2013 - the year in review: The best theatre of the year


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The Independent Culture


"Chimerica", Almeida, then Harold Pinter Theatre

Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica was the best and boldest new play of the year – a thriller-like quest; a penetrating probe into the ethics of photojournalism; and a witty, multi-layered meditation on the co-dependency of the two global superpowers.  Lindsey Turner  directed the dazzling premiere.

"Ubu Roi", Barbican Theatre

Declan Donnellan and his crack French company gave a blackly hilarious twist to Jarry’s classic about infantile despots. The modern-dress production oscillated between elegant bourgeois decorum and the anarchic fantasies of a vengeful, camera-wielding son. We need to talk about Boggerlas.  

"Ghosts" Almeida

Using his own sharp, swift-footed adaptation, Richard Eyre’s spell-binding production of this Ibsen masterpiece moves to its shattering climax in an unbroken 90-minute arc, with Lesley Manville a subtle and searching Mrs Alving.  A transfer to the Trafalgar Studios runs from mid-December to 8 March.

"Othello", Olivier, NT

Mostly set in a concrete military compound, Nicholas Hytner’s anti-heroic and thrillingly incisive modern-dress production ditched the glamour and “exoticism” in favour of detailed, naturalistic  precision which the superb double act of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear penetratingly provided.

"Jumpers For Goalposts", Paines Plough tour, ending at the Bush

In Tom Wells’s delightful and touching comedy, romance tentatively blossoms between two male members of a hapless Hull five-a-side team struggling to avoid relegation in a lesbian and gay league. It confirms Wells’s rich  and rare gift for celebrating the goodness in ordinary folk.

Discovery of the year

Ustinov Studio, Bath

This intimate studio was not high on the list of must-visit venues.  But in 2013, with his revelatory seasons of contemporary American plays and Spanish golden age drama, Laurence Boswell, its artistic director, has decisively established it as a powerhouse.

Turkey of the Year

"Wag: The Musical", Charing Cross Theatre

A “personal spray tan artist” was credited in the programme, but what this show more urgently needed was the services of an undertaker. Awkwardly cast with a sprinkling of self-professed WAGS, it was a talentless, empty-headed compromise between mockery and glorification.