This year our team reviewed 110 productions, and covered 5 festivals – below are Editor Flossie Waite’s pick of the top 10 shows seen in 2016. Every effort was made to see companies and work from across the UK and around the world, and we were able to travel further afield than ever before thanks to the generosity of our Patreon supporters. In 2017, we hope to review even more shows and increase our national coverage further – to tell us about your show or to join our team of reviewers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
“The concept of gender is in itself very nuanced and, as the play shows, open to interpretation, change and growth. People are People doesn’t feel like a lesson. This is art, not school. It lays out the humanity of the issue and allows its audience to enter into the problem, not as children, as people.” Read Charlotte Fleming’s full review here.
My Mother Medea
A Unicorn production/ Reviewed at Unicorn Theatre/ For ages 13+
“When My Mother Medea opened at the Unicorn, the American election was still dragging on (its opening night was exactly in between Pussygate and the Comey announcement that the FBI was looking into more of Clinton’s emails). I’m watching Medea almost at the end of its run, in the week that President-elect Trump – who has vowed to deport millions of immigrants and is considering barring Syrian refugees – tweeted that theatre should be a safe space. Justin Audibert’s production is anything but safe. It’s uncomfortable and in your face, delivering a few home truths to a world that – as Trump’s election and Brexit would suggest – is content to at best ignore, and at worst attack, those considered different or foreign.” Read the full review here.
“Mavis Sparkle loves cleaning and chatting, and for 45 minutes she does both in M6 Theatre’s one-woman show. It’s like Hilda Ogden meets Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, with some magic thrown in. We meet Mavis as she comes to a cross-roads: it’s the final day of her current job, and she’s not quite sure what to do next. She’s worked in schools, hospitals and factories, and fancies something a bit more exciting – like cleaning a fair or a zoo! And what about her other dreams, like seeing the aurora borealis?” Read the full review here.
“Looking back over everything I’ve seen on Little Angel’s main stage, I realise that the same types of productions have almost always been on my plate: fairytales, book adaptations and operas. It’s been a satisfying, if not too varied, diet and I could quite happily have continued existing on this comfort food, until yesterday when they brought Emily Rising to the table and now my proverbial taste-buds will never be the same again.” Read the full review here.
“This specific event is used to examine storytelling on both small and large scales. The performance explores how the media constructs the news, questions how imagery can be manipulated and skewed for the outside world, and forces us to consider whether we can ever know the ‘truth’. It also probes the stories we are comfortable telling our children, what we want or allow them to hear, and how this measures up to their own experiences of the world. An incredible production brought to Edinbugh as part of the Big in Belgium season, Us/Them is a relevant, thought-provoking and sinister must-see this festival season.” Read Kirsty Alexander’s full review here.
“Whoever said school days are the best days of your life must have been home-tutored. Katie’s Birthday Party is a hugely relevant and relatable account of a painful process, told with honesty and insight. I wish I’d seen it when I was 11, and – perhaps even more so – I wish my Head of Year had seen it prior to my arrival at the school.
Before I saw Katie’s Birthday Party I was somewhat wary – it had been hyped so much by those who had seen it that I feared disappointment. But all the buzz was justified. It was one of the best shows I saw at Imaginate; it is one of the best productions for young people I’ve ever seen.” Read the full review here.
“In a show about being heard, even David Cameron has his turn: in a Cassetteboy-style mash-up about youth unemployment, you can hear him moralise about right and wrong. But the production doesn’t just crassly give DC the finger – The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective offers a sensitive exploration of the lives and difficulties of Britain’s young people who are too readily judged and dismissed, and too rarely engaged with or listened to. This is a piece of political theatre that should be seen by every young person, and every MP. Or maybe just everyone.” Read the full review here.
“Let’s start at the end and work backwards. You need to know straightaway that by the close of Shiny, it was like being in the middle of a firework, or a magpie’s dream. I can’t wait whole paragraphs to describe the bit where the audience play together, with and amongst fluttering, floating shiny material. I need to convey immediately just how dazzling Shiny is.” Read the full review here.
Kopergietery and Mambocito Mio/ Reviewed at Out of the Blue Drill Hall as part of Imaginate Festival/ For ages 8+
“It’s rare to watch a play and feel that truly anything could happen, but tonight’s show threw caution (and risk assessments) to the wind, and I really didn’t know what to expect. One minute I was dropping a rubber duck representative of my dreams into a water-filled plastic tube, the next I was telling a hall full of people where I had my first kiss.” Read the full review here.
“A ‘Hounslow Girl’ wears hooped earrings with her hijab, can make Gulab Jamun and Rusmalai but eats them to stave off the munchies, goes to the mosque but also meets up with boys. She performs a balancing act, negotiating the conflicting demands of a traditional Muslim upbringing and being a young woman living in West London. Ambreen Razia’s debut play – a one-woman show about Hounslow Girl Shaheeda – is a confident, funny exploration of adolescence and identity that challenges stereotypes.” Read the full review here.
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