The Ginger Wig of the Year Award 2016 and the Top Ten Shows of the Year

It was a tremendous year of theatre for the Ginger Wig in 2016…

We have witnessed some breathtaking productions and performances this year in some of the best theatres in the country, as well as in pubs, hotels, on the side of a cliff, in rundown flats and in the open air. So many shows stand out, but sadly we can only award one Ginger Wig Award.

Now let it be said that it is no easy feat to get on this list as we see a ridiculous amount of theatre each year, as well as comedy, performance art, opera, ballet, musicals, mime, and more, so even to get close to our top ten is an incredible achievement. So without further ado…

10. Lucky Stiff, Ahrens/Flaherty, Drayton Arms Theatre

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Lucky Stiff is a riot of a musical, pulling together a most outrageous story and hilarious song and dance numbers. Put together by MKEC Production it was performed by a tremendous cast of singer actors.

9. BUG, Tracey Letts, Found111

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The susceptibility of these lives is apparent in the first encounter between Agnes and Peter whose non-threatening, non-macho and superficially gentle demeanour immediately finds an emotional, if wary, response, from Agnes. However, unidentified phone calls have already made Agnes anxious about the re-appearance of her aggressive ex-husband who does indeed return to try and assert his possession of Agnes but after a stand-off with Peter takes money off Agnes and leaves.

8. Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair, Beach Comet, Above The Arts Theatre

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A trip to Apocalypse Cruise Ship Love Affair is a trip to musical comedy heaven. This show is jam-packed with outstanding jokes, devised by writer/director Theo McCabe, and it keeps the energy flowing from one cleverly directed moment to the next.

7. The Rules of Inflation, Balloons Theatre, Theatre N16

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We loved so much about this show particularly the space in between the chairs, ostensibly creating personal space, but in fact creating isolation and distance between audience members. There was nowhere to hide. Children’s games being subverted by an unstable sociopathic clown – what’s not to love about that? The smell of fabric softener from Blue’s balloon miscarriage, surreptitiously seeped into our nostrils, affecting the one sense so overlooked in theatre.

6. The Queen of Spades, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Opera Holland Park

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An outstanding production of this tragic opera with the main roles taken by Peter Wedd and Natalya Romaniw. Wedd’s Herman had extraordinary presence with both poignancy and obsession combined with great effect in this hero who moves relentlessly towards a terrible end.

5. Ross, Terence Rattigan, Chichester Festival Theatre

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An excellent work that deftly weaves the historical events of the 1916-1918 Arab conflict with the role T E Lawrence played in it. Joseph Fiennes was excellent in the role of Lawrence portraying someone who is profoundly altered by the history he has lived. Paul Freeman as General Allenby was also extremely good and Rattigan presents the two characters as a match for each other in their strategic and incisive capabilities. The unspeakable dreariness of the Air Force base with its rigid discipline is a world away from that in which Lawrence lived and which gave him his appellation, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a brilliant dramatic juxtaposition.

4. Operation Black Antler, Blast Theory/Hydrocracker, Brighton Festival

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This was a truly remarkable piece of immersive theatre. There was a feeling of tension and excitement throughout this piece, generated from the first moment. Every element of this piece was meticulously planned, form the people briefing us, to the world in the Rose Hill Tavern to the performance of the characters we met within. Without doubt this was the best ‘theatre game’ in which we have participated.

3. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lee Hall, The National

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A phenomenal piece of theatre that combines stunning musical talent, heartbreakingly human portrayals and almost incomprehensibly thick Scottish accents. Our Ladies was full of impressive harmonies, no holds-barred characterisation and was a night that socked the audience in the mouth and left them wanting more.

2. The Encounter, Complicite, The Barbican

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It is very rare in theatre that a really important story is told in such a fantastic way. This is the true essence of great theatre and is exactly what Complicite have created here with The Encounter. A momentous production, questioning all the values that we hold dear, possession, communication, consciousness and time.

And so the Ginger Wig of The Year Award 2016 goes to…

1. A Midsummers Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare, The Globe

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What a real treat this was at the Globe Theatre. If the Bard could come back from the dead, time travel to the present day, have a week to pick up a bit of the cultural context and listen to some of our music, and then come and see Emma Rice’s  production then he would be extremely proud. This was a real joy to watch and experience. This will go down long in the Ginger Wig’s memory.

