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FEATURE: The Public Reviews’ best of 2011

As we enter another exciting year, we, like almost every theatre reviewing outlet, have decided to look back on what we felt were the most exciting theatrical productions of 2011. So without waffling on, let’s get straight to the shows that excited us, enthralled us, captivated us but most importantly entertained us! To start with, here are the two productions that got the most of our reviewers excited…

The Public Reviews – BEST OF THE BEST 2011

One Man, Two Guvnors – National Theatre/Tour/West End

It would transpire that this is the undisputed theatrical show of the year, with a show stealing performance from James Corden. Nicholas Hytner’s production of a new adaptation by Richard Bean has seen the critical body unanimously praising this riotous farce and it would appear that for once our reviewers also agree.



Tartuffe — Liverpool Playhouse/English Touring Theatre – Tour

Another farce tops the list of our best shows of the year, this time from a regional house — with a strong ensemble, deft direction from Gemma Bodinetz and a wonderfully acerbic and witty adaptation from Roger McGough meant that this ticked all the boxes to bring us a little bit of sunshine in an otherwise doom and gloom year!


Here is our long list of the shows that set our theatrical world alight in 2011…


Tracey Lowe – North West

Frankenstein – National Theatre, London

This was a breathtaking show. To have Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the rôles of Frankenstein and the monster was an absolutely inspired idea. Combine a great cast with wonderful sets and a compelling script and this was the highlight of my year.

A View from the Bridge – Royal Exchange Theatre

A classic play had new life breathed into it by director Sarah Frankcom. Con O’Neill was mesmerising as Eddie Carbone; he literally had the audience on the edge of their seats. I have never heard an entire theatre gasp before. An incredible and extremely moving performance.

Robin King – South West

The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary – The Royal Albert Hall

There are two profound reasons why the 25th Anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera will stay locked in my memory for many years to come. Firstly, I achieved a life-long wish to experience that superlative score performed at the highest level by a professional orchestra. As the first few bars swelled and overwhelmed the audience, filling their spirits and practically permeating every recess of the Royal Albert Hall, I knew that the evening would be nothing short of spectacular and I wasn’t disappointed. Secondly, the combined opulence of the venue with the impressive scale of the additional costumes, choreography and company created a unique insight into the true grandeur of the original Paris Opera House. I feel very privileged to have witnessed first hand this moment in history which will remain with me forever more.

Matilda The Musical – The Cambridge Theatre

Matilda the Musical is certainly unique in more ways than one. In true Roald Dahl style it tells a story, it teaches a gentle lesson and it inevitably entertains. It reaches out equally to the young and the old who cant fail to be touched by the diminutive, determined lead character who’s imagination and intellect are inversely proportional to her size. The simplicity of the set is inspirational and creates the perfect backdrop into which the audience can allow their minds to wander as the events unfold. For me personally the credit has to go to the young cast who express themselves with emotion, attitude and energy that shows no bounds. A must for anyone that remembers what is was to be an innocent eight year old with a head full of fantasy and freedom.

Marina Waters – South Coast

Slava’s Snowshow – The Mayflower, Southampton

By focussing on the age old art of clowning as the storytelling vehicle, ‘Slava’s Snowshow’ transported the audience to a magical world lit up by the spark of imagination that Slava Poluinin, the world respected clown, brings out of the audience. All ages enjoy this show, a fact that is made clear by the fascinated stares and beaming smiles from everyone present. I left the theatre with my spirits lifted and my heart touched, having expererienced a unique event that will never leave me.

Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin – The Nuffield, Southampton

‘Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin’ fascinated and intrigued the audience from the beginning through combining clowning, visual theatre and puppetry to create a highly visual piece of physical theatre. ‘Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin’ was a thought provoking, well conceived piece of theatre with an innocence to it that hearkens from a time gone by. Its intelligence matches its accessibility harmoniously, making it a thoroughly watchable piece and a highlight of my theatrical year.

