(Very) Selected London theatre in 2018, or, I saw some plays and I had some thoughts

I was going to write about all of these shows in one massive post, but aren't you glad I didn't?

Despite what Lin-Manuel Miranda might be trying to tell us, London truly is the greatest city in the world, especially for theatre. This year I've seen a frankly irrational number of musicals (check out my wonderfully professional graphic) but I also snuck in a few plays here and there too. In no particul... - well, chronological - order, here are my thoughts on them...

Belleville by Amy Herzog (dir. Michael Longhurst) - Donmar Warehouse

Young, beautiful American couple in Paris, but all is not quite as it seems...

In all honesty, I went to see this because I'm such a big fan of James Norton (who was in it), and it was... okay. It was quite a bit scarier than I was expecting, and I remember that Malachi Kirby was particularly good in it. I discovered that I do not like when they turn off all the lights for ages in a tiny, intimate theatre.

The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez (dir. Stephen Daldry) - The Young Vic

Young, beautiful American men in New York grapple with what it means to be a gay man in the 21st century...

This was my first visit to the Young Vic - which I adored - and I went to see it because it sounded spiritually similar to Angels In America (two really long parts, gay men in NYC). Incidentally, I went while it was in previews and sat literally next to Lena Waithe, who was on the cover of Vanity Fair that month. That's not relevant to the play, just #funfacts. The play was breathtaking, moving, powerful, and... ultimately a little patchy. I'm going to the updated West End transfer this weekend, which has received nearly universal rave reviews, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what tweaks they've made. It could be a modern classic.

Translations by Brian Friel (dir. Ian Rickson) - National Theatre

Find out what I thought of Translations in my review!

"Like the best art, it was both moving and challenging, intertwining romance, mystery, politics, language and identity in a heady mixture right up until the electrifying final moment."

The Jungle by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson (dir. Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin) - Playhouse Theatre

"Join the residents over fresh baked naan and sweet milky chai at the Afghan Café, and experience the intense, moving and uplifting encounters between refugees from many different countries and the volunteers who arrived from the UK."

The Playhouse Theatre was totally overtaken for this immersive show: the stage was in the middle of the stalls, the audience were customers in a cafe in the Calais refugee camp known as 'The Jungle' and the scent of fresh chai and naan filled the air. It was like nothing I've ever seen - vital, important, damning, inspiring, shocking, completely heartbreaking, and wholly, utterly necessary.

The play was developed by a group of people who worked with the residents in the camp in Calais, and its authenticity is so palpable that its NYC transfer was almost derailed by three of the actors being affected by the American government's travel ban. You can read the fascinating story of how they made it to NYC here.

Theatre can and should be transporting, but rather than carry the audience away to another place, this show brought an entire community just a few hundred miles across the Channel and placed it firmly in central London. It should have been required viewing, and I'm so glad they are now getting to tell their story in the United States.

Please read more about how The Jungle came to be, here in The Atlantic.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (dir. Michael Grandage) - Noël Coward Theatre

The sinister, hilarious, gory story of one man and his cat...

Okay, so there are a few important facts to know about this show:
  1. It starred Aidan Turner of Desperate Romantics, Being Human and, I guess, Poldark fame.
  2. He was wildly upstaged by a LITERAL CAT ACTOR.
  3. I have never in my life laughed harder or more consistently at anything.
I will happily admit I basically only booked a ticket because of the promise of one of my favourite telly actors making his West End debut. Having been unconvinced by the comedic value of writer Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri last year, I wasn't sure what to expect of this bloodsoaked satire on terrorism and cats ("They’re all full of themselves"). What I got was one hour and fifty minutes of hysterical jet-black comedy. The sheer volume of fake blood and one-liners was astonishing. When the cat playing 'Wee Thomas' made his dramatic, deus ex machina entrance in the final scene, the audience erupted.

The. Most. Fun. I've. Ever. Had. At. The. Theatre. Ever.

And Aidan Turner's performance was genuinely magnificent too.

And finally, some awards...

Best Actress: Charlie Murphy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (A deserving winner, but I definitely need to seek out more female-centric plays as the women are few and far between in these ones)
Best Actor: Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Fox, Translations
Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Burnap, The Inheritance  (Remember his name: this deserves to be a star-making performance.)
Best New Play: The Jungle
Best Play Revival: The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Best Set Design: Miriam Buether, The Jungle (Honorable mention to the fantastic set for Translations, by Rae Smith)
Best Show Poster: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Aidan Turner. Cuddling a kitty.)