|Romans (Love Affair)
In a somewhat more stable year for the industry at large, but a slightly scattered and erratic theatre year for me, a few productions stood out as remarkable achievements. Chief among them was the unforgettable pair of Trzy ćwierci do śmierci (Three Quarters to Death) and Romans (Love Affair), two extraordinary examples of female-led puppet theatre presented at Łódź's Fabryka Sztuki. Seen in summer, as part of this year's Retroperspektywy Festival, Natalia Sakowicz's Romans explored abuses of power and coercive control in relationships to devastating effect. Seen in winter, as part of the Przestrzenie Sztuki ("Spaces of Art") season, Karolina Martin's Trzy ćwierci do śmierci drew on folktales to evoke the regrets and losses experienced by a woman cursed with longevity as she recalls various episodes of her life. With indelible stage pictures and superb puppetry, the bracing intimacy and emotional range of these bold shows made them feel like companion pieces. Both were profound experiences that left the viewer shaken, moved, and changed.
Gandhi's murderer narrates his own story in Anupama Chandrasekhar's play, which, in Indhu Rubasingham's exciting production, combines an intimate, personal tone with historical sweep. Meanwhile, in her other (less loved) NT production this year - of April De Angelis's Kerry Jackson - Rubasingham proved equally adept at skewering contemporary English tensions and embarrassments, in a cusp-of-caricature mode.
The apocalypse and after, captivatingly rendered.
Digging out Chekhov and Williams echoes, Lynette Linton's production of Pearl Cleage's Harlem Renaissance melodrama teemed with life and joy and sadness.
A specialism of Paul Miller's Orange Tree tenure has been George Bernard Shaw revivals that also manage to satisfy Shaw sceptics. With his last OT production Miller does it again, offering a juicy, generous-spirited rendering of Shaw's satire on militarism that boasts delicious performances from a cast including Alex Waldmann, Rebecca Collingwood, and Miranda Foster (the latter turning "Come, let me show you the electric bell" into the year's sexiest invitation).
The story of the demonic possession of the nuns of Loudon is best known through the Kawalerowicz and Ken Russell films it inspired, but a boldly distinctive expressionist staging byWojciech Faruga for Warsaw's Teatr Narodowy - axe-twirling, black blood, and all.
The National Theatre's latest fairy tale musical, riffing (all over the place...) on Sleeping Beauty, ended up bookending my theatre year, as the first and last production I saw in 2022. The show's original staging was repeatedly cursed by Covid cases in the company, so I was lucky to see it back in January with its full cast intact, including a phenomenal Tamsin Carroll and Rosalie Craig. Despite a clearer narrative time line, the revamped version, currently in the Olivier, was in no sense an improvement, with the loss of the beautiful opening sequence and the addition of several generic new songs. Still, while certainly no Light Princess substitute, the wonky Hex boasts some bite and charm, plus a sumptuous design that helps the viewer through the rough spots.
Photos: HollyBaba, Agnieszka Cytacka Fotografia, Ellie Kurttz, Brinkhoff-Moegenburg