Helen Patrick – North West

Mamma Mia – Palace Theatre, Manchester

With a highly energised cast and the music from Abba what is there not to like? Charlotte Wakefield’s Sophie was a real delight and her performance blossomed throughout – equally compelling was the greek inspired set and Sara Poyzer as Donna. Had us laughing and dancing throughout

Aladdin – Floral Pavilion, New Brighton

While many may not think of Pantomime worthy of awards, this was one of my theatrical highlights, not only for myself but also my family – Andrew Agnew as Wishee Washey was on top form, while Dean Sullivan gave us the best Abanazer seen in the North West in Years. With a cracking mix of musical and modern songs – this pantomime really did soar.

Eve Nicolls – Scotland

Happy Days in the Art World – in preview at Tramway, Glasgow before hitting New York.

Joseph Fiennes and Charles Edwards playing versions of the show’s creators Elmgreen & Dragset, brought the worlds of visual art and traditional theatre smashing head on in sharp piece which is crying out to see a mainstream transfer.

A Kidnapper’s Guide – Edinburgh Fringe

Charmed audiences throughout its run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A homage to classic screen comedies,Slick, smart and downright hilarious. The discovery that the show was put together in just two short weeks makes the success of this group of students from Birmingham all the more deserved. Look out for more from writers Joe White, Nathan Teckman and Chazz Redheads.

Joanna Papageorgiou – South West

Treasure Island, Bristol Old Vic

The crew swing on to the stage on ropes and they climb on and off the levels of the pirate ship built against the front of the Bristol Old Vic. It was an audacious idea to perform the most Bristolian of plays, Treasure Island, outside, and facing the Llandoger Trow, where Robert Louis Stevenson purportedly got the idea for the play but it turned out to be a spectacular triumph. Sally Cookson as director and Tristan Sturrock as Long John Silver were a triumphant duo for the theatre. I can’t imagine a better summer production.

The House of Bernarda Alba – St Thomas the Martyr, Bristol

Federico Garcia Lorca’s last play was acted out in a cold church in a grey and urban part of Bristol, to a handful of people who sat surrounding a small space at the front of St Thomas the Martyr. The small and intimate production of austerity, repression and passion was poignant, emotional and intense. Easily one of the best shows in Bristol this year.

Jo Beggs – North West

Michael Clark Company : Come, Been and Gone – The Lowry.

With it’s brash post-punk score and an exploration of fetishism and addiction, it proves Clark still has a streak of wild child about him, yet isn’t afraid to show his early influences in classical ballet to create three beautiful works, images from which have stayed with me all year.

Theatre Ad Infinitum : The Big Smoke

An extraordinary one woman performance by Amy Nostbakken which veers between song and prose, humour and horror. The Big Smoke is possibly one of the finest, most challenging and memorable productions I have seen not just this year but in all my many theatre going years.

Sarah Louise – South Coast

Lend Me A Tenor – West End

Cram packed with hilarity and the enthusiasm and energy of the cast was incredible. Such a shame it had an early closure !

Matilda – West End

The set was so innovative and the lyrics written by Tim Minchin are so very clever! Bertie Carvel plays Miss Trunchbull in such a unique way – it was just fantastic!


Lu Greer – South East

Equus – Norwich Playhouse

Equus is, in short, sublime and near faultless. With its innovative use of an amphitheatre style sets combined with the ominous metal horses heads it emphasises the ancient Greek references within the play at the same time as allowing the piece to be thoroughly contemporary. What allows Equus to sets its self apart, though, is the way in which instead of addressing the predictable question of how the young protagonist blinds his horses, it instead, through harrowing one on one sessions with a psychiatrist, takes on the question of why.

La Bohéme – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Pucinni’s La Bohéme, performed beautifully by the Glyndebourne Opera, makes the audience feel every emotion along with the cast, from the laughter in the young men’s flat, to the wonder of the Christmas Fair, to Rodolfo’s heart wrenching cries of ‘Mimi’ as he watches her live out her final moments. La Bohéme is seamlessly brought into the twenty first century while remaining dramatic, emotional and at times comedic it shows Puccini’s often deeply moving ideas of love and heartbreak.

