How you all doing? We don’t know a lot, other than it’s cold, there’s sugary seasonal drinks on offer, it’s getting darker earlier, and the lights are getting fancier. It must be coming up to that famous end of year festival. So we’d like to take this opportunity to take a break from internet deals and figuring out which socket will take the fairy lights to concentrate on the end of year part and take a trip down memory lane to some of our most favourite theatre trends/moments of 2016 (excluding our dreamplay at the Vaults, obvs. We think about that a lot.)
So, it may not have been a great year for anything (read: everything else) in the world but theatre had a pretty good year off it. There was good news for women, diversity and theatre finding an accessible, no-holds barred voice in the face of threats to the arts and culture itself. When threatened, the creature that is theatre spreads more seeds of genius further and wider. Hell, even hateful not-too-distant-future Republican Vice Presidents knew Hamilton was ‘a thing’ – and once again the theatre community showed its worth by coming together and presenting him with a fair address – all while dressed as founding fathers. Proof if ever needed The Arts is that group of cool people at the bar that you really want to be friends with.
But it’s been a great year for Shakespeare, a bumper 400th birthday – a Lear around every corner, a Macbeth here, a trilogy there – but most importantly, Britain seems to have conspired to serve Shakespeare with a twist of lemon – Forced Entertainment’s Tabletop Shakespeare adding lemon, ketchup, gin, bleach: basically anything that’s to hand for their impressive and somehow endearing Shakespeare retellings. With Emma Rice’s landmark appointment to artistic director of the Globe, we enjoyed beautiful, lush imaginings of his worlds, right through to Ray Fearon’s Macbeth, and the regular inclusion of amazing actors with disabilities in her casts, it’s been a real rejuvenation of that space, and we can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.
Josie Rourke at the Donmar, presented along with Baz Patron Harriet Walter an absolute belter of a trilogy this year –sure you’ve seen Harry Hotspur and Kate quarrel about his disloyalty to the king, but have you seen it set in a English Women’s prison? - be prepared for that particular context to make the most sense ever. A stunning production. Of course, currently Glenda Jackson is shaking the windows at the Old Vic as Queen Lear – and RSC productions, including Cymbeline at the Barbican displaying more diversity and talent than ever.
It’s also been a good year for nostalgia with an interesting slant – sure you’ve seen Groundhog Day millions of times, but have you seen it set to music and a tap shuffle? Read all the Harry Potter books? Well here it is, live as you live and breathe with apparently amazing stage effects. Think you read all of Samuel Beckett’s work? Wait, we found another one. In an age where all art, be it paint, sculpture, tv, film, or music is having to work harder and harder to keep our waning attention spans, this year’s theatre has shown there’s life in the old girl yet. She may well outlive us all.
Really, there was just too much to mention here: some amazing standout performances by folk you knew but didn’t know could do that, to folk you didn’t know but now know of because they are so good at that – whew, that was a coffee fuelled thought- 2016 could have easily pulled us all under (and had more than enough real drama in it to fill eight volumes of a tragic opus) but a mix of nostalgia, fun, inclusivity and risk-taking made it, in our opinion, a bumper year for culture and the arts. Of course, there is always more work to be done, more outreach and representation, but with the way things are going, that faint glow of optimism, all but put out by the crap the year has put us through is starting to spark. From remembering Bowie in Lazarus to Amadeus at the National, the theatre is still appointment viewing. In the words of London mayor, London is Open: and our stages and audiences reflected it.
Obviously for us, it was a fantastic year for our run of dreamplay at the Vaults, our education programme, outreach, and flying the flag for site-specific theatre. We can always go further though, and Baz is ready for the new year! C’mon then 2017, if you think you’re hard enough.
*delicately sips eggnog* dammit, Christmas, surprise attack.
Big love and high fives,