Brighton Wig Awards

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This was our first year attending the Brighton Fringe and Festival and will certainly not be our last, and was an extremely fun and theatrically powerful bank holiday weekend on the south coast. So for the first time ever, it is time to announce the Brighton Wig Awards!

Awards for the Brighton Wig Awards 2016 include ‘The Venue Award’, ‘The Free Theatre Award’ and, of course, the round up of our favourite shows at the Brighton Festival and Fringe culminating in the award of the ‘Brighton Wig’ to our favourite show. Judging this year has been carried out by The Ginger Wig and the Ginger Viking!

The Venue Award

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Close runners-up in this category include the charming Bosco Spiegeltent and the perfectly situated Republic, but the winner of the 2016 Brighton Wig Venue Award goes to the groovy Distrikt at The Spire Arts Centre. This converted church has some beautiful stained glass windows and now serves drinks and has great art and theatre like No Offence’s ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)‘.

The Free Theatre Award

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We saw some great free theatre in Brighton, including the participatory ‘Masquerade‘ by yello brick theatre company and the ridiculous ‘Brickhead‘. But there can only be one winner. This year, our free theatre award goes to the hilarious LoveHardComedy, giving us some of the most bizarre gags within a well constructed horror-themed comedy show. Well done to the LoveHard lads. Read our review here.

The Runners-Up to the Brighton Wig Award

5. LoveHard – They won our Free Theatre Award for good reason!

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4. Hotel Black Cat – sexy, sinister and scintillating cabaret and burlesque from the Black Cat Cabaret team. Read our review here.

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3. The Thermos Museum – brilliantly weird fringe comedy. Unique in its hilarity and strangeness. Read our review here.

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2. The Bookbinder – a heartwarming charmer for all to enjoy from Kiwi theatre company Trick of the Light. Read our review here.

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And the Brighton Ginger Wig Award of 2016….

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How could we look anywhere else than Hydrocracker Theatre and Blast Theory’s exceptional ‘Operation Black Antler’, taking us deep into the world of undercover surveillance, through one of the best constructed immersive theatre game experiences we have ever been lucky enough to enjoy. The Ginger Wig and Strolling Man will have our eyes on these two companies for their future work. They have set a very high standard! Check out our review of ‘Operation Black Antler’ here.

That concludes our 2016 Brighton Wig Award. Look out for the upcoming Edinburgh Wig Award and the big one, our first ever Ginger Wig Award from a whole year of theatre everywhere!

The Edinburgh 2012 Ginger Wig Awards

We took up this website again in August 2015 at the Edinburgh Festival and in doing so created our first Award – The Edinburgh Ginger Wig Awards. However in August 2012 when we originated the website we had not thought about making awards. We have nonetheless decided to make a retrospective award for the best show we saw at our first Edinburgh Festival. Although it was over three years ago there are a couple of performances that have lasted long in the memory. Here we recall our top three shows of Edinburgh 2012 and we present our Edinburgh Ginger Wig Award!

3. Inheritance Blues

Six chaps told the story through stories, songs and flashbacks of a father’s death and the impact on his three sons. The quality of the acting and the music from DugOut Theatre made such a lasting impression that, over three years later, this piece of theatre still stands out as one of our 2012 highlights.

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2. Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir

When it comes to epic theatre nothing has come close to beating Ariane Mnouchkine and Théâtre du Soleil’s piece for style, scale or length. Using a huge cast and a gigantic space, they wove a cinematic tale that left us utterly overwhelmed by its magic.

