In the past 12 months Stage Review’s head critic, Anne Cox, and guest-reviewer Sarah Cox, have seen nearly 200 productions throughout London and the regions. Here we give our verdict on what moved and impressed us. Here are Anne’s Top Five Touring Shows.
There have been some superb shows visiting the provinces this year including an excellent new production of The Producers, the always stunning Thriller, a revival of Tom Stoppard’s engrossing Arcadia, not to mention touring productions from Regents Park Open Air Theatre that included To Kill A Mockingbird.
1) The Importance of Being Earnest, Milton Keynes Theatre, September.
The Importance, as reimagined by actor Nigel Havers, toured for a year, which is no mean feat, and it was still as funny and enjoyable as when it stunned West End audiences in 2014. Havers and his star-studded cast were members of a Wilde am-dram group who were staging the writer’s most famous play. It’s a conceit to explain the age of the cast and it worked wonderfully (although some audiences are unaware of the trick until they start watching it). Martin Jarvis, Siân Phillips and Christine Kavanagh, along with Havers, made this one of the finest Wildean comedies you’ll ever see. Review bit.ly/1Fe693p
2) Handbagged, Oxford Playhouse, October
Moira Buffini’s eye-wateringly funny comedy, Handbagged, saw bouffants and pearls at 20 paces as the most powerful woman in British politics met one of modern history’s most iconic heads of state. Susie Blake’s wonderfully cynical and waspish Queen was a delight with her off-the-cuff remarks while a talented foursome of Blake, Kate Fahy, Emma Handy and Sanchia McCormack were doubly funny as Thatcher and HRH. Beautifully observed. Just superb. Review bit.ly/1hlbZEO
3) The Full Monty, Royal & Derngate Theatre.
The touring show of The Full Monty (which I actually caught at the start of its year-long run) was a lot better acted than the West End production and that may have something to do with casting. There probably aren’t many women now left in the UK who haven’t seen TV heartthrobs Gary Lucy and Rupert Hill in the altogether (thanks to a few “problems” with lighting along the tour) as it played to sell-out audiences, but, more than that, this was a heart-warming and uplifting story about a man reclaiming his self-respect – even if it did include stripping. Review bit.ly/1uXBZLx
4) The Bodyguard, New Theatre, Oxford, November
From the opening, when audiences jump out of their seats from a totally unexpected gunshot, to a dazzling blockbuster finale, this was a musical not to be missed. It had all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high calibre musical, plus knockout performances from Alexandra Burke and Melissa James. Not the most original story in the world but wrapped in an explosive package of well choreographed routines and music.Review bit.ly/1MNpu8E
5) Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Royal & Derngate, February
Long before this comedy was cracking up audiences in the West End it was delighting regional theatre-goers with its lunacy and perilous antics. Mischief Theatre’s entire company risk life and limb to stage a production fraught with pratfalls and pitfalls. Mischief’s opening comedy, The Play That Goes Wrong, set the standard and now just about any story is up for grabs. It’s physical theatre at its best and will reduce you to tears of laughter. Review bit.ly/1DtuJIS
Next up is Anne’s Top Five London Fringe productions