We were particularly taken with the performance of Rory Kinnear, a fascinating actor to watch, cerebral and subtle, in both his fresh and nuanced Hamlet at the National (which elevated Nicholas Hytner’s pacey but occasionally blatant production) and his compelling Angelo in the Almeida’s accomplished Measure for Measure. We were also impressed by Tracie Bennett’s superb performance as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter’s otherwise pedestrian End of the Rainbow at the Trafalgar Studios, and Samuel Barnett in James Graham's The Man at the Finborough (a role he shared with three others over the course of the run), a perfectly judged performance that made wonderful use of the intimate Finborough space.
Samuel Barnett also featured in Marianne Elliott's production of Women Beware Women at the National, the strikingly choreographed finale of which was also one of the year's highlights.
Of the numerous events marking Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday we thought that the magical Open Air Theatre of Into the Woods just pipped the Donmar’s Passion. The Arcola continued to produce exciting and ambitious work in its last year in its current home at Arcola Street (it will be moving to new premises in the new year) and we were particularly taken with Russell Bolam’s powerful revival of Athol Fugard’s meditative play on salvation through art, The Road to Mecca.
On the other hand we were one of the few places that didn’t think that the Royal Court’s production of Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park was quite the shining, magnificent thing everyone else did.
Talking turkey, Onassis walks away with the top prize in this category, prompting our reviewer to call it: "two and a half hour’s turgid and uncritical revelling in the characters of the global elite."
This was closely followed by Nick Grosso’s Ingredient X at the Royal Court, Really Old, Like Forty Five at the National and Paradise Found at the Menier Chocolate Factory
And so here it is, neither in chronological order nor in order of preference, the musicOMH top ten 2010:
1. You Me Bum Bum Train, LEB Building, London
This unique immersive theatre event was the fastest selling show ever at the Barbican. Created by Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd and designed for one audience member at a time, this was experiential theatre at its best and most inventive where the audience are invited to become the protagonists in a series of unexpected scenarios.
2. Love, Love, Love, Royal Exchange, Manchester
Mike Bartlett, whose Cock so charmed us last year, continues to produce engaging and relevant plays that truly speak to audiences. Following the sprawling Earthquakes in London, staged over the summer in the National, he gave us this resonant tale of generational relations.
3. It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later, Traverse, Edinburgh
The highlight of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was Daniel Kitson’s solo show, which took the 10am slot at the Traverse and sold out easily. Kitson expertly intertwined two stories of two individual lives; the result was a delicate and compelling piece of story-telling, minimally staged but genuinely moving and full of moments of beauty.
4. The Animals and Children Took to The Streets, BAC, London
Blending animation with music and live performance, the delightfully dark new show from theatre company 1927 was more ambitious in scope than their early piece, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and had a greater clarity of voice and vision.
5. Palace of the End, Arcola, London
Jessica Swale’s revival of Judith Thompson’s triptych of monologues was both potent and timely. A harrowing and mesmerising experience it made full use of the Arcola’s intimate smaller studio and featured an astonishing performance from Robin Soans as Dr David Kelly.
6. After the Dance, National, London
Thea Sharrock’s masterful revival of Terence Rattigan’s ‘lost’ play was full of striking and emotionally complex performances including Benedict Cumberbatch at this prickly best and the wonderful Adrian Scarborough. Nancy Carroll deserves every plaudit for her performance as the cast-aside wife.
7. The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Young Vic, London
Joe Hill-Gibbins revival of Martin McDonagh’s bleakly comic debut play was as unsettling as it was amusing and featured two superb performances from Roseleen Linehan as the lumpen, stubborn mother and the possible too-luminous Susan Lynch as her seemingly down-trodden daughter. A wickedly tense production, though it left a bitter taste in the mouth.
8. Bells are Ringing, Union, London
The tiny but ever-creative Union Theatre continued to produce work of interest and uplift with Paul Foster’s glorious revival of the chintzy 1950s musical. With Anna-Jane Casey on top form the production allowed audiences to re-examine the musical.
9. The White Guard, National, London
Howard Davies directed Mikhail Bulgakov’s semi-autobiographical account of the doomed fate of the pro-Tsarist forces in Ukraine. The stirring production featured some excellent ensemble playing on Bunny Christie’s stunning designed series of sets.
10. Matilda, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Y’know for kids. But also for adults too. Dennis Kelly’s adapation of Roald Dahl’s much loved novel for the RSC featured typically witty songs by Tim Minchin and excellent performances from the young cast and the grown ups, particularly in the shape of Bertie Carvel’s malevolent Miss Trunchbull.