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1. Meine Faire Dame

And so our retrospective Edinburgh Ginger Wig Award of 2012 goes to Theater Basel’s bizarre Meine Faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor (My Fair Lady – A Language Laboratory). This was the first thing we saw in Edinburgh and it has stayed with all our critics. It was one of the strangest yet compelling pieces of theatre we have witnessed. It was an extraordinary exploration of language and meaning and it has stood the test of time, and we therefore have given it the Edinburgh Ginger Wig Award of 2012. Congratulations Theater Basel and all those involved in Meine Faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor

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Ginger Wig & Strolling Man Award & The Top Ten Shows of 2015

It is time to announce our favourite shows of 2015 and the winner of the Ginger Wig & Strolling Man Award of 2015. To be considered for our top ten shows of the year, performances had to meet the criterion of being seen for the first time in the UK in 2015 excluding festival appearances. Furthermore we have excluded shows we saw at the Edinburgh Fringe this year as we have a separate awards for that – http://bit.ly/1ONfuDP. It is also important to note that we only resurrected the Ginger Wig in August last year so we are only counting things from then onwards… and anything that stood out just before…

It is sad to note that we cannot officially include two things that blew our socks off this year; Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and James Fritz’s ‘Four Minutes and 12 Seconds’. Both were phenomenal in their own way and both would have been included were it not for our strict criteria, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ opened in 2012, whilst ‘Four Minutes and 12 Seconds’ opened in 2014. So with all that said and done the official Ginger Wig and Strolling Man favourite shows of 2015 are…

10. The White Feather, Ross Clark, Union Theatre

This brand new British musical based on the Great War at the Union Theatre gave us faith in the future of British musical theatre. Brilliant production put together by Andrew Keates and Ross Clark.

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9. Medea, Anne-Louise Sarks & Kate Mulvany, GATE Theatre

Incredible performances from two young actors in this flipped-perspective-Medea. Great work from the GATE and Belvoir St. Theatre to bring this show to London!

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8. Guys & Dolls, Frank Loesser, Savoy

An incredible new version of Frank Loesser’s classic Broadway musical. Show-stopping performances from Jamie Parker, Sophie Thompson and Gavin Spokes. And there is still time to catch this one at The Savoy or on tour across the UK.

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7. Richard Gadd: Waiting for Gaddot, Richard Gadd, Soho Theatre

Hands down the craziest comedy show we saw all year. A legendary performance from the main man, and he only turns up at the end!

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6. First Love is the Revolution, Rita Kalnejais, Soho Theatre

A unique piece of theatre about love, lust and animal instinct from Australian playwright Rita Kalnejais, with performance to match from young actors, Emily Burnett and James Tarpey.

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5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Rachel Kavanaugh, Regents Park Open Air Theatre

A beautiful revival of this barnstorming musical in the perfect setting of Regents Park. Great performances from leads Laura Pitt-Pulford and Alex Gaumond, top dancing and a very inventive avalanche.

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4. Firebird, Phil Davies, Hampstead Theatre

A harrowing piece recounting a dark story from Rochdale’s recent history. Fantastic performances from Callie Cook and Phaldut Sharma. Catch it in its West End Transfer at Trafalgar studios opening in February.

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3. Bakkhai, James Macdonald, The Almeida

The finest presentation of a Greek chorus we have ever seen, backed up by stand out performances form Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel in this timeless Greek classic.

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2. Ubu and the Truth Commission, Handspring Puppet Company, Print Room

Mixing puppetry, animation, song and live action in two languages, William Kentridge’s Ubu painted a very bleak picture of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation Commission.. Dawid Minnaar was brilliant.

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1. The Oresteia, Robert Icke, The Almeida

And so, finally we come to it: the Ginger Wig and Strolling Man’s show of the year 2015. There have been some great shows and great performances this year, but nothing stands out more than Aeschylus’s Oresteia at the Almeida. Not only was this a brilliant new version of a classic Greek play, but it presented one of the most powerful performances, from its leading lady Lia Williams, that we have ever seen. Robert Icke must be congratulated for the direction and brilliant reworking whilst Angus Wright must be commended for his great portrayal of Agamemnon.

Ginger Wig Awards 2015

And so now to recognise a few shows, theatres, companies and individuals, separate to narrative and performance, that had a particular impact on us in 2016.

First up – Nicest Theatre Staff – This goes to the Print Room Notting Hill, for their ever helpful, ever happy staff, not to mention their exquisite bar making skills when they double up as bartenders (in the nicest theatre bar in the whole of London). Thanks for all your help and friendliness!

