Once again we have been wowed by some fantastic theatre this year. Here, in order of viewing (and with the benefit of hindsight), are our favourite productions of 2017.
The Winter’s Tale – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
This thrilling, modern-day version of Shakespeare’s play was dynamic and audacious – with the whole fourth act recast in Scots. We loved every minute of it, especially Maureen Beattie’s performance as Paulina.
Chess: The Musical – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
The students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland thrilled the audience with a skilful display of all things theatrical. We loved the sophisticated choreography (often incorporating the real time use of video cameras) and choral singing that sent chills down our spines.
Nell Gwyn – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
This superb production of Jessica Swales’ Olivier Award-winning comedy was a delight in just about every respect. From the superbly realised set, through to the opulent costumes and the lively period music, this was fabulous to behold.
Death of a Salesman – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
It was the direction that made this production so good: Abigail Graham did a wonderful job of clarifying everybody’s pain. And Nicholas Woodeson was perfect for the lead role, conveying Willy’s struggle with warmth and vitality.
The Toxic Avenger – Pleasance One, Edinburgh
A musical in the same vein that made Little Shop of Horrors such a pleasure, The Toxic Avenger was an unqualified delight, romping happily along powered by its own exuberance and the efforts of a stellar cast, who gave this everything they had – and then some.
The Power Behind the Crone – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh
This was a wonderful piece of theatre, an exemplar of a Fringe show: beautifully scripted, and acted with precision and panache. Alison Skilbeck had absolute control of the material and created an impressive range of distinct, believable characters.
Seagulls – The Leith Volcano, Edinburgh
This was the most ambitious, exhilarating piece of theatre we saw this year. Site-specific productions – when the site is as spectacular and relevant as this (we were in an abandoned church, which had been flooded with forty-five tons of water) – can be truly exciting, and this one had a lot to offer.
Safe Place – Rose Street Theatre, Edinburgh
Safe Place provided a sensitive, insightful examination of the uneasy relationship between trans-activism and feminism. It asked (and answered) many questions, all within the framework of a nuanced and intelligent play.
Angels in America: NT Live – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Clocking in at just under eight hours, Tony Kushner’s play offered us a “gay fantasia on national themes” – a sprawling, painful and searingly funny depiction of New York in the 1980s, fractured and ill-prepared to deal with the AIDS epidemic. A truly iconic piece of theatre.
Twelfth Night/Romeo & Juliet – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Merely Theatre gave us some ‘stripped-back’ Shakespeare, performing Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet in rep. The plays featured only five actors and the casting was gender-blind. It all made for an interesting dynamic and prompted us to re-examine familiar scenes.
Cockpit – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Cockpit was a witty, clever play, which saw the Lyceum transformed into a truly immersive space. Director Wils Wilson served up a fascinating piece of theatre: arresting, thought-provoking, provocative and demanding – and it kept us talking for hours afterwards.
Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
We never thought a pantomime would feature in any ‘best of’ list of ours but, for the second year running, the King’s Theatre’s stalwarts managed to wow us. Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott knew exactly how to work their audience, and the special effects were truly spectacular.
Susan Singfield & Philip Caveney