The 2013 fosterIAN awards

Another bumper year of theatregoing draws to a close and the inevitable task of list-making comes upon us. So here's my top 10 productions of 2013, my favourite shows from a year where I saw over 300, illuminated with a few silly gifs (some with tenuous connections to the shows) which have been borrowed with love from here.

1. Scenes from a Marriage, Toneelgroep Amsterdam / Barbican
Full of the kind of invention that British directors so rarely bring to the stage, this glorious version of Ingmar Bergman’s epic played successfully with form and character to create the type of breathless experience that was utterly addictive. I booked to see it again within minutes of leaving and then went to Amsterdam to see the company again.

2. Jumpers for Goalposts, Paines Plough/Watford Palace

Full of laughter and tears, warmth and poignancy, Wells created another cracker of a play to mark him as one of our most noteworthy new playwrights. And though hugely important addition to the gay canon in its tale of (not quite so) straightforward teenage romance, its appeal remains universal.

3. The Light Princess, National Theatre

Apparently some people didn’t like it, but within minutes of the show starting I knew I was seeing something special that fitted my tastes perfectly. A score unafraid to be complex, a fairytale unafraid to be different, a lead performance to cherish for a lifetime. 

4. Armstrong's War, Finborough 

A corker of a play that seemingly came from nowhere to utterly steal the heart. An unlikely friendship between a psychologically scarred soldier and a disabled girl scout proved to be one of the most moving experiences in a theatre all year long and scandalously played just a handful of performances in its limited run.

5. Grounded, Bush

AKA the moment when Lucy Ellinson broke through, which ironically would most likely sit awkwardly with her and the kind of intimate theatrical experiences in which she excels. But there was no denying the impact of this monologue featuring her as a soldier struggling with the morality of drone warfare.

One of the most exciting new pieces of new writing this year, spearheading something of a movement in London theatres putting on plays about China. Here, Lucy Kirkwood juxtaposed the economic journeys of China and the USA whilst examining the institution of photojournalism in thrilling style. 

To think how close I came to staying in bed rather than going to see this is terrifying. But fortunately I was urged out of my pit into the bearpit of the Globe to see one of the funniest Dreams I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few, 4 this year alone) but one which also brought new insights into the play.

Regent’s Park was truly alive, with the sound of Rachel Kavanaugh’s superlative production of this most classic of musicals. Old-school down to its very heart but sparklingly fresh performances from Charlotte Wakefield and Michael Xavier keeping it utterly delightful.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not Ibsen’s greatest fan so it tends to take something remarkable to help me over that particular hump. And Richard Eyre managed that with his adaptation for the Almeida, doing away with the interval and teasing from Lesley Manville one of the performances of her career. 

As delicate and beautiful as the snowflakes that fell on the stage, this version was a masterclass in adaptation, borrowing from several different incarnations of the story yet still managing to fashion something that could only ever have been theatrical. Wach out for its rumoured West End transfer.

As for my least favourite plays of the year, it didn't feel like there were too many out and out stinkers. That said, I exercised the right of the swift exit perhaps more often than usual, leaving at the interval at a small number of shows that really weren't doing it for me. But for the shows I wish I'd left at the interval, Wag! The Musical, Geek! A New Musical, Fair Em and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas probably rank up there, but Raving takes the prize as the single most objectionable piece of theatre I saw all year. 

And here are my favourite performances of the year.

Best Actress in a Play
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, The Amen Corner

Best Actress in a Musical
Rosalie Craig, The Light Princess

Best Actor in a Play
Philip Duguid-McQuillan & Jamie Samuel, Jumpers for Goalposts

Best Actor in a Musical
Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Linda Bassett, Roots

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Leigh Zimmerman, A Chorus Line

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Kit Orton, The Hired Man

And that's enough of that. Here's to 2014.

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