2013 Pick of the Year – Al Geary

Reviewer, Al Geary, is based in the Midlands; he makes his choices from tours and home-grown shows.

For a start there was the Old Vic’s Noises Off, with a fresh cast. Comparisons can be invidious; but not enough was made of Dotty sitting on those sardines; and Gary hopping down the stairs with shoelaces tied together looked less perilous than it did. A brilliant farce, it’s also a homage to the theatre business: despite their human inadequacies, all the actors in its play-within-a-play ‘Nothing On’ have touching fidelity to the profession. This is a satisfying, technically interesting classic.

As part of their touring package all-male Propeller came up with a brilliant and original Taming of the Shrew, Edward Hall directing. OTT acting was super; in the best sense, every actor milked his part. A dramatic, and dark, moment came when Petruchio challenged anyone in the audience to come up with a better technique than domestic abuse to break his wife in; and the feeding scene where he starves Kate and bullies the half-army of lackeys was brutal.

The Duck House was panned elsewhere but not by me. It was sharp satire; you had to pay attention because there was a laugh a line. And because you knew the future, there was dramatic irony aplenty. Timing was impeccable; so were the slowly-dawning realisations. Annoyingly, Ben Miller was applauded simply for stepping on stage, but that’s TV for you.

Two plays in Nottingham Theatre Royal’s Classic Thriller Season stood out. Apart from being fun, Murder Mistaken was interesting and unusual – you didn’t feel you were in Thrillerland. A bad boy plans to bump off elderly wife for her dosh. Given the early-fifties moustache and bogus oleaginous accent, you just knew he was a wrongun. Monica was no doddering caricature: she was trusting, pathetic; and authentic. The dispatching scene was genuinely upsetting.

Is the protagonist in Anthony Shaffer’s Murderer a murderer? You couldn’t be sure. Shaffer was lampooning the conventional thriller and simultaneously the medium of theatre itself. The stock plod drank off duty and was slurpy and belchy with it.

Michael Morpurgo’s The Butterfly Lion, adapted and directed by Daniel Buckroyd, might be a high point of Buckroyd’s career thus far. It had the narrative thrust of a great children’s book complete with stock caricatures portrayed with vigour and stridency. Michael and Bertie were done by an adult actor as a schoolboy in shorts, which doesn’t always come off; but it did here. That marketing cliché was appropriate: it was the ideal show for all the family.

2014-01-01 12:24:10

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