Bill Avenell – South Coast

History Boys – Chichester Festival Theatre

Christopher Luscombe’s excellent direction of Alan Bennet’s witty play. Excellent all round acting, particularly memorable for the overall atmosphere the cast created of the intense adolescent relationships.


Tartuffe – Theatre Royal, Brighton.

A clever translation from Roger McGough, slickly directed by Gemma Bodinetz and not a weak link in the acting. Particularly enjoyable for the delivery of some very clever punning language and impeccable timing.

Ruth Lovett – North West

Sister Act – Opera House, Manchester

Much improved on when I saw it London originally and a reminder that musical theatre can be funny and silly but well executed and highly entertaining. A fantastic night out with a fabulous cast and some catchy songs thrown in for good measure.

Last Orders – Monkeywood Theatre

Great concept, fab idea and a strong show by a good local writer whose work I follow with interest. A simple but good story told in an effective and accessible way.

Carol Evans – London/Central

Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer. – Waterloo East Theatre

This was a one-man tour de force written, acted and directed by Aidan Dooley. It was moving, exciting, thrilling, atmospheric. Told the story of Irishman Tom Crean, one of the adventurers and a real unsung hero who went with both Ernest Shackleton and Capt Scott on their polar expeditions. Fantastic stuff – I wish I could have given it 6 stars!

The Wild Bride. – Oxford Playhouse

The wonderful Kneehigh company’s take on a Grimms’ fairy tale, The Girl with the Severed Hands. Creative, clever, unforgettable. All that we have come to expect from this fabulously talented company.

Cathy Crabb – North West

Boy With Tape on His Face – The Lowry

Sheer fun, playful and imaginative. I’ve never been so excited by participating as an audience member. Manages to be adult in content without the usual reasons!

Crystal Kisses- Contact Theatre

Great stories told imaginatively by a strong team of artists leading their fields.. Moving moments, well written, great actors, sleek, dirty and sad but also beautiful. A testament to what theatre can be.

Maggie Constable – Central

Journey’s End – UK Tour

So moving, so powerful and so sensitively performed.Very resonant too in today’s war-torn times.

Strictly Gershwin- UK Tour

Lyrical, delightful dance set to the wonderful Gershwin melodies. Mix of contemporary dance&classical ballet with gorgeous costumes and set.


Glen Pearce – South East

Hansel And Gretel – Junction, Cambridge

NIE’s international company create a dark and magical world that see’s The Brothers Grimm fairy tale brought to life in a production that appeals to both adults and children. A real alternative to the saccharine sweet traditional Christmas theatre offering

Romeo And Juliet – Night Light Theatre Company (Tour)

It takes something special to make a well known Shakespeare tale seem fresh and new and Rich Rusk’s 70 minute adaptation does just that. A mix of live action and puppets set against a celestial backdrop breathes new life into this classic love story.

John Roberts – North West

Idina Menzel – Royal Albert Hall

A spectacular evening from one of Musical Theatre’s best leading ladies. Her immense talent combined with Broadway composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra made this a highly charged and electric evening and one of the true highlights of my theatre going year.

Tartuffe – Liverpool Playhouse

A delightfully light hearted farcical romp from Liverpool Playhouse and English Touring Theatre, as they modernise Moliere’s text with a new adaptation from Liverpool based poet Roger McGough. With an ensemble cast on fine form, there was really nothing to fault with this sublimely directed production from Gemma Bodinetz.

Selwyn Knight – Central

Hamlet! The Musical – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Light hearted romp through the one of Shakespeare’s darker plays, brought to life with catchy songs and excellent performances.

Shakespeare for Breakfast – Edinburgh Fringe

Great return to form for this long established fringe show as we watch Macbeth a la High School Musical. Energetic and talented young cast. Great writing too.

Deborah Klayman – London

Of Sound Mind – Edinburgh Fringe 2011

“Ronnie Dorsey’s remarkable debut play deftly mixes light with dark, and the truth behind the fiction gives it guts and mettle. This is a play that, despite it’s sometimes harrowing premise, has unbelievable tenacity and black humour, making it is a piece you will actively enjoy as well as be affected by. truly outstanding.”

