I’ve seen just short of 200 productions across London this year, my busiest-ever theatre-going year. I’ve already shared with you my thirty favourite productions and thirty favourite performances of 2019, but what of those productions which didn’t quite come up to scratch?
These are the productions which really disappointed me this year, for a variety of reasons. Follow links for my reviews of these.
West End and National plays
This managed to be both boring and misguided, from a plot which on paper had a great deal of potential. A saving grace was being upgraded from a cheap seat at the back to a second price one near the front.
This was a waste of the significant talents of Alex Jennings and Lindsay Duncan, in a meandering debut play which was a very pale imitation of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, set in the world of British politics.
A jaw-dropping folly from the usually reliable Lucy Prebble which mixed comic interludes with the story of the murder by poisoning of a Russian defector.
You had to enter a ballot for tickets, and then you were trapped in this nightmare with Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane, wondering what on earth you were watching. The kindest thing I can say about this is that it was weird, the most damning thing is that is was a bit of yawn.
West End musicals
With questionable song choices and missed opportunities, this musical may have had big ambitions, but felt very small in the cavernous Dominion. Happily I paid the cheap rate to sit up at the back: I would have felt even more cheated had I forked out for a place in the stalls.
I went to see what all the fuss was about. Not much, as it turned out. The musical styles don’t fit together and I really didn’t care about the leading character. Over-rated.
I got a discounted ticket in the 2019 New Year Sale. I suppose it is a bit flashy and fun, but I felt the material was very thin and it needs a whole lot more magic to take flight.
Gloria Estefan is not a saint, and this was not worth the amount of money we paid for a ticket.
This just isn’t a musical but a very slick tribute concert. There’s a huge hole where Michael Jackson should be, and for me it never got beyond that.
Off-West End and wider London fringe
What should have been a tight and thoughtful commentary on John and Yoko’s sit-in for political peace felt muddled and had a singalong second half which was totally pointless.
A musical of one of my favourite films was something I really looked forward to, but it failed on almost every level, as well as being far too long and ponderous.
What was advertised as a parody musical really wasn’t, and it didn’t catch a fraction of the fun or complexity of the source sitcom.
There have been many interesting versions of this play, including a turn from David Suchet as Lady Bracknell and a framing device of elderly actors tackling the role. This was done straight and sadly the play was left creaking.
The National’s production was transported to the new Troubadour Theatre at White City, but didn’t seem to know whether it was for children or adults. It dragged along at a snail’s pace and just didn’t suit the space.
I admired this, but I didn’t like it. Curiously the same composer is responsible for the fantastic Ghost Quartet over in Soho at the Boulevard.
This wanted to be far more profound than it was and despite good performances, it lumbered along to a frustrating finish.