Review of the Year 2007 – the worst and the less so

Saturday 29 December 2007

Whingie Award

The general busyness of Christmas is at last on the wane – Phil has finally delivered his yule log and Andrew has put all his gifts onto ebay.

So now at last the Whingers have the time to look back over some of the horrors they’ve had the misfortune to witness during 2007 and – on the rare occasions on which praise is due – to hand out a few Whingies.

Theatrical Event of the Year

Was it AA Gill putting the cat among the critics or Nicholas Hytner’s “dead white males” broadside? Neither actually. Without a hint of conceit it was The West End Whingers party.

Andrew eats a little cheeseMost Enthralling Theatrical Trend

It’s tailed off a bit now, unfortunately, but during the earlier months of the year you couldn’t see a play which didn’t feature the consumption of food live on stage even if you had wanted to (and why would you?).

Sizwe, Elling, Landscape with Weapon etc etc. What was gratifying was that this turned out to be a near-universal source of fascination with the blogging classes who became quite enrapt (is that a word? Oh well, we shall simply claim Shakespeare used it so there). Every appearance of food on stage was catalogued and blogged for posterity. Indeed, it seems that a food eating scene could inject even the most humdrum play with an intensely fascinating moment – a transformational event that could happen faster than you could say “cake slice”.

What was it about this phenomenon? Possibly it was that one felt – rarely for the theatre – that one was witnessing something true and real; something that wasn’t being faked. Slaps, stage-fights, dialogue, sets, prat-falls, people: they’re all pretty cruddy imitations of the real thing. The eating of food is the most truthful thing one can witness in a theatre. Perhaps it’s a bad thing. Perhaps – like the smell of herbal cigarettes – real food simply serves to emphasise the fakery of theatre. Where did Brecht stand on food? Anyone know?

Anyway The Feeding of the 5,000 Award for Making the Smallest Meal go the Longest Way goes to The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder, National Theatre which featured a rather dismal salad shared between six people.

Most Promising Theatrical Trend

The Whingers were completely enchanted by the anthology evenings presented to them this year: Bash: Latterday Plays, Lovely & Misfit, Terror 2007. Perfect for people with declining attention spans and a cunning way to encourage Whingers to return after the interval.

Least Enthralling Trend

Oh, well, the fact that simply everybody and his dog seems to have a theatre blog these days (although strictly speaking the one with the dog is thinking about stopping).

Worst Set

In a decision that may or may not stun regular readers, this goes to Dick Bird’s wholly impractical effort for Swimming with Sharks – a production which also triumphs in the admittedly-not-very-hotly-contested category of Least Convincing Paper Cut Delivered On Stage.

Worst Sightline

The Hothouse, National Theatre, in which an entire scene was invisible to people mean enough to have booked the cheap seats (e.g. us).

Least Promising Newcomer


Most Misguided Consensual Critical Reception

A four way tie: War Horse and Absurd Person Singular (which were overrated) and Cinderella and The Lady from Dubuque (underrated) . *Sigh* Why don’t the critics read the Whingers before they put pen to paper and make asses of themselves?

Best use of Furniture, Soft Furnishings and Haberdashery

Othello, Donmar Warehouse.

Best performance by a goat

Undoubtedly Bruce in The Rose Tattoo. Uncontested.

Least Worst Actress

Amanda Hale in The Glass Menagerie. What is it about the Apollo? Last year Kathleen Turner took the plaudit, this year little known Amanda stole the show with Mark Umbers in a lengthy candle-lit scene. The Whingers were so mesmerised they didn’t notice the show lasting half an hour longer than the advertised time. Unheard of. Runners up: Portia in The Member of the Wedding at the Young Vic; Anne-Marie Duff as Saint Joan at the National

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Evening of the Year

Boeing Boeing at the Comedy Theatre. Andrew had to be dragged screaming and kicking to this but as usual Phil was right. Boeing Boeing was hilarious, the Whingers were deeply impressed by Mark Rylance and Michele Gomez and the overall deftness and superb comic timing of Mattthew Warchus’ version of this old farce full of sexist drivel.