Dream Pill – Edinburgh Fringe 2011

“A searing story of two nine-year-old Nigerian girls who have been trafficked to Britain as sex slaves. It is seeing their plight through their eyes that makes this piece so powerful, poignant and hard to watch. Another triumph from Clean Break, with superb performances from the actors.”

Brian Gorman – North West

Strawberry Jack – Robert Powell Theatre

Gritty urban drama that cements O’Byrne’s reputation as a first rate writer/director, and the new Jimmy McGovern. With yet another star turn from the brilliant Ian Curley in the lead rôle.

Deathtrap – Oldham Coliseum

Superbly entertaining thriller with Stephen Pinder outstanding. The Coliseum continues to impress.

Sarah Nutland – London

The Coloured Museum – Talawa Theatre Company at the V&A Museum

This show was an exciting romp through space and time as we sped through hundreds of years of Afro-American oppression. George C. Wolfe’s brilliantly written play was both poignant and hilarious in equal measures. The cast were fabulous all-rounders and their impressive performances filled the beautiful and very apt venue. It was amazing stuff!

Ring a Ding Ding – Oily Cart at The Unicorn Theatre

Simply the best children’s show I have seen this year (and I work for a children’s theatre company). Thoroughly entertaining, engaging and innovative from beginning to end. The adults were enjoying it just as much as the children, if not more!

Rebecca Mickler – North West

A View From The Bridge – The Royal Exchange

My favourite playwright who proves that no matter who produces his work and in what format; a knockout storyline is what will always make a play brilliant first and foremost. With compelling characters and dialogue, this play broke new ground almost half a century ago and is still shocking audiences today.

The Crash of The Elysium – Manchester International Festival

Ahh the ‘Doctor Who’ play for kids and big kids like me! This was an adventure to remember. Behind the BBC in Salford Quays in a make-shift UFO bunker, the audiences’ mission was to save the Doctor. From futuristic science laboratories, to a circus in the 1800s while avoiding the life-size Weeping Angels; I was dragged around for an hour and loved it. And the Thank You letter from the Doctor we each received after the show now takes pride of place on my mantelpiece at home. Punchdrunk: I salute you!

Catherine Love – London

Decade – Commodity Quay

Headlong’s multi-authored response to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 gets brownie points just for its sheer scope and its many faceted take on one of the defining events of the century. Piecing together short sequences from talented writers such as Mike Bartlett, Abi Morgan and John Logan, this could easily have been a messy scrapbook of images, but Rupert Goold’s skilful direction stitched these scenes neatly together with barely a seam showing. While not without its flaws, this sweeping, ambitious piece of site-specific theatre was compelling throughout and painted an overwhelmingly human picture of a tragic event.

Ragtime – Landor Theatre

The best musical that I attended this year was not hosted by any of the big West End stages, but instead was put on in the cosy fringe space of the Landor Theatre, a room above a pub in Clapham. This might sound like a crazy decision for a big belter of a show like Ragtime, but the Landor pitched their downscaling just right and managed to evoke the bustle and energy of crowded early twentieth-century New York on their tiny stage. Crammed full of emotion, rousing tunes, powerhouse performances and bucket loads of ingenuity, this small-scale show managed to tick all the musical theatre boxes without a massive budget.

Mary Tapper – Central

Flare Path – Theatre Royal Haymarket

This play combined an excellent story with beautiful acting and excellent direction and staging. Sienna Miller, while appearing graceful and brittle, was completely upstaged by a magnificent and touching performance by Sheridan Smith, leaving the audience emotional wrecks by the end. Clever staging using a beautiful set and great sound faithfully reconstructed the era, transporting us to another time, and the beautifully simple story satisfied on all counts.

