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.

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.