Favourite shows 2021 (digital)

Image source: The Barn Theatre

Despite the fact that theatres were once again up and running for about half the year (varying from place to place), there was still a massive appetite for digital productions going into 2021. The digital revolution has been a great step forward for accessibility (I’m pleased to see that a few venues are committing to livestreams alongside their in-person tickets), and also for ingenuity; many creatives have shown that there is another way to do theatre, and we have to hope that at some point more people take their fingers out of their ears and listen.

10. The Lorax (OV In Camera)
It was excellent to see some original cast members getting involved in this Zoom-based remount, and Jamael Westman was an inspired choice as the Once-ler. Bonus points to the Old Vic for providing the stream to schools to tie in with Earth Day.

9. William Shakespeare’s Tragical History of Frankenstein (Some Kind of Theatre)
After some tantalising hints courtesy of The Show Must Go Online & Quirk Books in 2020 (not to mention a festive special), it was great to see a different kind of full-length Ian Doescher does Shakespeare production – a suitably spooky story for the spookiest time of year.

8. South Pacific (Chichester Festival Theatre online)
A bit disappointing that it wasn’t live (my fault for presuming it was, given that it was only streaming on a handful of dates), but I was grateful to be able to see it – I’ve never seen this particular musical before, and at that point in the year I couldn’t be faffed with the trip to Chichester & back.

7. Doctor Faustus (The Show Must Go Online)
All of the ‘Month of Marlowe’ events were glorious, but as I’ve previously had a bit of a difficult relationship with this well-known play (I’ve not understood some sections of it due to the way they were staged), Doctor Faustus had to make it into the top 10. TSMGO just has a knack for making things clear without dumbing down in any way.

6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Almeida online)
This might have been higher had I not been struggling with the most infuriatingly bad internet connection on my evening, but what I did manage to see really gripped me and definitely made me jealous of the jammy sods who managed to get in-person tickets. It was billed as a “feminist re-telling” of the play, which wasn’t always clear, but I loved the ‘back to the start’ ending as Fléance returns to kickstart another cycle of violence – and Saoirse Ronan & James McArdle were fantastic as the Macbeths.

5. The Temporal Society (CtrlAltRepeat)
I love the way CtrlAltRepeat have made use of the various functionalities of Zoom in their interactive productions, and this was another fun one to be a part of. I’m really hoping there’ll be an opportunity for some new adventures at some point in the future, as they’re such creative endeavours. Review

The Temporal Society
Photo credit: Bonnie Britain

4. Scaramouche Jones (Stream.Theatre)
I accepted the invitation to review this on a bit of a whim, not knowing what the play was about and only really being familiar with Shane Richie as a soap actor & light entertainer – but he really blew me away with his performance in this one-man show. An enthralling play. Review

3. Gallathea (The Show Must Go Online)
This justified my constant assertion that there should be more John Lyly performed – I genuinely can’t understand why their work has been so overlooked. A perfect play for the TSMGO team to pick, as you know it will be cast & directed with sensitivity as well as adventurousness. A truly vibrant production.

Photo credit: Johan Persson

2. Lazarus (Dice FM)
I was so late to the party on this one, and its time in London was criminally short, so imagine the thrill when a handful of streaming dates were announced for the David Bowie musical. Despite it featuring some classic Bowie hits (and starring Michael C. Hall), I always found it to be rather underrated – perhaps because it wasn’t the typical jukebox musical that some people were hoping for. Anyway, it was truly excellent to digitally go back to 2016-17 for a few nights.

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Barn Theatre online)
A staggeringly imaginative modern take on the classic Oscar Wilde novella. Sometimes when people try and update things like this it can feel a bit forced & tenuous, but everything worked absolutely perfectly. Top quality performance from Fionn Whitehead in the titular role. Review

Image source: The Barn Theatre

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