Feature: Top Ten of 2016

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Though 2016 has been far from kind, seeing roughly 250 productions mostly in fringe and off-West End venues has made for a fruitful year in theatre. Choosing ten hasn’t been easy, but these productions had an impact that sets them apart from the rest.

10. Hamlet Peckham

A totally race, age and gender-blind production in found space The Bussey Building, this Hamlet focuses on storytelling and was executed with energy, undeniable passion and exceptional skill that puts it leagues ahead of most small-scale Shakespeare.

9. A Girl and A Gun

Louise Orwin’s unapologetic live art piece looks at sexualised female violence, gaze and control. The sophisticated work incorporates live technology and a different male actor each night who hasn’t seen the script until he sets foot onstage.

8. Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat

Lewd, rude and in your face, live artist Lucy McCormick takes on celebrities and their causes, the Bible and its women, and female sexuality. Be prepared to be shocked and amazed when she brings the show to the Soho theatre in 2017.

7. Extravaganza Macabre

Little Bulb’s Victorian music hall inauguration of the outdoor courtyard space at Battersea Arts Centre is filled with heart. The talented trio expertly use the space in the family show that approaches form and style with dedication and invention.

6. in/out (a feeling)

Isley Lynn was my new writing discovery of 2015; this year brought Andrew Maddock. The actor/writer/facilitator writes modern stories of everyday heroes, but in exquisite verse. in/out (a feeling) tells the story of sex worker Blue and one of her customers with poignancy and pathos.

5. Us/Them

Belgian company Bronks brought this unconventional telling of the Beslan school massacre to Edinburgh, and returns to the UK in 2017 at the National. This devastating two-hander replays the story from the perspective of two children taken hostage.

4. People, Places and Things

I missed this at the National, but the West End transfer captured the intricacies of depression with Denise Gough’s inimitable performance. It’s astonishing work that gets into the bones.

3. Counting Sheep

The immersive gypsy punk opera by Lemon Bucket Orkestra was one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Recreating the Maidan revolution in the Ukraine, the audience join in to recreate the people’s demand for change.

2. Bucket List

The extraordinary Theatre Ad Infinitum make my yearly list again, this time with their all-famle show attacking the US-made maquiladoras in Mexico’s border towns. Their distinctive physical theatre technique is showcased alongside an aggressive, unapologetic political agenda

  1. Imogen

Matthew Dunster’s extraordinary reimagining of Cymbeline under Emma Rice’s Globe leadership appealed to young urbanites and anyone who likes their Shakespeare fresh and alive. Dunster’s approach was thoroughly embedded into the text and story and tapped into the energy of Early Modern theatregoing.

Honourable Mentions: Skin a Cat, Tomorrow I Was Always a Lion, Wendy Hoose

These three narrowly missed out of making it into the top ten, but all are powerful pieces of theatre that are no less deserving of the accolade. All are driven by important socio-political issues and tell incredible human stories.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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