1. AFTER THE DANCE. A perfect production of a gem of a play by Terence Rattigan, a playwright who is deservedly coming back into style. Oddly, this play has not received a major production since 1938. Magnificent cast with Nancy Carroll and Adrian Scarborough giving exemplary performances.
2. CLYBOURNE PARK. Bruce Norris's brilliant riff on Lorraine Hansberry's A RAISIN IN THE SUN. Funny, angry, sad all at once. A perfect cast and production.
3. PUNK ROCK. Another great Simon Stephens play, this one about disaffected youth, but not a cliche in sight. As usual in Stephens's work, someone goes violently, momentraily berserk, but the meltdown says much about where we are right now.
4. RUINED. I loved the script, didn't like the New York production, but the perfect production at the Almeida proved me right about Lynn Nottage's powerful play about women surviving in war torn Africa.
5.DESIGN FOR LIVING. A superb production that proved that this long, sometimes preachy Noel Coward comedy can work. Brilliant performances from Andrew Scott, Lisa Dillon and Tom Burke.
6. ALIENS. Annie Baker's touching little play about two thirty-something losers and a teenage boy who just might make it. Lovely!
7. HAMLET. Rory Kinnear is simply the best Hamlet I have seen. The rest B+ but he's definitely A+.
8. PASSION. A revelatory production of Sondheim's problematic pice at the Donmar, proving it works best small scale.
9. WHITE GUARD. Howard Davies superb, well cast production of Bulkagov's play about a family trying to survive the various 1918 Russian revolutions.
10. SPRING STORM. A moving production of a piece of Tennessee Williams juvenalia. Flawed but showing the marks of a great playwright.
AND THE CRINGE MAKING MOMENTS . . .
LA BETE. A perhaps clever skit in rhymed couplets bloated into a tedious ninety minute play to showcase once again the irritating Mark Rylance. I know some people think he's a great actor. I think he's Britain's answer to Nathan Lane and from me that's not a compliment!
LOVE NEVER DIES. Incoherent mush. A sequel to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. One of those productions when one asks "Why did they bother?" throughout. Great sets. I understand they have revised the script somewhat but the raw materials for a good musical simply aren't there. Like a score worth hearing, intelligent lyrics, an interesting story, characters.
PYGMALION. Rupert Everett giving the worst performance of the year. His co-star, Honeysuckly Weeks (I'm not kidding) looked like Eliza Doolittle's mother and almost matched Everett in awfulness.
Some comedies that shouldn't be revived -- SEASONS GREETINGS, WHEN WE ARE MARRIED
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (Broadway). One of many totally unnecessary musicals made from movies that are perfect in their own right. This one a particularly incoherent mess despite a starry cast. Awful score. Not all movies make good musicals!!!!!!!!!!
DON GIOVANNI at the English National Opera. I'm not a purist about opera productions but this one by Rufus Norris made the supposedly aristocratic, sexy Don into an ugly slob few women would be interested in. Poorly conducted. Mediocre cast. At the English National Opera prices, this is not good enough
THE NUTCRACKER at the English National Ballet. I am a sucker for The Nutcracker. I love the music, grew up with the Balanchine production, have fond memories of the American Ballet Theatre's quasi-Freudian production in the 1970s and think the Royal Ballet production is close to perfect. This one was a mess, rendering the story incoherent. Choreographer Wayne Eagling, a former star dancer, knows how to choreograph for men, but not for women. The dancers ranged from mediocre to poor. They wouldn't have made the corps of the Royal Ballet.