Wednesday, 21 December 2016

2016 Theatre: Top 10 Performances

Pulling together a list of my favourite performances in 2016 was tougher than usual since so many of my favourite productions were ensemble pieces.

But no effort is too great for my readers, all three of you, and there were some standout performances from both expected and less expected places this year.

So, in rough order...



Harriet Walter
Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar Warehouse
Utter legend in being legendary non-surprise but still by far the best performance (performances technically) of the year. The range and depth of Walter’s skill in these three plays was astonishing. A force of nature. (Also her book on playing Shakespeare is ace.)

Helen McCrory
The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre
Another performance I fully expected to be excellent which was in fact excellent, even more excellent than I’d expected. Providing the fragile heart and surprisingly strong soul of this all round fantastic production, McCrory is just one of the best actresses around in any medium. Seeing her on stage is always a joy.

Elizabeth Marsh
Iron, Theatre By The Lake
The extreme wildcard of this list and a revelation in a very unexpected place (the Lake District). A timely reminder that there is theatrical life beyond London - far, far beyond London in this case - and an absolutely killer central performance, pun intended, in a play I’d like to see again. One of the most raw and vulnerable performances I’ve seen and all the more powerful for it.

James McArdle
Platonov, Young Chekhov, Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre
If Chekhov isn’t supposed to be funny then no one told James McArdle. A perfectly pitched, tragi-comic romp of a production that anchored Platonov and gave it depth as well as a genuine sense of uncontrollable fun. Cannot wait to see more of this dude in Angels in America next year.

Danny Sapani
Les Blancs, National Theatre
I liked Sapani the last time I saw him (Jason to Helen McCrory’s Medea at the NT, funnily enough) and I loved him in this. A performance of great dignity and greater anguish, he elevated an already great production into something really special indeed. More of him please.

Lucian Msamati
Amadeus, National Theatre
One of my favourite actors continuing to prove why he gets that billing. An incredibly demanding role, and one that had it been miscast would have killed the production dead before it reached the rehearsal room, handled with the utmost ease, humour and emotional clout. I genuinely love this man a little bit.

Andy Karl
Groundhog Day, Old Vic
That Karl is headlining the Groundhog Day Broadway transfer will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the London run. A riotous joy of cynicism, humour and unsentimental emotion with a killer singing voice and excellent hair who carried this show with apparently no effort.

Ralph Fiennes
Richard III, Almeida 
You can’t go too far wrong when you combine Shakespeare and Ralph Fiennes. Such was the case with his greasy, charismatic and dangerous Richard III. It was also a thrill to see him in a space as intimate as the Almeida. Close up Ralph Fiennes is the best Ralph Fiennes.

Tamsin Greig
The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, or iHo, Hampstead Theatre
The emotional heart of this production was undoubtedly Greig’s Empty. The scenes between her and her ailing father were incredibly poignant and, perhaps more remarkably, incredibly real.

Paapa Essiedu
Hamlet, RSC
It’s so refreshing to see Hamlet played by someone who’s actually the right age to play him. Essiedu is a superstar in the making and seeing what I hope will be his big break was a thrill. Great production, greater Hamlet.

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