Warchus was so impressed with the Whingers’ taste he granted them their first exclusive interview.

Least Bad Comedy Performance of the Year

Just as Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn had to share their Oscar win, the Whingers have declared a tie. After thrashing this one out for months, no decision could be reached. So Mark Rylance (Boeing Boeing) and John Simm (Elling) share the glittering trophy which will have to spend alternate months on their respective mantlepieces. A special mention to Michele Gomez (Boeing Boeing yet again) and the wonderful Harish Patel in Rafta Rafta. WEW weren’t up for a four-way.

Most Pointless Revival

A tough call, this one. The Entertainer, Absurd Person Singular, The Letter and Gaslight all begged the question “why bother?” On balance, the Whingie goes to Gaslight in spite of it also being awarded the Award for Best Use of a Dimmer Switch.

Least Worst Production of a Straight Play

It was with heavy hearts that the Whingers approached the National Theatre to see Saint Joan – three hours and 10 minutes of GBS – what were they thinking? But the Whingers were totally enthralled by the production (apart from the business with the chairs).

Best theatre blogger without a blog

Why, Ian Shuttleworth, of course. This man is all over the blogosphere like a rash – a very welcome, witty, informed and wise rash.

Most Satisfying Hobnobbing Moment

It’s a tie: Mel Brooks and Una Stubbs. Both heroes of the Whingers. And happily both now dear, dear friends (in our heads).

Least Worst Panto

Cinderella, Old Vic despite what the critics said.

Quote of the Year

“There is no such thing as a ‘critical consensus’. Except for Hairspray.” Lyn Gardner.

Most Enduring Catchphrase of 2007

Write it down!” (Elaine Paige)

Production Most in Need of a Flu Jab

La Cage aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Most Fussing Use of Superfluous Choreography

The Man of Mode, National Theatre

Moments the Whingers Most Regret Missing

Worst Musical of the Year

Take Flight at the Menier Chocolate Factory (but to be fair, we didn’t get round to seeing Desperately Seeking Susan).

Least Worst Musical of the Year

Hairspray (London) and Xanadu (Broadway).

Most Astonishing “How Did They Do That?” Moment?

A very close run category. The winner was nearly Lord of the Rings – the Musical! for the wind at the end of Act 1. But it was just pipped at the post by Moonlight and Magnolias at the Tricycle Theatre for its extraordinary inter-scene detritus littering.

The Bill Kenwright Award for Keeping Jenny Seagrove off the Streets

… goes to Bill Kenwright for Absurd Person Singular and The Letter.

Most Delicious New Finds

The Whingers will be looking out for opportunities to see Josie Walker (Side by Side by Sondheim) and Sarah Woodward (Present Laughter) in 2008.

Most Effective Engineering of a U-Turn in the Whingers’ Prejudices Towards Actors

Michael Ball for Hairspray; Shane Ritchie for Lone Star & Pvt. Wars at the King’s Head. The Whingers had never really thought much about either of them before but both unexpectedly blew them away. On reflection, the award must go to Michael Ball for Hairspray for filling Divine’s and Fierstein’s shoes against all expectations.

Most Cunning Plan By A Producer to Prevent Andrew from Seeing one’s Production

Put on Equus with Daniel Radcliffe (Andrew can’t bear cruelty to animals. Or Harry Potter).

However, the touring production may prove less resistible due to the presence of ex-Avenger Linda Thorson in the cast.

The “Shame On You!” Award for Shutting a Show

All of you and all of us. For being a bit iffy and sniffy about The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello Theatre. And look what replaced it. That taught us.

Most Impressive Lifting of a Curse

The Shaftesbury Theatre. Hairspray put paid to the sarcastic “Home of the Hits” moniker which now seems to have found a willing new home in the Novello.

Worst Seating Award

This too may stun regular readers. No, it’s not the Menier Chocolate Factory despite the indignity of the scrum and the race to get a seat. No, this year the award goes to the Tricycle Theatre for its ridiculous insistence on offering unallocated seating in spite of the fact that it has genuine seats and each one of them is numbered and the ticket machine is capable of printing numbers on tickets. It’s ridiculous and quite enough to turn a good show into a thoroughly miserable experience. What a shame the Whingers don’t know any of the directors so they can have a good moan about it.

