The Aisle Seat Awards

These won’t be rivalling the Oliviers but here are a few shows that have hit the spot for me in the last couple of years.

Hangmen      Royal Court


Martin McDonagh’s plays are always unsettling, dark creations but also hilarious. You find yourself laughing at the most awful things.

He is a unique voice.


Welcome Home, Captain Fox           Donmar

Fascinating update of a Jean Anouilh play. Anouilh was big when I was a schoolboy but then went completely out of fashion.

This production, set on Long Island in the 1950s was totally engrossing.


The Flick          NT

A marathon but quite extraordinary. It’s not often nowadays that I can say I’ve never seen anything like that before.

Annie Baker gets the award here.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom         NT

This did what many great plays do. It took me to a world outside my experience and gave me some understanding of that world.

Performances were spot on. Gripping throughout.


How The Other Half Loves            Haymarket


It’s easy to forget, given his enormous output, how good these early Ayckbourn plays are. Beautifully constructed. Perfect set-piece comedy moments.

The dinner party scene made me laugh until it hurt.



The  Go-Between           Apollo

The award here goes to Michael Crawford. It’s a lovely ‘chamber’ musical by Richard Taylor and David Wood but Crawford steals the show. He is one of our great actors. Watching him as he contemplated his younger self gave me goose bumps. Entrancing.


The Red Shed             Everyman, Liverpool


Not exactly a play. More like stand-up with dramatic elements.

Preaching to the converted at the Everyman but a masterly piece.


Nice Fish            Harold Pinter

I notice how many of my award winners might be described as oddball shows. This might be the oddest of them all.

Based on the prose poems of Louis Jenkins, and set around a hole in the ice on a frozen lake, the play goes to places that most plays don’t go. Puppetry, fishing and Mark Rylance. What more could you want ?

St Joan             Donmar

This is one of my absolutely favourite plays and I approach a new production apprehensively.

Luckily, this was a brilliant interpretation ( director, Josie Rourke) with a rock solid central performance from Gemma Arterton.



Buried Child            Trafalgar Studios

It’s easy to get tired of plays about ‘The American Dream’ but this was edge of your seat stuff. Tense. Full of menace. Written in the 1970s but still has plenty to say in the age of Trump.


Speech and Debate          Trafalgar Studios

Fresh. Pacey.

Engaging performances from Douglas Booth, Patsy Ferran and Tony Revolori and a sharply pointed script by Stephen Karam.



Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead             Old Vic

Never seen this demanding play done so well. Absolute perfection.

Josh McGuire, Daniel Radcliffe and David Haig all at the top of their form.

As it ended, we rose to our feet, knowing that we had seen something special.


The Goat                       Haymarket

Staggering story. Sensational performance from Sophie Okonedo.

Really split the audience. Great fun watching the more staid members of the audience squirm, really not enjoying it.



Hamlet                         RSC

I can’t count how many Hamlets I have seen. Alan Howard was the first, followed by, amongst others, Mark Rylance, David Tennant, Roger Rees, Alex Jennings, Toby Stephens and Rory Kinnear.

Paapa Essiedu and Simon Godwin have made the play fresh as paint. Certainly one of the most engaging performances in the title role that I have seen.

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