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
Most 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).
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.
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
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
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
Most Fussing Use of Superfluous Choreography
Moments the Whingers Most Regret Missing
- Penelope Wilton nearly sets the Donmar alight in Borkman
- Mark Shenton throws up while watching Elaine Paige
Worst Musical of the Year
Least Worst Musical of the Year
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
Most Delicious New Finds
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
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
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.
- 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
The “D’oh” Award for Most Wasted Opportunity to be on Stage
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
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.