The National, the Old Vic, the Barbican (including the RSC) and the Globe

When Sir Nicholas Hytner turns his hand to Shakespeare, it is often a cause for rejoicing. Any one of Henry V, Much Ado about Nothing or Timon of Athens would have been the peak of most director's careers. However, the man who has announced his impending departure from the National has had the date yet again with an impeccably cast Othello, updated to Desert Storm days.

Most productions of this play end with the actor playing either Othello or Iago soaring, whereas on this occasion Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear very much perform as equals in one of this year's theatrical highlights.

Ever since the then Mr Hytner became Artistic Director, the programming has been exceptional and, by those standards, 2013, while still stronger than almost anywhere else, has not been the very best.

Nevertheless, there have been some tremendous evenings. Early in the year, James Graham's This House transferred from the Cottesloe to the Olivier and once again entranced audiences with its depiction of political shenanigans that seem just as relevant today as they did in the 1970s.

In the summer, another former Artistic Director, Sir Richard Eyre, charmed the public with Liolà by Luigi Pirandello, in a new version by Tanya Ronder (coincidentally the wife of Rufus Norris who will soon be taking on the job). This was a lovely, poignant comic portrait of Sicilian life 100 years ago, given fresh nuances by casting it entirely with Irish actors.

That cast did not include Anne-Marie Duff who starred in Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, a long but engrossing play about a woman suffering a nervous breakdown. Told in an unusual style, including direct addresses to the audience, we began to understand not only her side of things but also the views of the menfolk who loved her.

With the Cottesloe out of action throughout, a new black box space has been created called The Shed. For the most part, the programming has been very experimental, especially for the National, but included Tim Price's Protest Song which enabled Rhys Ifans to deliver a tour-de-force as a Welsh down-and-out ranting and raving in the environs of St Paul's Cathedral while never allowing the audience to settle.

Two offerings had significant musical input. James Baldwin's The Amen Corner was directed by Norris and showcased the talents of Marianne Jean-Baptiste as a female preacher who ends up in a political battle as bloody as any seen in This House. To add to the fun, the drama was broken up by regular examples of beautiful gospel singing.

The Light Princess was a fairy tale set to music by pop star Tori Amos. While Samuel Adamson's book and lyrics based on a story by George MacDonald would not have set the world on fire, the production qualities in Marianne Elliott’s hands were second to none, owing much to the talents of designer Rae Smith, choreographer Stephen Hoggett, animator Matthew Robins and puppet designer Toby Olié.

Also directed by Miss Elliott, Simon Stephens's early play Port could hardly have been more different. Set in his native Stockport, this tale of a young girl's coming-of-age brought a dose of gritty realism to the Lyttelton and allowed the up-and-coming Kate O'Flynn to prove what a fine actress she is.

Children of the Sun by Maxim Gorky, in a new version by Andrew Upton was enjoyably directed by Howard Davies and took us back to Russian revolutionary times but suffered from a tendency towards melodrama.

The children's Christmas show was an adaptation of German favourite, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner. After a very slow start, it became suitably exciting undoubtedly pleasing young audiences, who unusually will have the chance to find approximately 50 of their contemporaries performing on any particular evening.

The Old Vic has managed three major successes and a single blip. One absence this year was Artistic Director Kevin Spacey, who neither directed nor acted in any production at the theatre.

In the spring, Lindsay Posner revived Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy. This was graced by the first of two towering performances from Henry Goodman, who is likely to be on many people's best actor lists both for this frustrated father determined to clear his son's reputation and also his depiction of Arturo Ui at the Duchess. On this occasion, good support was offered by Deborah Findlay, Naomi Frederick and, as the boy himself, Charlie Rowe.

The summer offering directed by Marianne Elliott who had a super year, was Sweet Bird of Youth featuring two stars from the other side of the Atlantic, the ever-popular Kim Cattrall as a faded beauty on the skids and Seth Numrich making a wonderful London debut as her relatively patient younger beau.

The less said about autumn's badly-judged Much Ado about Nothing the better.

By the winter, the theatre was back on top form with an unexpected delight. Under the direction Lucy Bailey and cleverly designed by William Dudley, Turgenev's Fortune's Fool in a new version by Mike Poulton starred Iain Glen and Richard McCabe. It turned out to be a charming comedy that had the great emotional depths that we normally associate with Chekhov.

Shakespeare's Globe presented its usual mix of works by the Bard and new plays.

The highlight was The Tempest featuring Roger Allam as Prospero alongside Colin Morgan's Ariel and some puppets, all under the direction of Jeremy Herrin, subsequently appointed as the new artistic director of Headlong.

A Midsummer Night's Dream gave groundlings the opportunity to enjoy the superb dexterity of Michelle Terry, cast opposite John Light in the paired ruler roles. In contrast to Michael Grandage’s West End production, these mechanicals led by Pearce Quigley were exceptionally funny, even when judged by the most exacting standards.

A Globe season would not be complete without at least one of the tragedies. This year, they presented a dark reading of Macbeth directed by Eve Best and starring Joseph Millson opposite Samantha Spiro.

The best of the modern plays by a good margin was Jessica Swales's Blue Stockings which shone the microscope on the first generation of women to become undergraduates at Cambridge.

Their good nature was much needed in the face of rampant prejudice but, as everybody in the audience realised, the women would have the last laugh eventually not only becoming graduates but captains of industry and Prime Ministers.

For reasons of their own, the RSC chose to deprive Londoners of even a glimpse of their work until very late in the year. Happily, the single production that did hit town was worth the wait. Gregory Doran's magnificent new version of Richard II featured an outstanding performance from David Tennant at the head of a strong cast including veterans Michael Pennington and Oliver Ford Davies, both on top form.

Otherwise, utilising three different spaces, the Barbican continued to import some of the finest and often oddest productions from across the globe, with only Britain particularly conspicuous by its absence.

Cheek by Jowl presented a typically offbeat version of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, delivered in French with English surtitles.

In a period when Strindberg's Miss Julie seems to find itself the subject of multiple versions, none of them all that faithful to the original, the Barbican spotted a German opportunity with Fräulein Julie, directed by Katie Mitchell at her most obscure.

To continue the Absurdist theme, Rhinoceros was brought to us by director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota on behalf of Le Théàtre de la Ville-Paris. The BTG review summed it up by describing “a lively, rather eccentric take on Ionesco's classic with high production values and a design concept that impresses and will not have come cheap".

Finally, a short season of plays brought over from Latin America by Casa featured the rather eccentric Hamlet de los Andes and sadly unintelligible in translation, La Razon Blindada.