Favourite female performances of 2019

Shiloh-Coke-as-Beth-in-Chiaroscuro-at-Bush-Theatre.-Photo-Johan-Persson1-700x455
Chiaroscuro Photo credit: Johan Persson

As with last year, there were too many brilliant performances to restrict this to one combined list – so once again I’ve split them up into male and female performances.

It was a particularly strong field this year, I thought, which makes for quite a cosy female performances subs bench: Kara Lily Hayworth (Maggie May – Maggie May & Sally Bowles – Cabaret), Shiloh Coke (Beth – Chiaroscuro), Beverly Rudd (Lucy Lockitt – Dead Dog in a Suitcase (& Other Love Songs)), Harriet Bunton (Hodel – Fiddler on the Roof), and Laura Baldwin (Dawn – Waitress).

In no particular order, my top 10 are…

Phoebe-Waller-Bridge-in-Fleabag-at-Wyndhams-Theatre.-Photography-by-Matt-Humphrey-700x455
Fleabag
Photo credit: Matt Humphrey

Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Fleabag, Fleabag (Wyndham’s Theatre)

An absolute masterclass in solo show performance. Obviously the hype was at a stratospheric level, but Waller-Bridge well and truly lived up to it; she had the 759-capacity theatre transfixed and laughing their socks off from the word go.

leah-harvey-134540-Brinkhoff Moegenburg
Small Island
Photo credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Leah Harvey – Hortense, Small Island (National Theatre)

Following on from her impressive turn as the youngest Emilia in the play’s original run last year, Leah Harvey struck gold again with a powerful performance as the independent and single-minded Hortense in the stage adaptation of Small Island.

79494048_1439518162877668_8301248343724523520_n_Pamela Raith
Amélie
Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Audrey Brisson – Amélie, Amélie (Watermill Theatre & The Other Palace)

I said it in my review for BroadwayWorld UK: Audrey Brisson really was made to play Amélie. She has just enough of a hint of the film character (and doesn’t look too dissimilar to Audrey Tautou), but brings her own magic to the role – she’s magical, quirky and has sublime vocals.

Avalanche-Barbican-1-700x455-Tristram Kenton
Avalanche
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Maxine Peake – Woman, Avalanche: A Love Story (Barbican)

I could sit and listen to Maxine Peake read the phone book, she’s that engaging. In solo shows, it’s vital that the performer is able to hold the audience’s attention for the entirety of the show, and with a voice so full of character Peake is ideally suited to the task.

53161797_10157269825645774_6756142444628148224_o_Ingrid Pollard
Richard II
Photo credit: Ingrid Pollard

Adjoa Andoh – Richard II, Richard II (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

A fine example of why it’s vital theatremakers keep giving traditionally male roles to women; Richard II is a bit of an odd one – in many ways a tyrant, he’s also incredibly vulnerable at times. Andoh struck a fine balance, creating a conflicted but strong character, becoming the true heart of the production.

64583626_671744966571881_8718651974427344896_o_Johan Persson
Waitress
Photo credit: Johan Persson

Lucie Jones – Jenna, Waitress (Adelphi Theatre)

Her introduction to the show may not have been handled in the best way – alarm bells were set off when images of her as Jenna were shared on Broadway, and she ended up being parachuted into the West End before her stint had officially begun (so without fanfare) – but she quickly became a fan favourite. Not only is she very funny, but she’s also adept at tugging at your heartstrings, particularly in She Used To Be Mine.

maggie-smith-brunhilde-pomsel-134146-Helen Maybanks
A German Life
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Maggie Smith – Brunhilde Pomsel, A German Life (Bridge Theatre)

Following on from Laura Linney last year, the Bridge Theatre managed to find another of the few actors capable of holding the attention of a full house all by themselves. So much so that I didn’t notice for quite some time that the set had gradually been moving forward throughout the 90-minute show. A remarkable evening.

60277211_10157444152225774_3877712172381372416_o_Tristram Kenton
Henry IV (part 1)
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Sarah Amankwah – Henry V, Henry IV (parts 1 & 2) & Henry V (Globe Theatre)

Yet more proof of the depth of performance a woman can offer a usually male role. Seeing the Henriad over the course of a single day meant I could see the development of the character from the unruly Prince Hal to all-conquering Henry V during the three plays. Amankwah’s performance shifted subtly as Hal grew up, and was eminently believable as the battling king.

uel5ycoxaesxhlhirxi6_Helen Maybanks
Lungs
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Claire Foy – Woman, Lungs (Old Vic)

A two-hander is almost as exposing as a solo show, and if you’re performing in a previously successful combination opposite a former colleague the expectations become sky high. I was excited to finally see Claire Foy on stage, and her performance shone brightly; she had the best of the one-liners, which she put to good use with excellent comic timing. A really gripping performance.

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UBU! A Singalong Satire
Photo credit: Steve Tanner

Katy Owen – Mr Ubu, UBU! A Singalong Satire (Shoreditch Town Hall)

It wouldn’t be an end-of-year list without long-term favourite Katy Owen making an appearance! I had an absolute blast at the UBU! press night – all of the company are brilliant, but it was Katy Owen belting out Anarchy in the UK that really kickstarted things for me. She’s given free rein to go as crazy as possible, with hilarious results.

2 thoughts on “Favourite female performances of 2019

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