Other Major Theatres
The Almeida is currently in a state of transition, as one of Britain's most exciting directors Rupert Goold, formerly of Headlong, takes over from Michael Attenborough.
The theatre has had a tremendous year with two standout productions that could easily compete for the very best that has been on show in 2013.
It would be a big surprise if Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica did not win every best new play award going. The young writer was almost certainly greatly assisted by director Lyndsey Turner for Headlong in creating an intoxicating vision of relations between America and China seen in the kind of microcosm that says so much about two very different and conflicting cultures.
In a rather different mood, Sir Richard Eyre's revival of Ibsen's Ghosts contained some of the best acting to be seen in London with both Lesley Manville and Jack Lowden memorable as mother and son. However, it was Will Keen that took the honours even in this starry company.
Another highlight was a very worthy revival of Before the Party by Rodney Ackland. This intense dissection of family life just after the War was both witty and meaningful under the direction of Matthew Dunster. A cast that was led by Michelle Terry and Stella Gonet also introduced a potential star of the future in Emily Lane.
Right at the beginning of the year, Anna Madeley starred as the governess in an adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz under the direction of the prolific Lindsay Posner. As should be the case, this production was suitably chilling and unsettling.
To close the year, Goold directed a musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's shocker American Psycho. This divided the critics and will probably also get mixed reactions from audiences who might be spreading Marmite on their curate's eggs.
The Royal Court also welcomed a new artistic director in Vicky Featherstone, transferring down from the National Theatre of Scotland.
As always, there was a varied and adventurous programme, including a summer of short runs with a fixed cast.
If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep by Anders Lustgarten was the winner of the inaugural Harold Pinter playwright's award and, while sometimes indisciplined, was a powerful political piece that mixed humour with serious intent. For some reason, the critics took against it, which is a great pity as, for this critic, it was one of the highlights of the year.
Bruce Norris enjoyed great success at the Royal Court with Clybourne Park, and his picaresque new play The Low Road was a kind of American Candide that rather lost its way amidst innumerable plot lines.
In the summer season, both Mint by Clare Lizzimore about a young jailbird superbly portrayed by Sam Troughton and Death Tax by Lucas Hnath which looked at ageing and dealing with revenue authorities were amusing and barely indicated that they had been produced with only one week's rehearsal time each.
To end the year, the theatre produced a stage version of John Ajvide Lindqvist's cult horror movie Let the Right One in. For anyone that can overcome the inevitable silliness of vampires, underlying it was a touching love story that owed much to strong central performances by two young actors Martin Quinn and Rebecca Benson.
Moving to the Theatre Upstairs, Will Adamsdale's The Victorian in the Wall was a quirky comedy that developed into a rather subtle look at contemporary life through the eyes of its writer-performer and his eccentric family and friends.
The Djinns of Eidgah by Abhishek Majumdar mixed myth and contemporary politics into a compelling story about a football team in Kashmir who got too political for their own good, leading to destruction, death and a great deal of worthwhile reflection.
No Quarter by Polly Stenham was a strange, hippyish drama about a dying woman and her hopeless sons.
Routes by Rachel De-Lahay was a well-written drama that focused on the sad tale of illegal immigrants who desperately fight for the right to remain in their dead-end jobs in London, rather than being sent home to possible deaths and certain unhappiness.
Peckham the Soap Opera written by a multiple team with Miss De-Lahay in the vanguard, did exactly what it said on the packet, gently amusing while turning the lives of south-east London residents into a somewhat unlikely but generally attention grabbing mini saga.
Anna Wakulik's A Time to Reap, presented a slice of Polish life from the Communist era in graphic detail.
Narrative by Anthony Neilson had the feel of a devised Mike Leigh work but without the humour and imagination of the original.
The Royal Court did not restrict itself to its home in Sloane Square. Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker is an off-Broadway import that could not be more theatrical if it tried, looking at the ways in which performance can develop, compliment and cover up the joys and troubles of real life.
In a pub in King's Cross, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart by David Greig was a joy, transported down from Scotland where it had proved to be a festival hit at the Traverse (again off-site). This mixture of border ballads and bawdy modern storytelling benefited from tremendous music composed by Alasdair Macrae who also took part, an energetic cast and Greig's wonderful wit.
At the Donmar, there was a varied programme with Josie Rourke's revival of The Weir by Conor MacPherson the highlight. This quiet tale of a group of Irishman getting drunk and trying to impress an attractive woman with tall tales proved truly intoxicating. Indeed, it is so good that a West End transfer beckons early next year.
This rather mysterious play, currently doing well in New York, was paired with a new work from MacPherson, The Night Alive, also now across the pond. Once again, this was a male-dominated piece that got much of its energy from the single female, Caoilfhionn Dunne playing Aimee opposite Ciaran Hinds and Michael McElhatton.
Shakespeare was on the agenda in the form of Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role with Deborah Findlay playing his terrifying mother Volumnia.
Arnold Wesker is enjoying a strong growth in popularity at present. The National, the Royal Court and now the Donmar have all revived his earlier plays and James MacDonald's impeccable production of Roots starring Jessica Raine was highly enjoyable and somehow crossed the divide of over half a century to speak volumes to contemporary audiences.
Comedy was introduced in the form of Trelawny of the Wells by Arthur Wing Pinero with a little help from Patrick Marber. This classic of theatrical life directed by Joe Wright took viewers behind the scenes in the Victorian theatre and gave them an opportunity to see what a wild life was potentially enjoyed by luvvies of the period.
