Alison Brinkworth's view
THERE were some memorable, outstanding productions with this theme from the Welsh National Opera, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and of course the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon, which are reflected in my honours for this year’s Behind The Arras theatre awards.
Best Play - Don Quixote
The epic adventure was brought to the Swan Theatre by director Angus Jackson, who was also behind the acclaimed Oppenheimer for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). This exciting and very funny production for the RSC brought together Rufus Hound as Sancho Panza and Shameless’ David Threlfall as Don Quixote. It’s forte was the ability to balance humour with touching sentimentality.
Best Big-Budget Musical – Mary Poppins
There have been some showstoppers this year including Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but the musical that clinches the title for me is the slick production of Mary Poppins that was at Birmingham Hippodrome during March and April. Practically perfect in every way, it had memorable dance routines, sensational sets and costumes and still had the ability to make you gasp with surprise and enjoyment. Added to that was a truly impressive cast including Zizi Strallen who was the embodiment of the magical nanny.
Surprise Show Of The Year – Jackie The Musical
This fun show ended up being the surprise feel-good musical of the year as it toured the UK stopping off at Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre and Malvern Theatres. Well known TV faces of Janet Dibley (The Two of Us) and Nicholas Bailey (EastEnders) led a nostalgic zany tale about a woman having a mid-life crisis that resorts to her old copies of girls magazine Jackie. With a 1970’s soundtrack, Jackie The Musical was witty, vibrant and refreshing.
Pictured left is
Aubrey Lodewyk as Mandela who spent 27 years in jail
Pictured left is Aubrey Lodewyk as Mandela who spent 27 years in jail
Best Opera – Mandela Trilogy
Cape Town Opera returned to Birmingham Hippodrome with this epic production retelling the life of Nelson Mandela through modern opera, jazz, swing and Xhosa folk music over three acts. It was soulful as well as atmospheric, bringing to life the colours, emotion and sounds of an apartheid-hit South Africa. An exceptional piece of work.
Best Dance Production – Joint winners Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and COAL
Birmingham is attracting the cream of dance to its theatres and dance fans were spoiled for choice this year. That’s why there are two winners for this category – one international and the other home-grown.
New York’s famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater toured to Birmingham Hippodrome and mesmerised with its distinctive, world-famous choreography in seminal works like Revelations. It felt a privilege to see such fine dancing from a company that dates back to the 1960’s but is constantly updating its repertoire with modern work.
Meanwhile, COAL from the Gary Clarke Company was a production for DanceXchange in the Patrick Centre that was an emotive and gritty piece of modern dance that coincided with the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strikes. Choreographer Gary Clarke grew up near the Yorkshire coalfields and used this personal experience to show the strong bonds of friendship and loyalty above ground along with the gruelling life below in the pits. There was also the best dancing Maggie Thatcher you are ever likely to see.
Best Dance Show For Children – The Wolf and Peter
Innovative and exciting, the Coisceim Dance Theatre brought its dance production of The Wolf and Peter to Birmingham’s DanceXchange base in The Patrick Centre in December. The show used the enchanting music of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf while retelling the story from the wolf’s perspective. Totally enchanting and child-friendly with a host of animal characters, this was a must-see production.
Best Shakespeare Production – Joint winners - RSC’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and BRB’s Taming of the Shrew