The best and worst of 2010 theatre

So as is traditional this time of year it is time to sit down over a glass of festive sherry and a warm mince pie to reflect on the hits of the year and shiver at the memory of the turkeys.

On reflection, it’s been a mainly positive year with plenty of contenders for praise and, thankfully, only a few shows that made one wonder how they ever reached the stage. In total it was 149 shows seen in 41 different venues during 2010. Shows ranging from classics to new work in progress, venues ranging from the Albert Hall and the open air through to a cold war aircraft hanger.

Let me get the duds out of the way first – those that made me rue the fact that I’d wasted a couple of hours of my life on such dross.

Ten Biggest Turkeys of 2010

10) Tell Me On A Sunday – Ipswich Regent (On Tour)
Rewritten for Claire Sweeney but destroying any soul it had

9) Jekyll & Hyde – New Wolsey Theatre (On Tour)
Lacking any charisma or suspense, a vital ingredient in melodrama

8) Ghost Stories – Duke of Yorks Theatre
There are more thrills on a cheap fairground ghost train than on this limp horror

7) Danton’s Death – National Theatre
Danton just couldn’t die quick enough in this deathly dull production

6) Terror 2010 Death & Resurrection – Southwark Playhouse
When an audience is laughing at horror you know something is seriously wrong

5) The Madness of George III – New Wolsey Theatre (On Tour)
Wigs by Halfords, set by Ikea and acting from panto land

4) Dracula – Greenwich Playhouse
More ‘Carry On Count’ than Bram Stoker

3) Love Never Dies – Adelphi Theatre
Nice score, pity nobody bothered to write a book that engaged an audience

2) Paradise Found – Menier Chocolate Factory
How so much legendary Broadway talent created such dross is one of theatre’s biggest mysteries

1) Sex Idiot – New Wolsey Theatre Pulse Fringe
A ‘show’ where performer gets audience to donate their pubic hair before urinating on stage and pouring it over herself – need I say more!

So, after the flops, on to the more worthy. A drum-roll, please, a rustling of golden envelope, and the results in reverse order are:

Top Ten Best Plays of 2010

10) Spring Storm – National Theatre
A powerful re-discovery of Tennessee Williams’ early work.

9) Joe Turner’s Come And Gone – Young Vic
A demonstration that a staging of the whole Pittsburgh Cycle is way overdue in the UK

8) Catcher – Pilot Theatre Company
In the 30th anniversary year of the assassination, a timely look into the dark, disturbed mind of John Lennon’s killer.

7) Arabian Nights – RSC Courtyard Stratford
Inventive and engaging retelling of fables that work for all ages

6) The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Young Vic
Dark, dark comedy in a landmark production

5) Kursk – Young Vic
Totally immersive theatre with the audience at the heart of the action

4) Earthquakes In London – National Theatre
Putting the epic back into theatre

3) Enron – Noel Coward Theatre
Totally theatrical but also an immensely relevant look at the financial meltdown

2) Dunsinane – RSC at Hampstead Theatre
Inspired sequel to the Scottish play that gives a deeper insight into Lady M’s motives

1) Black Watch – National Theatre of Scotland at Barbican Theatre
Emotionally devastating look at the impact of war

Top Ten Best Musicals of 2010

10) Remains of The Day – Union Theatre
Shows that small is often better

9) Kristina – Royal Albert Hall
Symphonic rendition of Bjorn and Benny’s Swedish opus

8) Les Miserables – Barbican Theatre
Given a birthday makeover of real power and emotion

7) Sunshine on Leith – Orchard Dartford
Who’d have ever thought that a Proclaimers jukebox musical could work

6) Merrily We Roll Along – Queens
A concert that shows this is one of Sondheim’s greatest scores

5) Aspects of Love – Menier Chocolate Factory
Lloyd Webber’s overblown operetta rejunivated in miniature form

4) Hair – Gielgud
A masterclass in Broadway showmanship

3) State Fair – Trafalgar Studios
Micro musical full of infectious melodies and humour that shows small can be better

2) Into The Woods – Open Air Theatre
In his 80th birthday year, a definitive alfresco rediscovery of one of Sondheim’s most magical masterpieces

1) The Human Comedy – Young Vic
Hair may be better known but this community Southern jazz opera soars and deserves a much longer run

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