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.

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…