Sunday, December 29, 2013



This is my 200th, and last, blog entry for 2013.
Not all my own reviews, and not all commissioned. But there were shows this year that didn't make it to these pages, and it's certainly true that evenings out have outnumbered evenings in …
For this top twenty list, I've stuck strictly to those offerings which I was asked to review, both amateur and professional, on my patch, which extends these days from Norwich to the London fringe [occasionally].
But it's mostly still in and around the City of Chelmsford, where 2013 saw Verdi's bicentenary marked with the Waltham Singers' memorable Requiem in the Cathedral; in the Civic, CAODS served up a stylish slice of Gershwin, and Tomorrow's Talent tackled Miss Saigon with spectacular success. In a typically eclectic season, Chelmsford Theatre Workshop excelled in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and also staged an interesting Hamlet.
In the villages, Writtle unveiled their classy Calendar Girls – one of hundreds across the country in the narrow window granted to non-professional groups – and Theatre at Baddow, in a strong year, gave us God of Carnage and a splendid Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
My musical theatre revelation of 2012 was The Drowsy Chaperone [another bite of that cherry this May from LODS]; this year it was The World Goes Round, the Kander & Ebb compendium engagingly staged by Brentwood Operatic. Another scrapbook at Brentwood was the intriguing Next! from Vivid.
Colchester Mercury, now under new management, has had a remarkably successful year, including an outstanding revival of The Hired Man, the enchanting Butterfly Lion and a two-handed tour-de-force mini-season of Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges.
Of the touring productions, Female Gothic stands out, as does the Eastern Angles' John Clare, and on a larger scale [and back on the road for 2014] the brilliantly done stage version of Birdsong.
In town, I loved Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar, and the revival of The Barber of Seville at ENO.
Two of the most memorable theatrical events took place, entirely by coincidence, just yards apart. Opposite the Queen's Hornchurch stands Fairkytes, where New Venture Players set La Ronde in the rooms and grounds of the old house, and right next door, Langtons, whose fine gardens were the setting for As You Like It, one of four I've seen this year.
Plenty of pantos, too, of course, with Charles Court Opera's Buttons the quirkiest and the cheekiest.

photograph of the Queen's Hornchurch As You Like It by Nobby Clark

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