OK, OK, so I know it’s become a joke how many critics (film, mostly) produce a list of the best and the worst from their respective fields, and ultimately me producing a post like that is helpful to very few people. Firstly, because obviously all the shows I’m writing about have finished their runs, but also because I spent each half of the year living in (nearly) diametric opposite sides of the globe. Nevertheless, now that I’m fairly sure my theatre-going for the year has come to a close, I wanted to take the time to look back on the shows from this year; what did I love, what did I loathe, what did I learn. Naturally this reflects my opinion more than anything else, so some shows that I thought were absolutely marvellous/dreadful didn’t make the list because of my own taste (you’ll find that these are very Fringe heavy – I never said I didn’t have a type). With that said I’m very curious to hear what other people thought of these shows, and whether or not I’m being fair in what I write about them (I’m as open to criticism as any of the work I’ve seen this year). Without further ado, here are my five favourite shows from 2018:
5: Ideation. When I went to see this production at the Court Theatre in Christchurch, I had no idea what to expect. Written by American playwright Aaron Loeb and directed by Dan Bain, it sees a boardroom of high-flyers apply their best business acumen to planning a genocide, with very little idea of why. Is this just a loyalty test? Is their boss planning to put their initiative into action? Are they even safe themselves? Everything snowballs so fast and so intensely it really sucked me in, but that may be the guilty conspiracy theorist in me speaking. I was surprised I had never heard of it before – one location, 5 characters, an hour and a half? Surely this is a GIFT of a play to put on!
4. Don Juan. So technically I haven’t reviewed this show, so let me make amends here; I’ve fallen in love with this company just a little bit. Adopting outrageously flirtatious and dramatic French personas, their “Don Juan”, which they brought to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, tells the story of the sexiest man in literature and his adventures. Their audience interaction is the main highlight of any show, but there’s something about their sassy, snappy dialogue that makes their work special.
3. Can’t Stop Can’t Stop. I decided to see Sam Ross’s incredibly personal piece about living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was standing in line waiting to see Hunch Theatre’s “A Hero of Our Time” (Which, incidentally, was also worth going to see as I believe there are currently touring). In that time Ross, whom I recognised from the posters, dashed through the queue, ruffling some indignant theatre-goers in the process. Thus followed an uncomfortable amount of nattering, and feeling slightly guilty for not stepping in to ask the natterers to be a bit less judgemental, I went to see “Can’t Stop Can’t Stop”. At once difficult to watch and impossible to look away from, the immersive show gives a taste of the mentally exhaustion that comes with having OCD. It’s raw, honest, and emotionally wrenching. My only wish is that it could have been seen by the people in that queue, and anyone with preconceptions about the serious psychological condition.
2. At the Wake. What’s this? Another dark comedy? Oh, let me indulge myself, it’s Christmas. In it, an ageing actress is horrified when the father of her grandson Robert attends the wake of her daughter after Robert sends him an invitation unbeknownst to her. It is bitter, dark, and with so many congealing emotions it’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart and secrets are spilled. Beyond that though, the play raises questions about heritage, family, and identity. I love discovering plays that can be sophisticated as well as entertaining, and though I think the chances of me seeing this play again are very slim indeed (it has some specific casting requirements), I’m very glad I saw it whilst I had the chance.
1. 2 AM Phone Call. The show that affected me the most this year, and indeed for quite a few years, was a small piece of physical theatre, in a small fringe, in a small country. Perfectly capturing the agonising vagueness of friendship, it raises the question “can I call you at 2 in the morning?” Set in a sort of timeless limbo, it jumps back and forth between moments in the friendship between characters played by Georgia Silk and Natalie Maria Clark, subverting the “best friend” narrative that we’ve been sold and presenting something that reminds us that sometimes trying to connect with other people can be far more difficult than we’re willing to admit.
Gosh this has turned out far longer than I expected it to. Oh well, I shall soon be posting my least favourite shows of the year, so keep an eye out for that post and let me know if you saw any of these shows and what you thought of them!