Oh, hang on, what’s this? Research reveals that the Whingers’ very own stalker Baz Bamigboye is a director of the Tricycle. Sort it, Baz.

Oh and Phil’s neighbour Jon Snow is a director too. So next time Phil pops round to borrow a cup of gin he’ll be having a word about it.

Foot Most Firmly Placed in Mouth by a Whinger

A tie:

1= Phil at The Seagull (Royal Court). During the interval Phil bumped into an acquaintance who also happens to be a writer for one of the nationals.

  • Phil: (in a stage whisper) I don’t think we’ll be bothering with the second half!
  • Writer: (indicating his companion) This is the director.

1= Andrew to Matthew Warchus during the interval of The Lord of the Rings – the Musical!

  • MW: Hi, I just….
  • Andrew: Before we start, I just want to tell you something.
  • MW: What?
  • Andrew: One of the best evenings we’ve spent at the theatre so far in the last year…
  • MW (interrupting): Thank you. Glad you’re enjoying it.
  • Andrew: No, not this. Boeing, Boeing. Very funny.

The Eee By ‘eck It’s Parky Award for Most Astonishing Parade of Northern Stereotypes Which Had Even The Whingers Cringing

In Celebration with Orlando Bloom

The “D’oh” Award for Most Wasted Opportunity to be on Stage

The West End Whingers for not taking part in the magnificently clever audience participation element of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Broadway

The “It’s By Antony Sher We Must Put It On We Haven’t Had A Hit In Years” Award for Straw-Clutching

The Hampstead Theatre for The Giant.

To Sum Up

    Things which – on reflection – were worth the effort of seeing this year:
    (in no particular order)
    Things which we could have frankly lived without:
    (in no particular order)
    1. Young Frankenstein (second viewing)
    2. Masque of the Red Death
    3. Cinderella
    4. Othello
    5. The Member of the Wedding
    6. Elling
    7. The Bacchae
    8. Present Laughter
    9. Hairspray
    10. Radio City Christmas Spectacular
    11. Moonlight and Magnolias
    12. The Lightning Field
    13. Terror 2007
    14. John Gabriel Borkman
    15. The Emperor Jones
    16. Xanadu
    17. The Final Shot
    18. Saint Joan
    19. The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
    20. Boeing Boeing
    21. Lone Star & Pvt. Wars
    22. Sizwe Banzi is Dead
    23. Lovely & Misfit – 3 Tennessee Williams plays
    24. The Reporter
    25. Eartha Kitt (A Purrfect Evening with…)
    26. The Lady from Dubuque
    27. The Glass Menagerie
    28. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
    29. Rafta, Rafta…
    30. The Pain and the Itch
    31. Side by Side by Sondheim
    32. Proof
    33. Attempts on her Life
    34. Nakamitsu
    35. Lady Be Good
    36. Forbidden Broadway
    37. The Drowsy Chaperone
    38. Chatroom/Citizenship
    39. Terre Haute
    40. All About My Mother
    41. Philistines
    42. Dying For It
    43. Follies In Concert
    44. Little Shop of Horrors, Duke of York’s transfer
    45. Attempts on her Life
    46. Don Juan In Soho
    47. The Wonderful World of Dissocia (second act only)
    48. Happy Days
    1. Young Frankenstein (first viewing)
    2. War Horse
    3. The Man of Mode
    4. Absurd Person Singular
    5. La Cage aux Folles
    6. Vernon God Little
    7. The Letter
    8. Women of Troy
    9. Jack and the Beanstalk
    10. Equus
    11. A Matter of Life and Death
    12. Treats
    13. Parade
    14. Swimming with Sharks
    15. The Lord of the Rings (the musical!)
    16. The Seagull
    17. The Giant
    18. Gilgamesh, Uncle Semolina (& friends)
    19. Holding Fire
    20. Awake and Sing!
    21. In Celebration
    22. Kean
    23. Betrayal
    24. Take Flight
    25. Wicked
    26. Confessions of a Dancewhore
    27. Into the Woods
    28. The Hothouse
    29. Altar Boyz
    30. Gaslight
    31. The Ritz
    32. Absurdia
    33. All Mouth
    34. The Enchantment
    35. The Entertainer
    36. The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder
    37. The Last Priest
    38. Kiss of the Spider Woman
    39. Europe
    40. Landscape with Weapon
    41. The Rose Tattoo
    42. Dick Whittington
    43. The Dumb Waiter
    44. Pinter’s People
    45. The Hound of the Baskervilles
    46. There Came a Gypsy Riding

