Inappropriately, since it was the Olympic year, we’re a bit late off the starting blocks with our highly-anticipated annual Whingie Awards.
Frankly we believed we might not need to bother. The world was going to end. Andrew had packed his onesie and headed off to Bugarach. Phil was left sitting around in his meggins self-medicating in preparation musing which shows would be the theatrical cockroaches that might survive the impending apocalypse.
Of course it wasn’t the end after all. The world continues and we must carry on going to the theatre. It’s a bit of a let down. But as we toast the new and possibly unlucky New Year of 2013 we’ve had our hands down the back of the theatrical sofa digging for the occasional treasure, copious amounts of fluff and the occasional best-forgotten unmentionable.
We don’t see everything. We leave that to others. In fact we have been going to the theatre with decidedly less frequency,* being more selective, actively seeking things which might possibly entertain us. Our prizes are much-coveted as they come from considerable hours of contemplative considerations with nary a trace of audience voting or objectivity.
Worst New Trend of the Year
We’ve been harping on about this a lot recently so we must dispense with this one swiftly and move on. A few years ago there was a rather thrilling run of on stage vomiting; 2012′s trend just makes us nauseous. Top Hat, The BodyGuard, Merrily We Roll Along and Viva Forever! feature gay men flouncing around for no particular reason other than to send us out into the night air in a state of peevishness. It’s hard to choose the biggest homovexus. Merrily is absolved as theirs wore a turban and didn’t get a laugh. So it’s a three-way tie as the others were there for no particular reason other than to get cheap laughs. Which, depressingly, they did.
Least Worst Actor of the Year
Our ruminations include Luke Treadaway in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time, Anthony Andrews and Joshua Miles in Bully Boy, Rafe Spall in Constellations, Jonjo O’Neill in The Effect, Cillian Murphy’s solo tour de force in Misterman, Mark Rylance’s dazzling Olivia in Twelfth Night and the wonderful Simon Russell Beale, not for his Timon – he has been awarded for that role already – but for his necessarily camp queen in Privates on Parade. However our award goes to Nicholas Farrell for his superbly repressed classics master Crocker-Harris in the second of the South Downs / The Browning Version double bill. We thought at the time – and it’s quite something that we still remember him, as we saw this back in April – that his might be the performance to beat and so it proved.
Least Worst Actress of the Year
Anna Friel took us by surprise in Uncle Vanya and we were hugely taken by Natalie Casey for being brilliant whilst travelling-farthest-from-the-original-imprinted-in-our-minds-role in Abigail’s Party. Then there was both Billie Piper and Anastasia Hille in The Effect, Sally Hawkins in Constellations, Helen McCrory in The Last of the Haussmans, Laurie Metcalf in Long Day’s Doo-Dah and Tyne Daley’s hilariously scary diva Maria Callas in Master Class. We’d be happy to give it to either of the last two but doubt they’ll fly over for a few eggnogs in Andrew’s sitting room at our awards ceremony. And since we can’t stretch to shipping costs for our prestigious bauble it must go to Victoria Hamilton in Love, Love Love, a Dame-in-waiting if ever there was one.
Least Worst Play of the Year
We didn’t venture up to Edinburgh this year (see footnotes) so only 5 plays received a 5 glass rating from us, South Downs / The Browning Version, Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Animals and Children Took to the Streets (back at the National until Jan 10th), Posh and Love, Love Love. The latter two both emerged from the Royal Court as did Nick Payne’s Constellations where love meets quantum physics and Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at the National where love meets neuroscience; both might be contenders but only received 4 glasses from us, so are out of the running. Andrew had already seen Posh a couple of years back so that is disqualified too. Mike Bartlett’s Cock stood proudly against Jerusalem a couple of years ago yet lost out to it in the end; his triple Love gets our gong.
Least Worst Musical
Slim pickings regarding new musicals, none of the many film-to-stage musicals carried us away sufficiently. We’d happily hand it to the Menier for their superbly cast revival of Merrily We Roll Along especially as it was a pretty impressive directorial debut from Maria Friedman and we like her. But bias doesn’t rule the day for once, there was another Sondheim to pip it, the Chichester transfer of Sweeney Todd.
Least Worst Performance in a Musical
Very honorable mentions in despatches for both Katherine Kingsley and Scarlett Strallen in Singin’ in the Rain, Debbie Kurrup in The BodyGuard and Josefina Gabrielle, Damian Humbley and Mark Umbers in Merrily We Roll Along. But, and we anticipated this would happen last year when we saw it at Chichester, Michael Ball must win for his Sweeney Todd. We are sure he won’t mind sharing the award with his equally luminous co star Imelda Staunton as economics mean we’ve conflated the actor and actress in a musical into one award this year We’ve bills to pay. Don’t you know there’s a war on?