One Man, Two Guvnors – National Theatre

A host of sublime performances and a clever script provided a quite touching and thoroughly entertaining story. With excellent farce and beautiful music between scenes the pace was excellent and the laughter relentless. The trick to this production was that by the end you cared what happened to the characters and with a feel good ending the whole production delivered. And the waiter….what a waiter!

Robin Winter – North West

Beasts & Beauties – Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

Carol Ann Duffy’s fairytale cycle was brought vividly to life by Liverpool based Spike Theatre, in a production that fused excellent storytelling, strong characterisations and most of all allowed the audience to use the long lost art form of the Imagination. Director Mark Smith fills the show with plenty of humour which helps balance the more darker elements of the production. Theatre as it should be.

Dead Heavy Fantastic – Liverpool Everyman

A fitting production for the closing months of the Everyman Theatre came from Bob Farqhaur’s hilarious romp through the nightlife of Liverpool – New writing, strong regonalised casting, vivid use of the thrust staging meant this production was everything the Everyman stands for, and it stood up for it with real passion.

Lucy Thackray – London

Parade – Southwark Playhouse

This blew most of the theatre I saw in 2011 out of the water – spine-tingling ensemble vocals, unbeatable pace, dark and dank set in the vaults of the Southwark Playhouse, with trains rumbling overhead. Alastair Brookshaw and Laura Pitt-Pulford were incredibly strong leads, but every single member of the cast (especially Terry Doe) was captivating to watch. I came out emotionally drained from this show, but it has stayed with me.

Nevermore- Courtyard Theatre

Both of my chosen shows are fringe musicals this year; I felt more impressed by intensity on a small scale than the bells and whistles of the West End. Nevermore was a very short, one-act musical at the Courtyard Theatre, but its telling of Edgar Allan Poe’s life story with haunting lullabies sung by the sirenic chorus of women who trouble him was absolutely beautiful. As a whole piece it drew me in and, again, stunning vocal and acting performances.

Vicki Goodwin – North West

A Clockwork Orange – Unity Theatre

I’d been looking forward to Volcano Theatres performance of A Clockwork Orange for months, and it certainly lived up to my high expectations. Visceral, absorbing and powerful, the five strong cast did an incredible job of all portraying doomed protagonist Alex. Sharp, well executed and a visual masterpiece, this was definitely a 2011 favourite!

Tartuffe – Liverpool Playhouse.

Roger McGough’s adaptation of Moliere’s 17th century comedy Tartuffe was hilarious and well acted, Tartuffe had me and the rest of the audience laughing from the outset, and we didn’t stop until well after the final curtain. With incredible set design and perfect comedic timing, Tartuffe was was real triumph for the Liverpool Playhouse in 2011.

John-Paul Holden – Scotland

Hotel Medea – Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe

Six hours performance time? Overnight stay in an abandoned vet school required? A recipe for theatrical torture, right? Wrong. Zecora Ura’s Hotel Medea used live clubbing, mobile phones and CCTV to bring the ancient Greek myth of love, betrayal and revenge to life in an immersive, interactive re-telling that was on-the-edge and brilliant – the best thing at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and my favourite show of 2011.

The Missing – Tramway, Glasgow

The Missing, Andrew O’Hagan’s memoir-cum-journalistic exploration of people who vanish without trace, earned deserved acclaim following publication in 1995. Last September’s stage adaptation by Black Watch director John Tiffany brought together a rock-solid cast – John Ramage, Brigit Forsyth and Myra McFadyen among others – in a multimedia production for the National Theatre of Scotland that effortlessly captured the haunting, wrenching poignancy of O’Hagan’s source text and stayed in my mind for weeks afterwards.

Marco Jacobs – London

Betty Blue Eyes – Novello Theatre

A brilliant new musical, with fantastic tunes, great comedy, and a real heart to it. Sensational performances topped it off.

Flare Path – Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Stunningly acted and achingly beautiful at times. The only show that I’ve ever found myself queuing at 7am for day tickets!

Paul Downham – North West

Ghost the Musical -Manchester Opera House

This show has brought musical theatre right into the 21st century, with state of the art technology helping to recreate the famous movie released 20 years earlier. Powerful performances by Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy have led to not only a Broadway run opening in 2012 but also Australia and The Netherlands in 2013.

