Skip to main content

No results found

HANBOROUGH GATE OX 1100x120 BANNER unezql
Culture, Theatre

Top 5s of 2018:

TheatreĀ 

divider
James Pike

2018 has been a formidable year for theatre. From new writing to exquisite reproductions – here are my top 5 picks from a year of theatrical gems.

Othello @ Oxford Playhouse

In this English Touring Theatre co-production with the Playhouse and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, the Othello text is made to feel completely contemporary, via Victor Oshin’s accompanying movements in the title role and Kitty Archer’s tone and phrasing as Desdemona. The best part of this offering is the after-dinner scene between Desdemona and Emilia (Kelly Price), which completely captures the end-of-party chats we’ve all had; the heels-off, quiet conversations interjected with short bursts of raucous behaviour. It is utterly relatable and current. The northern accent Price gives Emilia helps bring out the funniness of the character’s lines (and adds a new dimension to “I will speak as liberal as the north”) in this Richard Twyman-directed show complete with a very well-staged final bloodbath that isn’t devoid of surprise.

See image one, courtesy of ©Helen Maybanks

The Fishermen @ The North Wall

Gbolahan Obisesan’s stage adaptation of the Chigozie Obioma novel, as presented by New Perspectives, is impassioned, energised, and visually alluring. During the two-hander directed by Jack McNamara, lines bounce beautifully between Michael Ajao and Valentine Olukoga, as we’re drip-fed the history of Ben and Obembe – from the jovial to the beyond-dark – in a way that doesn’t give us too much to digest at once but doesn’t leave us wishing the plot would move more quickly. This tale of trust and death builds and builds in an impeccably controlled manner, and concludes with a tableau that somehow encapsulates all The Fishermen’s love and loyalty in a single moment.

See image two, courtesy of ©Pamela Raith

The Dragprov Revue @ Jericho Tavern

The Dragprov Revue is a title born out of the marrying together of drag and improv, but in the case of this drag king/drag queen double act, the drag seems almost secondary. The gift Ed Scrivens (‘Eaton Messe') and Francesca Forristal ('Christian Adore’) have for improvisation is the star of the show. Scrivens and Forristal – expertly accompanied by pianist Joe Zacaroli – tell the story of Messe and Adore, through sketches and songs informed by audience suggestions. It is heartening to see both performers genuinely laughing at what the other comes up with at times; a reminder that what happens onstage in a gig like this can be as new to the people doing it as it is to the audience, during a show gloriously littered with thrusting, decent vocals and speedy thinking.

See image three, courtesy of ©ChrisWRCox Photography

Further afield…

The Inheritance @ the Young Vic

Matthew Lopez’s epic about the Aids crisis and what it means to be a young gay man now, currently playing in the West End, is very special indeed. Directed by Stephen Daldry, it’s smartly structured, highly moving and very funny – the six ½ hours fly by. Highlights include Hubert Burton’s hilarious portrayal of gold puffer-wearing artist Tucker and Samuel H Levine’s brave and mightily impressive performance as both Leo and Adam. Not lacking in powerful monologues – or the endearing Vanessa Redgrave – it plays the Noël Coward until 19 January.

See image 4 (Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel H Levine) courtesy of ©Simon Annand

Tamburlaine @ the RSC

Under the direction of Michael Boyd, Jude Owusu shines as the tyrannical Tamburlaine in this RSC offering, displaying a presence that renders him well-worthy of the title role. The violence in Marlowe’s play holds the audience’s attention and is neatly staged. Early on, a neck break with accompanying sound effect is perfectly timed and alerts viewers; further along Orcanes’ tongue is cut out, tossed and allowed to splat on the floor – you can’t take your eyes off it. The pace is quick and the scenes of humiliation powerful, in what has to be the most murderous play I’ve ever witnessed.

See image 5, courtesy of ©Ellie Kurttz RSC

RECOMMENDED

Skylight 4
Sat 14 Sep 2019

Review: Skylight

A multi-layered love story kept wholly gripping

  As David Hare’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt plays the National, The Theatre Chipping Norton Homegrown presents his 1995 creation Skylight – and it’s one

Matthew Needham Arnold Torch Song. Turbine Theatre. Photo Mark Senior 29
Mon 9 Sep 2019

Review: Torch Song

Four decades after being written, it remains relevant.

The inaugural production of Paul Taylor-Mills’ Turbine Theatre – as directed by Drew McOnie – may not go down as a sensational entrance of a new venue. But it manages to place

Posh 2
Fri 6 Sep 2019

Review: Posh

Funny, fluid and engaging

People may well watch Laura Wade’s Posh and its fictitious Riot Club – a group of privileged Oxford University students who eat and booze together in tails before wrecking the place

IMG 6501 2
Wed 4 Sep 2019

Another Review: Don Quixote

A thoroughly-deserved standing ovation

Following Sam Bennett’s assessment of the latest Creation Theatre offering, here’s what Esther Lafferty thought.   Don Quixote is a 400-year-old classic novel written in Spanish