I have far from seen enough theatre this year. It begs the question when is enough is enough. I have had weeks of not managing to get to the theatre. And then, conversely I’ve managed to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe and Wales’s Festival of Voice. So my top theatre picks for 2018 are more about me appreciating the theatre, as an advocate, someone ticking that bucket list aspiration of getting to the theatre every month, and sharing some of the best of accidental finds.
My top theatre picks for 2019 span my life. Raising a family in the Vale of Glamorgan (the one not far from Cardiff), the one as a mother who works (mainly near to London), and the one who as a mother has hope (thanks to Network of Independent of Critics) and made it to her first Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s not meant to be reflective of Britain, it is far from it. But it is the theatre which made my world a better place.
And so, if you hear of these productions near you, if you feel the urge to get to your local theatre because of this list. I have more than served my purpose. I grew up with the Sherman, Chapter and the New Theatre as my staples. And I hope my children will grow with the same (as well as the armadillo). So there’s hope that as a result of social media, it might just inspire someone else to share their finds or to take a chance on one of mine.
And, yes, as homage to Sunday evenings, it’s in reverse order.
10. Wu Song
The perfect introduction for children to Chinese literature. A wonderful combination of Kung Fu, street dance, acrobatics, storytelling and humour.
Admittedly this is in here because of how much Seren loved it. I’m still not entirely sure what captivated her so, but Wu Song just appealed to her Japan-loving being.
Let’s not do geography, but enjoy the moment of Seren being inspired. And continuing to be so. It’s worth being in the top 10 for this alone.
9. Wilde Creatures
Everything you want theatre for children to be. Tall Stories delivers on storytelling, creativity and inspiring imaginations.
The Pleasance Courtyard ended up being my favourite place for enjoying children’s theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe. Having enjoyed Tall Stories productions previously I was really pleased that we caught Wilde Creatures.
At nine, I think Seren was beginning to think most children’s theatre was directed at children younger than her. Fortunately Wilde Creatures was one which appealed across the age span. Fantastic performances, eye-catching and imaginative set design and live music too. This really was a highlight of our time in Edinburgh.
8. Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff)
Lovecraft cleverly provides a better science education than anything you learned when doing your GCSEs.
Carys Eleri’s Lovecraft is a clever blast of humour, science and music. A tale which is reminiscent of so many aspects of growing up, which in turn brings familiar laughter. More so, this is clever because it’s in the underpinning feelgood which this production stays with you. That kindness really will make someone’s world a better place.
7. Rhondda Rips It Up!
Celebrating the centenary of some women gaining the vote in the UK, Welsh National Opera has created a joyful introduction to both the unsung heroine of the Wales Suffrage Movement and opera.
Rhondda Rips It Up! was my first introduction to opera and was far from anticipated. A joyful and entertaining production easily translating the camaraderie of women in creating the momentum for women’s rights- across the range of motivation.
A timely production, cleverly staged and through a wealth of talent ably conveying a key piece of Welsh history.
6. A Good Enough Girl?
A gem hidden amongst the Edinburgh Fringe. A fun but insightful production considering what happens if women don’t.
Educational and yet appealing to younger audiences in a way which only Taylor Swift can. A Good Enough Girl? enables an introduction to the contributions women have made through the ages, and the contributions which continue to be made.
There is so much in this production which could benefit our today, in respecting perspective. But this production isn’t done as ‘education, education, education’ but with fun and laughter.
The story of Sylvia Pankhurst, of the suffrage movement, and the struggles which existed within and as a result of this fight. Underpinned by hip-hop and a cappella chorus.
You know something is good and is taken seriously by the number of schools visiting a production. And there was something good about seeing school classes at an evening performance. This take on a key piece of our history, this interpretation made a conversation.
It was not without fault, the three hours a little uncomfortable in the gods, but I wouldn’t have given up my seat. This was everything the now and the future of female is and should be.
Utopia encapsulates why it’s always a good idea to try out new experiences, whatever your preconceptions might be telling you.
Festival of Voice introduced me to so many new experiences, theatre which I wouldn’t have considered taking in without the motivation of the overall experience. And there were some absolute gems to enjoy.
Charlotte Church’s Utopia was the one which I was still clueless as to what I would experience even when walking onto the stage of the Donald Gordon theatre at WMC. It turned out to be the most fantastic of evenings, experiencing so much sensory brilliance over the course of a few hours.
3. Alice In Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland is that perfect combination. Bringing to the Sherman’s audience a perfect mix of performance, music and design.
There is so much to celebrate in reminiscing about the year’s offer from the Sherman Theatre.
Because it should go without saying that Christmas at the Sherman is magically, although this is something which can never be taken foregranted.
That I realised, having experienced so much children’s theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe, that children’s theatre- and more so than that- family theatre is so difficult to get spot on. Too young, and older children get bored; if it’s too serious, and younger children get bored; too many target references for the older audience, all the children get bored. There is a perfect balance which really does seem to be caused by fairy dust (and all of the talent coming together at just the right time).
Carefully and uniquely crafted. A dynamic balance of the joy, grief, despair and hope. A wonder of icons who inspire and continue to bring so much to so many.
I was fortunate to be introduced to Le Gateau Chocolat, and full head, toe and sinker as a result of Charlotte Church and her version of Utopia as part of the Festival of Voice. And blissfully, Wales Millennium Centre has welcomed both ICONS and Duckie this December.
It is Edinburgh on which this is based. I realised after enjoying ICONS at the Weston Studio that it is possible to feel shortchanged by a venue. And that’s not to takeaway from anyone who loved the experience at WMC. But in Edinburgh I lost my heart.
1. The Jungle
A collision. A reminder that whilst there can be so much going on which isn’t great. You’re at the theatre. You are able to experience joy. And for all that you are doing, you can do so much more.
As I walked across the bridge to the Playhouse Theatre I finally managed to get my husband to answer the phone. It had been a particularly tough day at work. My imminent redundancy had been brought a little closer. I had decided that whilst all I wanted to do was hibernate in a hotel room I would continue with life as planned.
I’m glad I made the call to go the theatre regardless. The call to my husband was short. It was windy on the bridge, echoing the weather at home. He agreed I was better at the theatre.
The evening before I had been discussing what urged an audience to get to their feet at the end of a production. The conversations which breeds the inner cynic. But reinforce, it’s about the everything.
I think, this year, The Jungle represents everything which is right and wrong with our world. And I don’t know where to even start with solving that problem. But I am grateful that a conversation has been promoted through the stage.
The Jungle brought me to my feet. It wasn’t just in the actors, or the production, it was in everything theatre represents, the everything an ideal Great Britain could represent.