Sister Act – Manchester Opera House

This was not a show that leapt out at me, the movie was OK but nothing special. How glad was I to see this on stage though! A high octane show that could do nothing else but send you home with a smile on your face. Cynthia Erivo was outstanding as Deloris Van Cartier.

Emily Griffiths – South West

Corum Boy – Bristol Old Vic

There aren’t many plays that can boast a 35 strong cast, a full orchestra and a chorus; ‘Corum Boy’ was impressive not only in size but also in execution. Colston Hall was the perfect venue – grand and epic – like the story, but also brilliant at maintaining the intimacy and poignancy that the play so often touched upon. The plot is a very hard-hitting one, at times almost unwatchable, but the performances – particularly from the young boys (who also sing throughout), were brilliant – supported throughout, of course, by Handel’s sublime music. A heart-wrenching delight.

In the Blood – Caird Studio, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Quite simply, one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen; this production would top a list any year. In an intimate and, at times, almost claustrophobic production, In the Blood tells of a homeless single mother (five children by as many fathers) coping with the difficulties that society places on her. Brutal throughout, the climax left many in the audience (myself included) in tears. Royal Welsh graduate, Anjana Vasan’s portrayal of mother Hester was all consuming and as a result, absolutely astounding – a name to watch out for in the future.

Laura Maley – North West

Peggy and the Spaceman – 24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester

With a script full of wit and intelligence, Peggy and the Spaceman zips along at great pace. The cast of three entertain an audience of all ages, following the imaginary adventures of daydreaming schoolgirl Peggy and her very talented dog Rover (perfectly played by Saira Choudhry and Eve Robertson) as she tries to meet Yuri Gagarin on his trip to Manchester in 1961. Peggy and the Spaceman is slick, unexpectedly moving and non-patronising with high production values and fantastically creative stage design: a real theatrical gem.

Translunar Paradise, Theatre Ad Infinitum at The Lowry

William and Rose meet, fall in love and spend a lifetime together. In Translunar Paradise, performers George Mann and Deborah Pugh show the audience moments from William and Rose’s life together, packing an emotional punch as we realise we are seeing them from behind a veil of bereavement. A production combining dance, mime and mask work, it’s a show where the tiniest of details – shoulders dropping, fingers tapping – speaks volumes. Totally perfect, the most beautiful and moving thing I’ve ever seen in a theatre.

Lettie McKie – London

Autumn Portraits – The Little Angel Theatre

An amazingly simple but beautiful and moving puppetry performance as part of Suspense Adult Puppet Theatre 2011.

One Man, Two Guvnors – The National Theatre.

a fantastic comedy of errors based on commedia dell’arte with hilarious slapstick, character comedy and snappy one liners galore! James Corden was on top form interacting with the audience effortlessly and I was in stiches from start to finish. I saw it on the NT live screen for free as well which was a bonus!

Michael Gray – South East

Pick Yourself Up – The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

A gloriously enjoyable “new” musical; a delicious confection of Cole Porter and Molière, done with style and éclat by one of the best regional reps.

Journey’s End – Duke of York’s Theatre

Superb performances, wonderful design and a shockingly emotional ending to a familiar piece.


Ann Bawtree – South Coast

Way Up Stream – The Salisbury Playhouse.

The world does not need me to tell it how funny this is and yet it has a sinister overtone of seriousness. The staging was remarkably original and for a play with a cast of seven it will take some beating.

Chrissy, You’re not like the Other Girls – Nuffield Theatre

“Chrissy”, a chirpy little French woman, bounces on to the stage of the Nuffield Studio Theatre, and while we all queue for our train tickets at the Gare du Nord, she tells us of her wartime experiences. She is travelling to England to meet the fiancé from whom she was separated by WWII, each not knowing for years if the other was alive or dead. At the end we find out that the actress herself wrote the play based on the letters and diaries of her French grandmother, whose picture we see projected at the back of the empty stage.

