Last year we saw more great theatre than ever before, and narrowing our choices down to just ten has been extremely difficult.
However, going for productions that we raved about at the time and ones that we’re still thinking about, we narrowed our list. Artistic merit and standout performances became the deciding factors.
Here’s our top ten, with brief reasons why they made the grade.
10. Making Dickie Happy
Jeremy Kingston’s deliciously witty play sparkled at the Tristan Bates Theatre, giving voice to Noel Coward, Dickie Mountbatten and their entourage of boyfriends. A solid cast and snappy pace made it a well-deserved revival.
9. As Is
A revival of William M Hoffman’s play on the theme of AIDS in the gay community was brave and honest, telling a captivating story. Tom Colley and David Poynor played a couple dealing with illness, finding remarkable amounts of humour and pathos.
8. Bare The Rock Musical
An exploration of coming of age, religion and sexuality made for an explosive show with this musical set against the backdrop of a school. Ross William Wild and Michael Vinsen gave stellar performances.
7. Maurice’s Jubilee
Veteran character actor Julian Glover gave a magnificent performance of enormous dignity as a sick and dying old man looking back over his life and his encounter with the Queen, which he’s never been able to shake off. The gentle and touching comedy was written by and co-starred Nichola McAuliffe.
6. The Victorian in the Wall
A quirky and quixotic musical play by Will Adamsdale played at the Royal Court. Its self-effacing humour was intoxicating, as was the richness and invention of its story. The unashamedly middle-class play was produced by Fuel.
A one-woman show at the Tristan Bates Theatre saw Clare Cameron give an enthralling performance as Isabel, an actress preparing to take to the stage to play a great Shakespearean part. Over a highly entertaining hour we learn about her life and loves. Written and directed with wit and wisdom by Robert Gillespie.
4. The Merchant of Venice
The impressive Lazarus Theatre Company continue to set the bar for fringe theatre. Their excellent production of Shakespeare’s troublesome play about religious prejudice packed plenty of punch, with director Ricky Dukes tightening the action all the way to the courtroom showdown.
3. The Speed Twins
Possibly the funniest play we saw in 2013 was The Speed Twins, a piece of new writing by Maureen Chadwick (Bad Girls). Set in a celestial version of the Gateways Club, the poignancy of the piece, which successfully marries fantasy and reality, only added to the hilarity.
2. Passing By
A revival of Martin Sherman’s ground-breaking gay-themed play at the Tristan Bates Theatre was everything it should have been. The simple love story, played out by James Cartwright and Rik Makarem, was brought to life under Andrew Keates’ assured direction.
1. Land of our Fathers
A piece of new writing by Chris Urch that debuted at Theatre503 takes our top spot. Land of our Fathers celebrated a vanished way of life, set as it was down a mine in a Welsh town in the 1980s. It was tightly directed, deeply moving and unrelentingly claustrophobic. Superb performances by Clive Merrison, Patrick Brennan and the rest of the cast brought the best out of a remarkable script.