Even though I’ve become quite tired this year, and have tried to keep some sort of balance in there, I couldn’t resist nipping out of London every five minutes to see what was going on in theatres across the country. I even managed to start my 2019 theatregoing with a trip to Paris, courtesy of BroadwayWorld UK and the producers of Notre Dame de Paris! I’ve wanted to try some continental theatre for a while now, so I’m glad to have finally dipped my toe into that particular pool. And maybe I can add to that next year before freedom of movement dries up completely…
I do have a few regional trips lined up for 2020 already – plus I’m plotting a return to the US east coast in the spring – and I hope to keep adding to them, including more reviewing opportunities if I can.
I really enjoyed my first visit to Sheffield – despite the view you get on the train passing through, it’s actually a really lovely city. I was chuffed as well to make my first trip to The Crucible for an enthralling production of Rutherford and Son (especially as it sounds as though the NT’s version was nothing to write home about).
The rest of my Yorkshire stints were in York itself, which was a real treat as I don’t think I’d been there since a family holiday in 2003… Wise Children featured well here, with their eponymous first production and Malory Towers (which just so happened to fit with a gig I was going to). My favourite trip was probably the one that came at the end of my #MindTheBard week, taking in Twelfth Night and Hamlet at the pop-up Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre; I was hoping to make this an annual thing, so I was desperately upset when the news came about their financial woes.
Midlands and East Anglia
I’ve found a new place to love: Norwich! Admittedly I only chose it as the place to see The Worst Witch because I wanted to go on a Partrimilgrimage (though it being in our Easter break also helped), but it’s unexpectedly lovely and I hope to get back there to explore more fully.
Shockingly I only made one trip to the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon! It was a good’un though, as I finally ticked Timon of Athens off my list in a gender-switched production. I also made a return to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre (a couple of times) for Wise Children – I need to keep more evenings free to dash there and back next year…
It was also great to return both to Northampton and Nottingham. I’ve still not been in the Derngate, but A View From The Bridge was worth sitting next to a column in the Royal for. I did make it to a different Nottingham venue however (Royal Concert Hall), as I finally got to see We Will Rock You at the end of my Queen #MindTheBand week.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Back after learning from my mistakes of 2018 – and it actually seemed to work! No meltdown at all, despite getting soaked through on a daily basis, and only minor irritations; Edinburgh during Fringe is basically like London all the time, so I was at least equipped to deal with it (even if I had hoped for a bit of respite).
I was definitely more prepared, more flexible in my scheduling, and more relaxed about anything potentially going wrong. I was also slower at getting my reviews out, but let’s not go into that… In the end I had 12 shows to review (nine down on my 2018 commitments), and overall I saw 20 shows over four days – this time getting my daily comedy show booked!
In spite of the fact that my initial reaction after this August was not to go for as long next time, I have booked my accommodation already – and for about the same amount of time… Perhaps I’ll add in a Glasgow day trip while I’m up there, just so the Fringe doesn’t get too overwhelming. We shall see.
The South and Wales
It all counts! Quite close to home, I went to Bromley for the new tour of Cabaret (the same Rufus Norris production), and also Richmond for What’s In A Name? and Wise Children (I also spent some time at Bristol Old Vic for this one). I made my first trek to the Watermill Theatre for Amélie, The Mill at Sonning for Private Lives (on the hottest day of the year), and Salomons Estate for The Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Plus I trundled out to Hornchurch to review The Hired Man.
I was glad to make a long-awaited return to Bath for Let It Be (can that come back to the West End, already?!), as well as Salisbury Playhouse – Educating Rita was absolutely terrific, and I definitely recommend you catch it on its next tour in 2020. I also went back to Chichester – just the once – to see John Simm as Macbeth.
To cap it all off, I got to see the brilliant new Barn Theatre in Cirencester, and their equally brilliant version of Henry V. Another new one for me was the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, as I headed over to see Marc Antolin in Hedda Gabler.
I had to sneak Chester in here, which almost ruins this block as it’s a bit of a dive… But I did get to see Wise Children there (at Storyhouse), so it’s not all bad.
The big news is that I finally made it to the Royal Exchange! I couldn’t resist a new Simon Stephens play with music from Jarvis Cocker, so I shot up there on the final day of Light Falls. And, me being me, on another occasion I did a two-show day: Wise Children at HOME MCR and Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre.
Prior to that two-show day, I’d been in Liverpool to review SparkPlug at the Unity Theatre (slowly ticking off the venues there) – any excuse to spend a few hours in my favourite city, basically. I even went home from York via Liverpool in September just so I could do the same… I also saw Crave (as part of the Young Everyman Playhouse directors scheme) and made it to a Liverpool Fringe show: Second Glances.
The ones that got away…
As ever, I couldn’t see everything or get to every venue – what really stands out this year is the following:
- Kneehigh’s Asylum – I did eventually get to see UBU! in Shoreditch, but I’d love to spend some time down in Cornwall with the gang.
- West Side Story @ Royal Exchange – I’ve wanted to see this show for ages, but couldn’t fit this one in. Thankfully it’s back next year.
- Standing at the Sky’s Edge @ The Crucible – this new musical soundtracked by Richard Hawley sounded really intriguing, but time and money got the better of me.
- Leicester Curve – their tickets seem to go on sale at really inconvenient times for me to make the most of them.
- Cabaret in Berlin – at least I got to see a production of Cabaret this year, but seeing it in the right city and appropriate settings would be the ultimate.