London theatre in 2012

There has been much to enjoy in the London theatre during 2012.

Following on from the good times last year, there has once again been strength in depth so that your correspondent has frequently been struggling to leave plays out of his Top Five and Alternative Top Five, rather than desperate to make up the numbers, which is always a very pleasing position to find oneself in.

Big budget musicals had seemed to be a thing of the past until the last few weeks of the year when all of a sudden, the wonderful Kiss Me Kate was quickly joined by the equally enticing touring production of American Idiot, The Bodyguard and the much maligned Viva Forever!, while during the same few weeks the smaller scale but highly enjoyable Merrily We Roll Along and Salad Days also appeared.

The West End has held its head high, primarily with revivals featuring big names such as David Suchet in Long Day's Journey into Night plus Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths in The Sunshine Boys and transfers, with Chichester Festival Theatre proving to be a remarkably abundant source of hit shows.

The National has led the way yet again closely followed by the Royal Court but under its new Artistic Director, Josie Rourke, the Donmar has impressed. Several smaller theatres still continue to produce good work and young talent, soon to be snapped up by TV, movies or the big hitters. There is also great promise for a glorious 2013, judging by Privates on Parade, the first play from the new Michael Grandage Company.

Shakespeare has also made a pleasing comeback with all 37 of his plays performed at the Globe during a wet late spring, as well as numerous other productions across the city. In addition, it is worth commemorating BBC TV's unforgettable The Hollow Crown, which had a real theatrical feel to it.

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 these winners. They have made trips to the theatre 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 2012 overview. An omission is as likely to be an indicator of exhaustion following 15 reviews in a 2½ week period leading up to the festive season, 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:

  1. The National, the RSC, the Old Vic the Barbican and the Globe
  2. West End Plays
  3. West End Musicals
  4. Other Major Theatres
  5. Smaller Theatres