Dave Cunningham – North West

King Lear – The Lowry Theatre

King Lear can be horribly depressing – characters are either killed or corrupted- but the production by the Donmar Warehouse was lively and vital. Derek Jacobi’s stunning performance was not only dramatically compelling it answered the nagging questions about Lear’s motivation – he behaves in such a bizarre and contrary manner because he is so very human

One Man, Two Guvnors – The Lowry Theatre

Nicholas Hytner’s direction of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ added sheen to Richard Bean’s already very funny script but the show was dominated by a superb central performance from James Corden. To date his success as a writer has over-shadowed his reputation as an actor but this show must surely correct the balance.

Jenni Smith – North East

Comedy of Errors – Propeller Theatre

The Propeller production that toured in rep with Richard III. I don’t think I stopped laughing at all, except for during the part of the show one of the actors spent sat on my lap. It’s an often performed play and I’ve seen it done before but this production was the funniest, silliest, best done version I’ve seen.

Accomplice: London

A difficult show to describe without giving too much away. It’s an interactive show that takes you on a tour of a small section of the Southbank in London. Along the way you meet a series of characters who provide clues to the next location and the big finale. I can’t imagine having a more fun (family friendly) afternoon in London with a group of strangers. I envy everyone who can go and experience it for the first time.

Jacqui Onions – South West

Ordinary Days – Trafalgar Studios

This musical blew me away! The characters are people that you know and as the show develops the attitudes, situations and personalities portrayed are often things the audience can recognise in themselves. I saw it twice and I didn’t think second time round it would have such a strong emotional effect on me, yet I saw in it things I hadn’t the first time round; I’m sure I could watch this show again and again and still get something new out of it. A piece of theatre that has made me look at my own life in a way no other piece of theatre has.

Avenue Q – Tour

Avenue Q is easily my favourite musical and I was concerned that something would lost in a touring production compared to the fabulous version that had been in the west end. My concerns were unnecessary as the touring production was equally as good as it had been in the West End and has left me very excited about the 2012 tour.

Alex Ramon – London

A Delicate Balance – Almeida

Funny, chilling and moving – a beautifully acted production that was perfectly attuned to the play’s “delicate balance” between philosphy and bitchery, craziness and calm

The Comedy of Errors – Propeller

The feel-good show of the year: an endlessly inventive and hilarious take on one of Shakespeare’s creakier comedies.

Val Baskott – Scotland

Richard III – Propeller Theatre Company

I have come to Shakespeare late as it was rammed down my uncomprehending throat at school. Propellor’s approach marries strong visceral contemporary theatre without losing the glorious rhythm of Shakespeare’s text in a way that I find compelling and I look forward to seeing more of their work.

The Man Who Planted Trees – Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Puppet State Theatre Company’s adaptation of Jean Giono’s ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ has done the rounds since 2006 but is cleverly refreshed at each performance by the comic duo Richard Medrington and Rick Conte with Ailie Cohen’s magical puppets. Their collective vision of this wonderful story is just as enchanting as the original. More please.

Sue Dixon – Central

End of the Rainbow – UK Tour

For the fabulous performance by Tracie Bennett whose haunting depiction of Judy Garland must have remained with the audiences who saw her.

The Go-Between – UK Tour

This musical adaptation was a delicious surprise. Expectations of a few ‘musical numbers’ punctuated by dialogue was blown away by this wonderful, energetic mini operetta. Also the use of local young talent made it a special evening.

Jonathan Grant – London

Parade – Southwark Playhouse

A show that had macro emotion and excellence in production, and delivered on a micro ( fringe ) budget .

Frankenstein – National Theatre

A brilliant concept in staging and presentation . Superb performances from both leads and Danny Boyles’ visionary direction

Moira Wilson – Scotland

Blood Brothers – UK Tour

The show may have been running for years but it still packs an emotional punch. largely due to the hugely talented ensemble Bill Kenwright has put together.For me Mickey is the lynch pin of the show and each time the hugely talented Sean Jones has portayed him brilliantly. He moves effortlessly from the cheeky seven year old to the shuffling broken adult at the end of the play.

