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 male performances subs bench: Oliver Chris (Oberon – A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Tom Brooke (Alexander Litvinenko – A Very Expensive Poison), Chris Jared (Nino – Amélie), Marcello Cruz (Laertes – Hamlet), Paul Whitehouse (Grandad – Only Fools and Horses – The Musical), Tom Bennett (Del Boy – Only Fools and Horses – The Musical), and James McArdle (Peter Gynt – Peter Gynt).
In no particular order, my top 10 are…
David Hunter – Dr Pomatter, Waitress (Adelphi Theatre)
An absolutely perfect bit of casting, and a performance that has just got better and better as the year has gone on. Hunter is cheeky and charming, his vocals are as smooth as melted butter, and he’s just incredibly watchable. As well as the frequent arrival of new cast members enticing me back, it’s hard to resist the urge to return to see what this Dr Pomatter is getting up to.
Tom Stuart – Edward II, Edward II & After Edward (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)
Edward II is a fantastic play and I’ve only ever seen brilliant productions of it, but the combination of candlelight, sumptuous costume design, and Tom Stuart’s heart-wrenching performance made this one the best yet. And his companion piece After Edward followed on from this in great style.
Ryan Hutton – Rodney Trotter, Only Fools and Horses – The Musical (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
It’s difficult to separate the three leads, in particular, but I’d like to highlight Ryan Hutton on his West End debut. To take on such a well-known character is definitely a challenge, but Hutton has risen to it with ease. He’s managed to combine as much of the Rodney Trotter we all know and love with his own interpretation of the character, creating a new 42-carat plonker for the stage!
Reece Shearsmith – The President, A Very Expensive Poison (Old Vic)
Absolutely inspired casting. Shearsmith is almost too suited to a role like this, his wicked humour and whipsmart delivery made this a performance I’ll never forget. The character could easily have become something of a pantomime villain in the wrong hands, but you know you can rely on Shearsmith to provide something equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
David Oakes – Hamlet, Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre)
I’ve seen quite a few Hamlets now, and Oakes is up there with the best of them. The Prince of Denmark is one complex character, full of grief, humour, intelligence and vengeance – Oakes understood this completely, and thrived in the special environment of the outdoor pop-up Rose.
Nicholas Karimi – Eddie Carbone, A View From The Bridge (Royal & Derngate)
I’ve had a the privilege of seeing Karimi in a variety of different roles now and, alongside his understudy performance of Macbeth, this is definitely one of his best. He portrayed Eddie’s aggression and self-interest powerfully, committing fully to his gung ho actions ruled by his own logic.
Andy Gallo – Ash, Phoenix (Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Solo shows are impressive enough as it is, without the performer having to become a one-man band on top of it. Andy Gallo effortlessly multi-tasked as struggling musician Ash Phoenix in a one-man play that showed off his musical flair as well as his acting.
Luke Barton – Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four (Greenwich Theatre)
Another character that comes with a lot of pressure to portray, especially in the wake of the Benedict Cumberbatch TV series. Barton was everything you’d hope for and more as the famous detective, with a crisp delivery, great humour and real dynamism in his performance.
Charlie Cox – Jerry, Betrayal (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Easily the standout performance of the final show in Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter residency. Jerry may not have been an angel, but Cox’s naturalness made him very easy to connect with, and consequently you couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards him. It was an absolute treat to watch.
Hammed Animashaun – Bottom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bridge Theatre)
One of the comedy turns of the year. Bottom can be unbearable to watch if an actor goes too far down the controlling, pompous road, but thankfully Animashaun did nothing of the kind. Whether he was clowning around with the Rude Mechanicals, or cavorting with Oberon (a game performance from Oliver Chris), he was nothing less than hilarious – I was in hysterics for almost the entire show.