Favourite shows 2021 (in-person)

It’s quite nice to go back to this, although when I had a look through my list of shows it wasn’t too hard to choose a top 10 – the hardest thing was getting them in the right order… I haven’t seen all of the shows that have been put on since things reopened, for a variety of reasons (money, time, a couple of boycotts), but I feel like I’ve seen enough to commit to a decent list; of all the productions I managed to see, I definitely think I chose wisely, as there wasn’t a properly bad one in there at all. (Why am I sort of gutted about that?!)

10. The Magician’s Elephant (RSC)
Great to be back at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre again, although it did feel a bit weird that I was there to see a new musical rather than a Shakespeare (or other early modern) play. This was a magical piece of theatre, with some brilliant performances and an amazing puppet! Review

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan
Photo credit: Helen Murray

9. Metamorphoses (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)
This is what I’d been most looking forward to in the previous Globe summer season, before COVID intervened – I’m glad that it was kept on ice for the 2021 programme, as it was such a breath of fresh air. The ensemble got through a fair few tales, but there are plenty left up Ovid’s sleeve so I’m hoping it may make a return at some point. Powerful storytelling.

8. Get Up, Stand Up! (Lyric Theatre)
Another delayed show that was on my wishlist, mostly because anything starring Arinzé Kene has to be seen. I listened to a Bob Marley biography before watching the show, and realised I knew very little about his life; the way it was brought to life onstage was remarkable, packed full of dynamism & moments of raw emotion. Review

Photo credit: Craig Sugden
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

7. Singin’ In The Rain (Sadler’s Wells)
Sometimes you just need a classic musical to get you through the week – and my trip to Sadler’s Wells definitely did the trick! I was pleasantly surprised about Kevin Clifton & Faye Tozer’s performances (I obviously knew any dancing would be covered, but you never can be sure about the rest), but Adam Cooper absolutely led from the front. Oh, and I thought I was out of the splash zone, but the website lied… I suppose this way I got the full experience?!

6. Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) (Criterion Theatre)
Jane Austen’s most famous story being told from the perspective of the household staff in an all-female production is just what the West End needs. It has the requisite drama & emotion of the book, but with a few more laughs added – oh, and a bit of karaoke thrown in for good measure! I’d love to see a few more classic novels get the *sort of treatment.

Photo credit: Matt Crockett
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

5. Constellations (Donmar @ Vaudeville Theatre)
Here’s one that nearly became a #MissedTheBoat post back in 2018… I do kind of wish I’d known how the play works before booking it, as I definitely wouldn’t have done two casts in one day (twice), but even that didn’t stop it from being incredibly affecting. All four casts were excellent and had their own highlights, but my favourite overall had to be Anna Maxwell Martin & Chris O’Dowd – they were probably the funniest pairing, and this contrasted so powerfully with the emotional moments.

4. What’s New Pussycat? (Birmingham Rep)
You never can be sure about jukebox musicals, but when I heard about the Tom Jones musical using the story of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones I was intrigued. I’d never read the book, but it was such a neat idea it’s a wonder no one has attempted it before – especially as it works so well! Yes, there are some cheesy moments, but that is genuinely part of its charm; the set & costumes were terrific (vibrant 1960s contrasted with the 18th century) and the company were incredibly entertaining. Delilah was easily one of the most memorable theatre moments of the year!

Photo credit: Pamela Raith
Photo credit: Wasi Daniju

3. Best of Enemies (Young Vic)
James Graham really does have a knack of finding the right story for the right time; like This House before it, Best of Enemies is firmly rooted in the past (1968) but speaks eloquently to the present day. The thrill of it is that it’s a history lesson wrapped up in theatre, with a fine balance of drama & comedy throughout. Charles Edwards and David Harewood put in knockout performances.

2. Cabaret (Kit Kat Club)
I decided I wouldn’t cheat and have two shows in equal first, so pretty much by dint of its short run so far (& the unpleasant crowding I’ve experienced in the foyer pre-show), this is marginally in second place. I’m so glad that a production like this finally exists in the UK, as it feels exactly like what Christopher Isherwood wrote about in the Berlin novels upon which the musical was based; seediness over glamour, and an ever-encroaching darkness. It almost goes without saying that Jessie Buckley & Eddie Redmayne are astounding, and more than capably supported by a phenomenal company. Tom Scutt’s design, though… 😍 Review

Photo credit: Marc Brenner
Photo credit: Steve Tanner

1. Wuthering Heights (Wise Children – tour)
Could anything else really stand a chance of competing with Cabaret? There was so much anticipation for this show – as it was originally announced in 2019 and due to run at the National in autumn 2020 – and it more than lived up to my expectations. An Emma Rice epic that does an incredible job at untangling the myriad plot lines & family trees, clearly explaining who’s who, and getting to the heart of the story; the music is fantastic, and Cathy’s mic drop moment in the first act is mindblowing. I look forward to following the tour again in 2022.

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