Saturday 28 December 2013


[life goes on]

UK (in order of appearance)



The Seagull

There Has Possibly Been An Incident

Fleabag (review by Matt Trueman)

Dust // In The Valley // Commonwealth


The Events

Oh My Irma

The Future Show

#ShowOne (review by Dan Hutton)

Gorge Mastromas

Henry the Fifth

Outside UK (also in order of appearance)

Die Troerinnen

Quartet with Microphone

Ruhr Triennale

Capitalista, Baby!

Oh My Irma

Schwarze Augen, Maria

Die Brüder Karamasow


Alles weitere kennen sie aus dem kino

Die Gelbe Tapete


Trojanski Kolektiv (review forthcoming)

Other stuff

Art: The Settlement – I don’t know why, but I totally fell in love with this piece; part of the EmscherKunst initiative

Film: In Eldersfield chapter two
– do you know, I don’t think I actually saw a single new film this year. Even so, I like to think this short, art-house offering from Kings of England would have won even if I had.

Book: Theatre-making: interplay between text and performance in the 21st century by Duška Radosavljevic. History and theory are pretty much the biggest battlegrounds in any culture war. While barely acknowledging that there’s “an enemy” at all, Duška’s book effortlessly hands recent theatre history to the good guys.

Building: Any and all the venues at the Ruhr Triennale. Just as I would be hard-pressed to name a specific event at the Ruhr Triennale as *best*, it wasn’t so much one particular building as the fact of *all of them* that made the Ruhr so exciting. Also, a phenomenal endorsement of public funding of the arts.

Music: Lohengrin – from Meine Faire Dame in 2012, through Nick Gill’s reworked version for In Eldersfield II through to it turning in Glanz und Elend... it felt like Wagner enjoying a weird sort of renaissance in circles.

Deaths: Patrice Chéreau, Dimeter Gotscheff. There’s no way I can possibly hope to improve on David Lan’s piece on Patrice Chéreau for the Guardian, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing about theatre I read all year.


On the face of it, 2013 wasn’t exactly a vintage year for theatre. At least, not in the UK. But, I feel kind of strange saying that. I spent the first month of the year in Köln. And I was out of London for another at least another four-plus months in Scarborough, Zagreb, Edinburgh, Bucharest, the Ruhr valley, Berlin, Hamburg, Berlin again and Zagreb again.

And yet, London didn’t really seem to grab me much this year. Granted I also missed some stuff. Regretfully: Say It With Flowers downstairs at the Hampstead; This House and Othello at the NT; but that’s about all I can think of.

Mostly it felt like things were ticking along fine, but when I go back and look at the list for 2012... Well, not every year can catch fire like last year, I suppose.

I also spent the longest amount of time since university actually *inside* rehearsal rooms, and in April even directed a rehearsed reading of Hamletmaschine at Theatre 503, the second night of which was pretty excellent, I thought (and I can say that with total modesty since my input was minimal-to-non-existent in the event).

Then I look at the list(s) we have got here, and suddenly I remember that while the overall shape of the year feels fragmented, and the year might have felt like it took more than usually long to warm up, and while Edinburgh felt comparatively flat artistically, this year did actually get better and better.

However, if we look at this list, we also see evidence of what the Conservative Party’s cuts to Britain’s already laughable arts spending are doing. Fewer than half the UK shows really had a design which went beyond: chair, microphone (sure, they did that nicely, but it doesn’t feel as if it was a choice made in the face of several thousand pounds to play with if they’d decided on something else). While the writing, direction, and performances aren’t touched, when you compare these productions to the Outside UK list... That said, of course I might have just missed or not liked many of the domestic Big Production Values shows I saw this year...

It is also interesting that for the first time, several of my favourite shows this year are ones I didn’t even see live. Possibly the best UK thing I saw all year was Forced Entertainment’s Quizoola, which I watched from the comfort of my room in parent’s house in Shrewsbury. I could smoke, go to the loo whenever, eat and drink as I pleased, talk to my friends about what we were watching as we watched on Twitter. It was altogether much nicer than being in a theatre, which is a worry.

I was very struck by Dan Hutton’s sign-off on the Exeunt round-up of the year, however:

“In a year when we’ve had countless ‘regime’ changes at theatrical organisations – from Michael Brazier’s first outing as director of NSDF to the appointment of Rufus Norris as AD of the NT – this is an idea which feels particularly apt. Those little changes in mindset and practice will add up to something far more palpable in output over the following year. In all honesty, I’ve not seen anything that’s truly blown me away in 2013, but the general feeling of a swelling tide has been invigorating. This may be my youthful naivety talking here, but I’ve a feeling we’ll look back on 2013 as the year Things Started To Happen.”

I think I’ll always have that year pencilled into my own account as 2012, and as my own drastic revision of 2000-2009 in the face of Rewriting the Nation and State of the Nation shows, I also have a pretty soft spot for 2006/7-2009. But, Hutton’s right, and I should stop moping. For all that 2013 has felt like a pretty long slog at times, it’s a slog in the right direction, and there’s been much to celebrate. Perhaps history will be kinder to it in the long term...

Cover photo from this, which is just brilliant.

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