    So in 2007 the good marginally outweighed the meh and the bad which means that the Whingers will probably continue to bang their heads against the set during 2008.

    14 Responses to “Review of the Year 2007 – the worst and the less so”

    1. she with he of Xanadu on stage seating Says:

      I am pleased to announce that La Cage has now had its flu jab (in the shape of the return of the marvellous Douglas Hodge since Boxing Day). I know that your raison d’etre is to whinge and indeed the first preview which you saw was as shambolic as you described, but this was entirely due to south of the river general unwellness and almost complete lack of rehearsal. It is now a fabulous show and you could do much worse than see it again (and the curtains are now fully functioning).

    2. daveross Says:


    3. Hannah Says:

      I am surprised at the lack of accolades for Little Shop whingers…
      But apart from that a very good list (although I must admit I did enjoy Parade…)

    4. Well, to be fair, Hannah, LSOH was really a 2006 show.

    5. Hannah Says:

      Busted. Very true, I didnt see it at the Mernier though as I was a bit slow off the mark. Ooops!

    6. webcowgirl Says:

      Hey, your review got ME to see Drowsy Chaperone, and some 5 other people to boot, one of whom. like me, saw it twice in the lousy week that remained before it closed. Oh well. There’s still a poster up for it in the tube station near my house and I can’t help but think lousy advertising is part of what sunk this show.

    7. Whingers, I’ve seen Ian Shuttleworth’s name so much I just assumed he had his own blog. You mean he really doesn’t?!

      Happy New Year Andrew and Phil (and Ian, too!). Hope to see you on our next visit to London.

    8. Statler Says:

      Aren’t they all Ian Shuttleworth’s blogs?

    9. Ah, you see SOB, Shutters is rather busy as the Financial Times theatre critic and the editor/publisher of Theatre Record magazine.

      Statler is right when he says that all theatre blogs are Ian’s really. We like it that way so it suits everyone really.

      And interestingly he’s the only mainstream theatre critic to leave comments on other people’s blogs. Go figure.

    10. Baz B Says:

      I suppose we could ban you from the Tricycle,that should stop the pair of you whinging on and on.Only,kidding,only kidding.Actually,the Tricycle has a seating policy that includes reserved seating,for a fee.Next time you see me stalking you (as if!),we’ll have a chat and I’ll explain how the Tricycle’s seating works.
      Best for 2008 to the both of you.
      Don’t agree with 90% of your views,but that’s what makes your website so vital!
      Baz B.

    11. Whingers, I guess I’ll need to renew my subscription to that funny pink newspaper again.

    12. is your friend, Steve. But then, according to Least Enthralling Trend, I’m simply nobody anyway…

      My own slow theatregoing decline continues; in 2007 I saw only 314 shows, maintaining the falling-off from 2004’s insane leap-year spike of 366.

      And oh, God, I think tomorrow’s the deadline for voting in the Critics’ Circle awards, as well as my FT deadline for “What I’m looking forward to in 2008″…

    13. Graham Says:

      I agree with your stalker – you are a vital part of the theatrical landscape and other reviewers should take note and absorb some of your panache. Can you think of a way to thrust something of yourselves into certain leading critics?

    14. Gramham’s comment reads a bit like one of those letters to Private Eye asking for that Andrew Neil / Asian babe photo. I think you need to acquire a similar picture of you and Michael B.

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