaustion at the end of yet another incredibly busy theatrical year as lack of interest in or dislike of a particular play.