At the time of writing these words, the prospects for live theatre again look precarious, with around half of West End shows cancelled or postponed, and more troubled times for an already beleaguered industry apparently in store. In this climate I'm grateful to have had the chance to see the amount of theatre that I have this year, in England and Poland; the 10 productions below are the ones that have stayed with me the most.
|The Normal Heart (Photo: Helen Maybanks)
The Normal Heart (National Theatre, London)
|Under Milk Wood (Photograph: Johan Persson)
|Powinniśmy być… (Photograph: HaWa)
Directed and choreographed by Wiktor Moraczewski and Janusz Adam Biedrzycki, this dynamic one hour two-hander combining text, movement and dance seemed a deeply personal project for its talented young performers, Anastazja Bakhtyukova and Michał Rudkowski, suggesting both a portrait of a relationship and an internal dialogue with a divided self. Indelible moments of separation and symbiosis were created, as Tomasz Krukowski's lighting bathed the stage in a rich range of hues, the mood shifting from the playful to the combative to the tender.
The Cherry Orchard (Theatre Royal Windsor)
The (mostly) glowing reviews for Ian McKellen's Hamlet reflected more the current goodwill towards the actor than the merits of the endeavour, since, novelty value aside, neither production nor performance was very good. (The standout was Frances Barber's Polonius, all the more remarkable since Barber was a last-minute replacement for a browned off Steven Berkoff.) Far more accomplished was the follow-up production in Sean Mathias season. Partially cross-cast with Hamlet, this was a beautiful and insightful Cherry Orchard headed by Francesca Annis' magnificent Ranevskaya - and with the bonus of on-stage seating that made the experience an unforgettably intimate one.
|Księżniczki (Photograph: Agnieszka Cytacka Fotografia)
Uniting The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Snow White, Julia Jakubowska's show offered a truly delicious mash-up of fairy tale figures, deconstructing archetypes in a manner at once witty, loving and provocative - and with a captivating trio of performers in Anna Maszewska, Katarzyna Gorczyca and Małgorzata Lipczyńska.
Schulz: Pętla (Photograph: Agnieszka Cytacka Fotografia)
Schulz: Pętla (Schulz: The Loop) (Teatr CHOREA, Łódź)
Expanded from last year's intense and distilled performance Schulz: Skrawki (Schulz: Scraps) director Konrad Dworakowski's production returned to several motifs from the earlier show but emphasised the power dynamics at the heart of the Bruno Schulz material; the sexy, surreal and unsettling ambience gradually moved into more obviously political terrain.
|JA JESTEM PAMIĘCIĄ (Photograph: Agnieszka Cytacka Fotografia)
JA JESTEM PAMIĘCIĄ (Teatr Nowy, Łódź)
Wojciech Faruga's JA JESTEM PAMIĘCIĄ (I AM MEMORY) evoked the culture and history of the Lemkos - the Carpathian highlanders who lived in the Beskid Niski mountain area for four centuries, until a 1947 decree was issued to resettle them- in a way that was both expressionistic and attuned to lived, daily detail, giving the piece the haunting quality of a requiem.
|Twelfth Night (Photograph Krzysztof Bielinski)
Wieczór Trzech Króli albo Co chcecie (Twelfth Night) (Teatr Narodowy, Warsaw )
Twelfth Night as opera buffa: the musical elements added to Piotr Cieplak's fragrant new production gave some pleasing fresh textures to the most lyrical of Shakespeare's comedies.