Top 5 plays of 2011

5.  Richard III,  Old Vic

The production as a whole may have had its flaws, but Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of England’s bloody king was a real theatrical experience. Limping around the stage for the best part of three hours, the Hollywood star wowed as the angry autocrat, and brought one of Shakespeare’s most widely performed plays into the modern era with a bang.

4.  Hamlet, Young Vic

Another modern interpretation of a Shakespearian classic appeared at the Young Vic this winter with Michael Sheen playing the lead. The action began before audience members had taken their seats, with the backstage of the theatre transformed into a mental asylum that spectators could wander around before the show started. The concept was not necessarily played out to perfection, but Sheen was undeniably a stellar Hamlet.

3. One Man, Two Guvnors, National Theatre
James Corden has received a wealth of adulation for his role as impish Francis Henshall in Richard Bean’s fast-paced farce, and deservedly so. The play, which has now transferred to the Adelphi Theatre due to popular demand, was initially staged at The National, the bastion of British theatre where Corden found fame with The History Boys almost eight years ago. But while Corden was again part of an ensemble with One Man, Two Guvnors, this time, he is quite clearly the star. He may always play the fool, but he plays it well.

  Read my review of One Man, Two Guvnors here

2. Jerusalem, Apollo Theatre
This year has been awash with spectacular leading performances, but Mark Rylance in Jerusalem has to be the finest of them all. The play has achieved unparalleled critical acclaim worldwide, and coveted tickets for the remaining sell-out shows are tipping the bank balance at over £100 per seat. The play has been going strong with several runs both in London and across the pond since it debuted at the Royal Court in 2009, and as soon as Rylance as Rooster Byron struts onto the stage, it is easy to see why.

Read my review of Jerusalem here

1. Cause Célèbre, Old Vic

2011 was certainly the year of the Rattigan revival as several theatres paid tribute to the late, great dramatist to mark the centenary of his birth. Cause Célèbre was a stunning production in every sense of the word, from the fantastic staging to Anne-Marie Duff’s wonderful performance as lustful Alma Rattenbury. Based on a real life trial in 1935 where Rattenbury and her young lover were charged with bludgeoning her husband to death, Thea Sharrock’s revival of this play brought the mix of heartfelt emotion and quick wit back to the forefront of                      the London stage in what was, in my view, the best play of the year.


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