Alexander Ray Edser picks out three plays and two books from 2013.
Nothing too surprising for my first two choices; but that doesn’t stop them being superb theatre. And both from national companies.
First is Warhorse the NT’s production of Nick Stafford’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel. This was the UK tour production which I saw at its official launch at the Hippodrome in Birmingham. Nothing second rate about this because it’s a tour – gripping theatrical storytelling. Thrilling, too, to be in the huge Hippodrome auditorium, will all seats sold for the run of a straight play.
Next is Gregory Doran’s production of Richard II with David Tennant. Doran’s productions are often marked out by his detailed understanding of the play and the way he builds a team from his actors. This was no exception; and additionally there was the beautiful and truly tragic shape Tennant and Doran brought to Richard’s journey.
I’d like to mention Rent at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. The show itself is OK, but the OJS’s presentation of it was a wonder. In their tiny space they managed to mic the actors to give us the music theatre quality without blasting us, and the band played live in a room above the acting space. Terrific singing from the company, too.
Two books I’d like to mention. My First Play from Nick Hern Books; in this all the writers they’ve published give an account of their first memories of theatre. The range is amazing; funny, clever, often moving. And the other is the quirky and wittily written The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth (Icon Books). An explanation of the different rules of rhetoric doesn’t sound promising, does it? But in fact, it’s hard to put this book down.