At the Young Vic, David Harrower's modernised reworking of Ibsen's Enemy of the People under the title Public Enemy was an enjoyable look at how people might react in today's eco-friendly society to revelations that are both shocking and politically damaging.
Feast, which was a co-production with the Royal Court can best be summed up by quoting from the introduction to the BTG review. "With its multicultural, multimedia, multi-writer concept, viewers are likely to approach Feast with caution. They shouldn't. While this 1¾ hour extravaganza, co-produced by the Young Vic and the Royal Court as part of the World Stages London project, may take a little time to tune into, once there you will be hooked".
While something of a mishmash, it did offer some very serious but also amusing commentary on the black experience through 300 years of often chilling history.
A Season in the Congo, directed by Joe Wright, was an impressionistic biography of Patrice Lumumba, which not only told viewers a great deal about the life of one of the greats of recent African history but also immersed them in the culture of the continent.
In the smaller spaces, David Lan often pursued challenging work. Trash Cuisine from Belarus Free Theatre was wild, rather like an extended food fight with political undertones.
By way of contrast, Edward Petherbridge effectively delivered his life story in company with Paul Hunter in My Perfect Mind. In particular, he focused on the after-effects of two strokes that stopped him from playing King Lear but perhaps provided time to reflect on a long and very successful career.
As the new kid on the block, the St James Theatre is now doing a good job, primarily acting as a receiving house for high-quality work developed by other companies.
It managed to persuade Max Stafford Clark and Out Of Joint to bring their 25th anniversary production of Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker to its venue near Victoria, which was a fine reminder of the quality of this playwright and her work. The drama about convicts in Australia being humanised by the power of the stage is still both humorous and moving even to those who have seen it on one or more occasions in the past.
Githa Sowerby’s Rutherford and Son saw Barry Rutter's Northern Broadsides making a relatively rare visit to the capital, in a production directed by Jonathan Miller. This north-south battle between a plucky daughter-in-law and her weak husband’s dreadful family also fully deserves a revival.
Looking slightly further afield, the theatre also played host to a gripping, minimalist stage adaptation by Joanna Murray Smith of Ingmar Bergman's classic film Scenes from a Marriage.
This play, which does exactly what it says in the title but oh so dramatically, saw Mark Bazeley and Olivia Williams on top form under the direction of Sir Trevor Nunn.
Two recent New York hits transferred across the Atlantic via the Theatre Royal in Bath and the redoubtable director of its Ustinov Studio, Laurence Boswell.
The American Plan by Richard Greenberg is a small-scale Jewish family drama with brooding passion starting out not too far beneath the surface. By the end, nothing can ever be the same again for the protagonists.
Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) is a riotous Victorian era comedy about a quack doctor who comes up with the perfect cure for those suffering from hysteria.
The subtitle rather gives the game away but even knowing what goes on in the room upstairs (the stage space not quite accommodating two rooms side-by-side) does not stop the evening from being absolutely hilarious and, at times, something rather deeper than that.
Having taken over the Tricycle at the end of 2012, Indhu Rubasingham has continued the good work that she started with Red Velvet, which will be making welcome return early in 2014.
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show by Don Evans was an American riot lampooning sitcoms but making some fairly serious statements along the way in Dawn Walton's consistently amusing production. Effectively, this is a reworking of William Wycherley's Restoration Comedy, The Country Wife, converted to black America in the 1970s.
Equally funny was the revival of Mary J O'Malley's Once a Catholic, directed by Kathy Burke. Set just along the road in Willesden and Kilburn this comedy located in a convent during the 1950s garnered as many laughs as any other play seen in London during the year.
The Irish had made an earlier appearance in the form of Frank McGuinness's solo, The Match Box, which allowed Leanne Best to shine as a grieving Anglo-Irish mother from Liverpool.
The strongly-cast Bracken Moor by Alexei Kaye Campbell and brought to the Tricycle by Shared Experience was an overloaded psychological drama set in the mid-1930s during which homosexuality begins to rear its ugly head as beautiful Terence remembers a boy who died long before.
Just along the road at Hampstead, Edward Hall offered its best year for quite some time, which included a considerable number of marvellous evenings and the odd stinker (about which no more will be said).
Terry Johnson's Hysteria still lived strongly in the memory from its first production at the Royal Court but managed to live up to expectations. This psycho-artistic extravaganza featuring a meeting between Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali in Hampstead was probably even stranger under Johnson's own direction but just as intoxicating.
Di and Viv and Rose by Amelia Bullmore was a deeply touching but never heavy tale of three young women who met in the 80s at university and intermittently stayed in touch through lives that we eventually follow until they are in their 40s. Anna Mackmin had the advantage of an excellent cast led by Anna Maxwell Martin with Gina McKee and Tamzin Outhwaite.
Longing comprised two Chekhov short stories adapted for the stage by novelist William Boyd. The writer of the latest James Bond novel, assisted by director Nina Raine, somehow managed to create a real aura of fin de siècle Chekhovian drama out of these stories fully justifying experiment.
Ed Hall achieved a real coup in persuading David Mamet to allow the London première of his Broadway hit Race to take place at Hampstead rather than in the West End. This play that has echoes of Oleanna and takes on really major issues from the perspective of an attorney's office. It proved to be as gripping Londoners had been on Broadway.
Most recently, Howard Brenton presented Drawing the Line, a highly political tale of partition set in 1947 as India divided in two with the creation of Pakistan. Featuring appearances by all of the big names of the era including Gandhi and Nehru, drama gave way to information supply rather more than was ideal but even so, this is another feather in Hampstead's cap.