2014 is probably not going to be remembered as a classic year for London theatre. When looking back over the events of the last 12 months, it was easy to pick out a small number of strong plays, performances and occasions but the next tier down felt very thin.
The lack of government and Arts Council support is beginning to tell. Some very experienced artistic directors have retired in despair, while in many cases their successors have been obliged to co-produce or bring in plays from elsewhere rather than creating new works themselves. This is an alarming trend and one can only hope that with a new government arriving next May, arts-friendly policies could return to the agenda.
While the big screen names still flocked to the West End stages to get a look at real audiences, epic productions were also in vogue. The RSC produced a Hilary Mantel double bill, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies as well as both parts of Henry IV (Part 1 and Part 2). They were not alone, since a collaboration between the National Theatres of Scotland and Great Britain (i.e. the one in London) generated The James Plays.
In passing, it is worth mentioning Birdman, a movie starring Michael Keaton and focusing on Broadway. This is being released at the turn of the year and should be on every stage fan’s list of things to do on a night off from the theatre.
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 – King Charles III by Mike Bartlett at the Almeida
- Best Revival – Our Town by Thornton Wilder at the Almeida
- Best Musical – Made in Dagenham by Richard Bean at the Adelphi
- Best Actor – Ben Miles in Wolf Hall/Bring up the Bodies at the Aldwych
- Best Actress – Kristin Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
- Best Director – Rupert Goold for King Charles III at the Almeida
- Best New Writer – Barney Norris for Visitors at the Arcola/Bush
- Best Newcomer – Samantha Colley in The Crucible at the Old Vic
- Best Designer – Ashley Martin-Davis for Wonderland at Hampstead
- Best Edinburgh Production – The James Plays (James I, James II and James III) by Rona Munro at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre
- Best Theatre Book – Tennessee Williams – Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr
Many congratulations to these winners. They have made trips to the theatre (and bookshelf) really special once again and have 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 2014 overview. An omission is as likely to be an indicator of exhaustion at the end of one of the busiest theatrical years in living memory, as lack of interest in or dislike of a particular play.
In order to make what is otherwise a very long article more readable, it is once again divided into the following categories: