Alexander Ray Edser’s Top 3 from 2015: HECUBA, QUEEN ANNE, TOP HAT.
The level of performance generally is getting higher and higher, which makes the choice of selecting three from a year harder and harder.
Two of my choices are from the RSC, both in the Swan at Stratford.
The first is HECUBA written by Martina Carr and directed by Erica Whyman. This is without doubt one of the most powerful pieces of new writing to come my way in 2015. Carr employs a fluid and poetic style incorporating direct and reported speech. This strange mixture heightens the whole action so that the violence, always reported as in Greek tragedy, seems all the more horrific. In Soutra Gilmour’s dark, shiny set, the whole production felt hard-edged. Terrific performances, particularly from Debbie Crotty (Hecuba) and Ray Fearon (Agamemnon).
At the play’s conclusion you just wanted the whole thing to start again.
My second pick from the Swan is Helen Edmundson’s QUEEN ANNE. A main element of this play’s success is it centres around a UK monarch about whom most of us know little. In Helen Edmundson’s portrait of the Queen and in Emma Cunniffe’s portrayal of her, we find a complex monarch, striving to do her best against a background of machinating courtiers and politicians. Edmundson also structures her play marvellously integrating a further element (a new spirit of satire) adding dynamics, depth and enhancing her main themes.
By contrast my third choice is the 2014-15 tour of Irving Berlin’s TOP HAT, which I saw at Birmingham Hippodrome in March 2015. The production toured for about a year around the UK and also visited Japan. It was truly gorgeous. The show has beautiful songs and music and these are were beautifully staged. The performing style and costuming perfectly captured the period. In addition, you were also aware of the unobtrusive use of 21st Century technology to enable the show to move fluidly and effortlessly along. Fantasy, yes; escapism, certainly; but who cares? a musical and visual feast.