After 250 or so shows across London and Edinburgh, these are 2017’s top ten (and a few runners up) from The Play’s the Thing UK’s founding editor. Remarkable storytelling, socio-political relevance and innovative form combine to make all of these productions stand out.
10. Wish List, Royal Court
The Bruntwood Prize winner is a scathing political critique with fantastic performances and design. Moving vulnerability in the face of Tory cuts makes for an eye-opening, state of the nation play.
9. Bubble Schmeisis, Battersea Arts Centre
Ritual, family and religion collide in an intergenerational solo performance by Nick Cassenbaum on finding your place in the world.
8. Seanmhair, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Three women tell the epic love story of Jenny and Tommy, a couple who fell in love on Edinburgh’s cobblestone streets.
7. salt., Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Selina Thompson’s powerful narrative of her cargo ship journey retracing slave routes is a vital confrontation of the West’s success at the cost of black lives.
6. The Long Trick, VAULT Festival
A compelling Cornish story of one family’s poverty and river life is a polished affair with poetry, music and a fantastic script.
5. Translunar Paradise and Odyssey, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Perhaps it’s cheating to put two shows together, but these classic productions from Theatre Ad Infinitum are a fitting tribute to the company’s decade of groundbreaking physical theatre.
4. Palmyra, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas latest show was Summerhall’s hottest ticket at the Fringe. The aggressive political show forced the audience to make a difficult decision and face their accountability for the world’s wrongs.
3. The Nassim Plays, Bush Theatre
With Nassim debuting in Edinburgh, the Bush Theatre staged a retrospective of the Iranian writer’s work. The four plays make for an engaging look at a distinct style.
2. The Ferryman, Royal Court
British naturalism is shown at its best in Jed Butterworth’s family drama set in rural N. Ireland during the Troubles.
1. Girl from the North Country, Old Vic
Bob Dylan and Conor McPherson capture the essence of America’s Great Depression in the microcosmic world of a midwestern boarding house. Despair, hope and clinging onto the American Dream is complimented by stunning interpretations of Dylan classics.
In no particular order, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, (I Could Go on Singing) Over the Rainbow, I Know You of Old, Killology and Thebes Land didn’t quite make the top 10, but all left powerful impressions in a year of theatregoing. Innovation, emotional engagement and solid dramaturgy are upheld consistently in these shows.