Many of my colleagues have chosen their best performances and performers of the year. I have shied away from this in the past with the excuse that I am on the Manchester Theatre Awards panel, but my personal choices do not necessarily reflect the collective decisions of the panel—which of course I will still defend.
My Best Production is a difficult decision as very little which I saw stood out as flawless overall. However I think the one that surprised me most by how much I enjoyed and appreciated it, and which was pretty near perfect, was Endgame at HOME, but honourable mention must go to Breaking the Code at the Royal Exchange and The Vertical Hour at Theatre by the Lake.
For Best Actor, I think I would have to go for David Neilson in Endgame, but with a nod again to Daniel Rigby for Breaking the Code.
Best Actress was the hardest-fought category for this year's Manchester Theatre Awards nominations as we were blessed with some incredible performances in 2016. Few people could compete with Kathryn Hunter on top form, as she was for The Emperor at HOME with her unforgettable multi-role storytelling. Niamh Cusack made some almost impossible scenes seem perfectly natural in Ghosts, also at HOME, and Julie Hesmondhalgh had the perfect balance of intelligence, wit and pathos in Wit at the Royal Exchange.
The above are all for home-produced work, but there was also some excellent incoming work from visiting companies in 2016. Complicite's The Encounter at HOME has to be the pick of the bunch as it was a mind-expanding experience that will stay with me for a long time. After that, 946—The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips was pure Kneehigh—and pure Emma Rice—on top form that was a joy to watch but with a thoughtful, political edge.
Here's to 2017 and another great year of theatre in the North West.