Least Worst Supporting Actor/Actress of the Year
Do we differentiate between actors and actresses? Aren’t they all actors these days? The Whingers are a bit old school about these sort of things. Anyhoo the Whingers like a bit of good support: the remarkable stage debut of Alex Lawther in South Downs, Trevor White and Kyle Soller in Long Day’s Journey into Night and Joshua McGuire in The Magistrate all caught our eye. The whole cast of Our Boys suggest we might create an award for an ensemble, but after putting that to the Whingers’ board of directors the idea was rejected as too grand. As it happens there isn’t an actress on our list, but there is added irony as we pass our trophy to Paul Chahidi’s wonderful and hilarious Maria-on-casters in Twelfth Night.
Least Worst Director of the Year
Mr Rupert Goold reigned in the excesses nicely yet still had enough flourishes up his sleeve to make The Effect effective. However our nod goes to for Michael Longhurst’s work on Constellations; he must have had his work cut out with Nick Payne’s text.
Least Worst Design of the Year
We’d love to award this to Bunny Christie. Anything by Bunny Christie. We also clap the clinic design by Miriam Buether in the Cottesloe’s The Effect. But this year – and because it proved that Phil can look at his theatrical bête noire (balloons on stage) for fully 70 minutes and not be carted off with the screaming ab dabs – Tom Scutt must take it for his simple yet appropriately effective work on Constellations. It was also rather gorgeous to look at. A custom made helium filled award will be floated over to Mr Scutt forthwith.
Best “What The…?” Moment
Bit low on theatrical coups this year. No vomiting. No executions. Detroit pulled off a bit of scenic dazzlement but the opening moments of the Almeida’s The House of Bernarda Alba made us wish – as long as we didn’t have to sit through it all – we could see the opening minutes again.
Least Worst Theatrical Book of the Year
Phil hasn’t finished it yet – he’s still running his finger along the text – but expects to pass his copy on to Andrew by 2014. But Mr Ian Kelly who is an actor, presenter and clearly something of a writer must surely take our Manly Bookish prize for his supremely entertaining Mr Foote’s Other Leg. An extraordinary story of the first one-legged comedy superstar, celebrity impressionist and first true-crime bestseller writer (thank you dust jacket). No other theatrical book this year surely has an err, leg to stand on up against this.
Most Unlikely “unforseen circumstance” of the Year
Everyone raved about Heather Headley’s performance in The BodyGuard, not us, she was busy that night at the 100th Royal Variety Performance. We dreamed a dream we might see Susan Boyle on stage after – imagine – trailing all the way to Southend for I Dreamed a Dream but “unforeseen circumstances” transported her to the Britain’s Got Talent final. Why weren’t we told?
The Did the Critics See Another Play Award?
Alan Bennett’s People was awarded 4 stars from pretty much all the kosher critics. We were somewhat disappointed and – rather unusually – many agree with us.
The Monstrous Carbuncle Award
Call us fickle. Call us perverse. Call us plain silly. Call us all three if you like, we hold our hands up. After years of moaning about the Cottesloe we’ve just realised we’ve been seeing rather good stuff there. Our not-so-mean rating of the plays we visited there this year was a remarkable 4, well above our year’s average (see below). As the buldozers move in on the Cottesloe the temporary replacement going up outside the National is to be called “The Shed”. Might we suggest they rename The Oliver “The Barn” and the Lyttleton “The Lean-to”?
Theatrical Stinkers of the Year
Musically we may not have been over-enamoured by The BodyGuard but it suddenly looked like high art up against the Viva Forever! which was about as appealing as a Chanel No 5 advert but nowhere near as funny. Astonishingly we both walked out of only one show this year. Bingo was not a full house after the interval the night we half attended; there hadn’t been such a unanimous decision since Fram but at least we will always look back on that one with a peculiar nostalgia. We gamely – but mistakenly – stuck it out at The Lion in Winter and were Damned by Despair for seeing that one through to the end.
*Going to the theatre less and choosing more judiciously has payed off. 2012 saw us bothered (or allowed) to review 61 shows against the previous year’s total of 111. Our average rating for this year was 3.5; last year’s was 3.2, that’s if we don’t include the 35 shows we saw in Edinburgh in 2011 where Fringe fever saw temperatures and our average rating for the 35 shows we reviewed there rise to an absurdly unrealistic 4.37.
Being more selective seems to be paying off, or perhaps we’re just going soft? This year only 6 shows received the dubious distinction of a 1 or 2 rating. Last year of the 76 non-Edinburgh shows a mighty 20 received a lowly 1 or 2.
And whilst we’re number crunching has anyone else noticed that 2013 is the first year for anyone alive that features four consecutive numbers (not in order obviously and we count 0 as a number before you start the pedantry)? We won’t see another until 2031 and we may not be around for that, let alone the one after that in 2103. So make the most of it. Just sayin’.