Across 2021, I’ve been to the theatre 14 times, which isn’t bad going considering that theatres weren’t open for the first half of the year! My theatre trips were a mix of indoor and outdoor, professional and amateur, encompassing all genres from musicals to plays, from Shakespeare to Godber. I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on the shows that I’ve seen this year, so here are my top 5 productions from 2021.
Honourable mention: Inside No. 9, An Evening with Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton
Not technically a play, but I wanted to give this a special mention anyway, because I thoroughly enjoyed this night. The evening consisted of Shearsmith and Pemberton discussing their writing process for their BBC anthology series “Inside No. 9”, and was both funny and insightful. With a few song and dance breaks, recreating highlights from the TV show, this was a hugely enjoyable evening. The only complaint I had was that it was over too quickly!
5. Comedy of Errors
The first RSC show I’d seen in almost two years, Comedy of Errors was everything I love about RSC productions. Taking the Shakespeare play and reimagining it in a new location (this time a posh hotel in Dubai), the play was brought to life by a beatboxing band and heaps of physical comedy. This was one of the RSC’s best productions (it was a shame that the audience in Nottingham was so empty!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what the RSC have to offer next.
‘Constellations’ will always have a special place in my heart since ETC’s very own performance of it in December 2019. This production played in July, and was the first theatre show I attended post-lockdown. Starring Peter Capaldi and Zoe Wanamaker, the play explored a variety of different parallel universes as it told the story (or stories) of Roland and Marianne’s romance. It was very interesting for both myself and Rhian to compare the production to our performances, looking at what was done differently and what had been done similarly. The quick, polished transitions between universes meant that the show went by so quickly, it felt as though it was over before it had even started. Forget Spiderman: No Way Home – this is the type of multiverse I want to see!
3. Sunny Side Up!
This Godber play, set at a B&B during lockdown, was a surprise favourite of mine. A last-minute decision to attend meant that I didn’t know much about the play, and my expectations were not high. The play starred Godber himself, alongside his real-life wife and daughter, who each played a variety of characters including the owners of the B&B and the various guests that they had staying there. The story revolved around an upper-class couple who had been forced to holiday in the UK due to lockdown restrictions, and whilst the story was not groundbreaking, it was full of honest, believable characters that made this a joy to watch.
2. Six: The Musical
The musical that told the story of Henry VIII’s 6 wives has been one of my favourite musical soundtracks for some time, and I went to the theatre with high expectations. Thankfully, the show did not disappoint. In fact, there was plenty more to enjoy besides just the exciting musical numbers with clever, meaningful lyrics. The highlight of the show was the interactions between the songs, where the characters each tried to better the others in terms of who had the hardest life. A perfect mix of comedy and sadness, this was a very fun and educational musical, and it is no surprise that it is touring again in 2022.
1. Come From Away
The first full-capacity, non-socially distanced theatre show I saw post-lockdown is awarded my number one spot. This musical, which featured a hugely talented cast playing a variety of different characters, was full of lively, upbeat songs. The final number had the audience on their feet, the band out of their seats and the cast singing and clapping along. This was the moment that theatre felt like it was back for good, and everyone was celebrating and beginning to put the past year and a half behind us.
I’m looking forward to lots more theatre in 2022. All going well, I already have plenty of shows booked – plays including ‘Animal Farm’, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ and ‘Cluedo’, as well as musicals such as ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’, ‘Waitress’ and ‘Book of Mormon’. Reviews for all of these shows will be posted as I see them. Looking forward to sharing a lot more theatre with you all in 2022! Happy new year!
Tom Morley, December 2021