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Next up the Technology Award – this goes to fanSHEN Theatre for their production of ‘Invisible Treasure’ at the Ovalhouse, combining interactive audio, visual and sensory technologies they pushed the bar even higher in terms of theatre technology. Keep up the excellent work fanSHEN! Looking forward to your next project!

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Now we have the Design Award. This year there is no way that we could look any further than our December trip to The Lorax at the Old Vic. Rob Howell has done an excellent job bringing Dr. Seuss’ charming fable to life, whilst making some lovely additions: Thneed 2.0 Ironing board anyone? We must also mention Gyre and Gimble for their tremendous puppets, for their central role in bringing the Lorax himself to life. We congratulate both Rob and and Gyre and Gimble for the wonderful design of The Lorax.

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And now the big one, Theatre of the Year. It would be impossible to look any further than The Almeida for this year’s title of best theatre. Their stunning Greeks Season sent shockwaves through the London theatre scene and for good reason. It will be a long long while before I see a better version of The Oresteia or Bakkhai. I probably never will. There was also their ingenious live readings of The Iliad and the Odyssey. Live streamed video performances with supporting social media made for a lovely experiment in home theatre. We look forward to seeing how you plan to go about raising the bar still further.

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Finally, it would be impossible to end our annual awards round up without a final mention for one of the most bizarre, unique and hysterical shows of 2015. And so without further ado, we would like to present our Sheep Award to ‘King Lear with Sheep’. This show, conceived by Missouri Williams and performed by Alasdair Saksena and eight real life bleeting sheep, did exactly what it said on the tin and did it brilliantly. We await with much anticipation the next sheep-based production.

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So that’s it, a full roundup. Now we can look forward to everything we are going to see in 2016…

The Edinburgh Ginger Wig Awards 2015

And here is our summary of the 2015 Edinburgh Ginger Wig Awards !

Things kicked off with the GWSM Venue Award given to our favourite venue at this years festival. Nominated for the award were, Underbelly’s Big Belly, The Traverse Theatre, The Voodoo Rooms and Pleasance Courtyard’s Pleasance Two. The Voodoo Rooms took the award for their gorgeously decadent cabaret venue. Big Belly took the runners-up award.

Second was the Young Wig Award, given to our favourite act created by young performers or for a show aimed at young audiences. Nominated we had Disparat Theatre’s ‘Rebounding Hail’, Bad Habit Theatre’s ‘China Doll’, Erasmus Production’s ‘Birdland’ and Tap Tap Theatre’s ‘Captain Morgan 2: The Sea of Souls’. Disparat Theatre picked up the award for their magical ‘Rebounding Hail’ with Erasmus Productions scooping the runner-up award with ‘Birdland’.

Next was the Premiére Award for a show premièring at the Fringe. Nominated was ‘China Doll’, ‘Paris Communal Shower’, ‘One For My Baby’ from Now You Know Theatre and ‘Rebounding Hail’. Now You Know Theatre took the award for ‘One For My Baby’, their beautiful and striking play about Frank Sinatra. Bad Habit Theatre took the runner-up award for ‘China Doll’.

The Strolling Man Award is given to the show we find most interesting and thought-provoking. This year’s nominees included ‘Spillikin: A Love Story’ from Pipeline Theatre, ‘The Christians’, produced by the Gate Theatre, ‘Down and Out in Paris and London by New Diorama Theatre and Institute from Gecko Theatre. The Gate Theatre took the prize for ‘The Christians’ an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking piece. Runners-up were New Diorama Theatre for ‘Spillikin: A Love Story’.

And finally the main award – The Ginger Wig Award itself. Awarded annually to our favourite show in any discipline at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year’s nominations ranged from clown and comedy, to theatre, circus and puppetry. Nominated was ‘L’Enfant Qui’ from Belgian theatre group Théâtre d’un Jour, ‘Paris Communal Shower’, ‘One For My Baby’ and ‘Bruce’ from The Last Great Hunt Theatre. Taking the grand prize was ‘Paris Communal Shower’ for their frightening, absurd and hysterical clown show. The runner-up prize went to Théâtre d’un Jour for ‘L’enfant Qui’.

Congratulations to everyone who put on shows at this years Fringe. You are all winners to us. Keep making beautiful art and we will see you all back at the fringe next year!