End of the Rainbow – UK Tour

Quite simply a beautiful piece of theatre and Tracie Bennett`s portrayal of Judy Garland is one of the best performances I have seen this year. From the first scene she commands the stage and captures the essence of Garland both through her acting and vocally.It almost seems as if she is not merely acting but has by the end almost become Garland in this emotionally draining performance.

Gareth Ellis – London

Jerusalem – West End

I saw Jerusalem on its return to the West End and was stunned by the power and ingenuity of this sparkling script. The masterful performance of Mark Rylance, who proves himself to be one of the best actors of his generation, was brilliant, inspired and spellbinding. The way the play wove threads throughout and drove up to the final climax was simply breathtaking.

Journey’s End – UK Tour

The current production of this great play really did justice to the script, and was directed perfectly – the moments of humour and startling realism were perfectly balanced. The evening was striking, and proved why theatre beats film and other forms of media hands down when it is done well; when it strikes the chords of humanity and the true sacrifices of others, and teaches us about ourselves.

Sarah Bannister – Yorkshire

Traces – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

A bohemian circus show with grace, humour and flabbergasting artistry in all its forms. Wow.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo-Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Ballet most extraordinary! Men with incredible athleticism and beauty who entertain and tell stories wonderfully. Slapstick & humour guaranteed.


Paul Bannister – Yorkshire

KT Tunstall – Grand Opera House, York

A 21st century one woman band. A witty and entertaining set with all the favourites and much more.

Buddy -Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

My 5 star show! An amazing show with jaw dropping accuracy. It had us dancing all the way through and all the way home!

Rosie Revell – Yorkshire

Frisky and Mannish- Halifax Square Chapel of The Arts

A fantastically funny delve into pop music and pop culture. Frisky and Mannish (Edinburgh fringe favourites) had us captivated with their musical talent and comedy timing for the whole night. Also the most innovative audience participation I’ve seen in a very long time.

Dave Gorman’s Powerpoint Presentation- Grand Opera House, York

Sharp and extremely clever comedy. Gorman’s obsession with things that fascinate him (and maybe not the rest of us) clearly shows in the detail and lengths he will go to to expose modern day conspiracies, from Watch advertisements to the power of deodorant, leading to hilarity, and the realisation of how corporate thinking enters all areas of our daily lives. Still Britain’s favourite Jewish comedian who isn’t Jewish!

Laura Stimpson – Yorkshire

Goodnight Mr Tom – West Yorkshire Playhouse

Exceptional piece of Children’s theatre by the Children’s touring partnership but intelligent enough to appeal to all ages. Outstanding cast, playing different characters superbly, excellent set. The dog was a puppet and showcased an extremely talented pupeteer. All round excellent story, cast, and production appealing to everyone.

Kate Rusby at Christmas – Leeds Town Hall and Huddersfield Town Hall

A fantastic evening of beautiful singing from one of the most successful folk singers in the UK. Her voice is stunning and the show drew on songs from the South Yorkshire carolling tradition. Thoroughly British music, for a thoroughly British Christmas. A flawless performance which left the audience feeling very Christmassy and falling in love with Kate and the band.



About The Reviews Hub

The Reviews Hub
The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.


  1. Interesting and varied list. Quite a few I wish I’d seen (End of the Rainbow and One Man Two Guvs being top), a few I was priviledged to see (A View from the Bridge and King Lear), and one I helped out on as a Manchester International Festival Volunteer (Crash). If I was forced to choose my top two from last year it would be Company at the Sheffield Crucible, and Much Ado About Nothing at the Wyndahms, but there have been some crackers this year, and I particularly liked my 24:7 experience, especially Future Shock and Crimson Retribution.

  2. We’re feeling very pleased to make your reviewer’s top picks of the year!

    We’ve got lots of exciting work coming up in 2012. You can see our full plans for the year at https://nationaltheatrescotland.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/national-theatre-of-scotland-launches-2012-season/