Although many were originally concerned about a predicted decline in London’s cultural scene post-Olympic Games, in fact the opening of a whole range of new musicals and plays in the West End only left us with a how-on-earth-are-we-going-to-fit-this-all-in dilemma, as the theatre productions of 2013 really raised the bar.
Article by Laura C.
As always the long-standing giants such as Les Mis and The Mousetrap continued to attract the masses and those that didn’t quite take off with the critics were left to bite the dust in the shadows of success the leaders cast over London’s theatre district.
2013 saw a combination of revivals and new theatre arrive into the West End, with the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time adding to the chorus of successful literary adaptations that have appeared in recent years.
With such a large influx of critically-acclaimed productions, it would be a near impossible task to rank the best theatre of 2013, but the following musicals and plays were undoubtedly some of this year’s finest.
The book of Mormon
Following its Broadway success and the 8 Tony awards it picked up in 2011, the musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and co-composer of Avenue Q Robert Lopez was an instant West End hit.
The religious satire that follows the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda was booked up for months ahead upon opening and has received rave reviews from both the general public and the press.
And though it has been dubbed as the musical for people who don’t like musicals, its soundtrack is certainly strong enough to simultaneously appease those more musically-inclined.
Image by André-Pierre du Plessis
A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line was one of the most highly anticipated musical revivals of the decade, having not been performed in London since 1975. The award-winning musical, best known for its high kicks, top hats and jazz hands, portrays the stories of Broadway dancers as they audition for places on a chorus line.
Although the show was only in London for a short amount of time and closed a few months before its planned finish date, the production will return with a UK tour in 2014, giving those who missed it another chance to see the fabulous revival.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Yet another production with high expectations was the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This show was always going to be judged against the RSC’s Matilda, which had set the bar to an almost unobtainable level with its astoundingly talented cast of child actors, innovative staging and consequent 7 Olivier Awards.
Sam Mendes, fresh off the triumph of Bond film Skyfall, has created an undeniably magical show that brilliantly conveys Dahl’s enchanted world full of twists and surprises. A highlight for many has been the perfect execution of the glass elevator scene, which raised the production’s set and use of mechanical infrastructures high above the majority of its West End contemporaries.
Perhaps the only disappointing element of Mendes’ production, and the reason it hasn’t had the critical reception of Matilda, is the rather unremarkable musical score – which tends to fall flat in the memory of those who have seen it.
After its stint in the West End in 2012, Cabaret embarked on a 14-stop UK tour under the direction of Rufus Norris. The cast was led by Will Young of Pop Idol and Siobhan Dillon who was a contestant on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s BBC1 reality competition How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, a prime example of how the industry is being more and more infiltrated by TV talent shows.
However the two defiantly proved wrong the negative preconceptions of many; Young was almost unrecognisable in his comic and flamboyant role of Emcee, while Dillon added new depths and fragility to the iconic Sally Bowles.
Norris’ production certainly won over the critics, with its sharp contrasts between the hilarity and energy of showbiz and the rising tensions and cruelty of Nazi Germany.
A Doll’s House
For the third time in just over a year, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House returned to the Young Vic, with award-winning actress Hattie Morahan reprising her role as conflicted wife Nora who is struggling against the conventions of 19th century marriage and the expectations of women.
Carrie Cracknell’s production was given a number of five-star reviews, with a lot of attention given to the unique revolving set that imitated the title’s doll’s house.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon, the National Theatre’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been one of this year’s most talked-about productions, joining Matilda with its record-breaking 7 Oliviers.
The play follows the story of a young autistic boy Christopher as he seeks out the murderer of his neighbour’s dog and works within the frame that what the audience is watching is a school play based on Christopher’s own book. As the plot unfolds, the tale seems to become less and less about a crime and focuses on the nature of truth vs. lie.
Image by IHuntlgs
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Cripple of Inishmaan was just one play in Michael Grandage’s ‘Season of Five Plays’, which took place in the Noel Coward theatre and featured a range of A-list actors including Jude Law, Judi Dench, David Walliams and Sheridan Smith.
But it was Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe who took centre stage for this production of Martin McDonagh’s 1997 play, as a young disabled orphan on the small Irish island.
Radcliffe’s portrayal of McDonagh’s character received high praise from the critics and the play was considered a success, along with the other four in the series.
What was your favourite piece of theatre this year?
Featured Image: Ian Muttoo