Fola’s Top Shows of 2022
This year, I’ve seen some unforgettable theatre. Any reviews I’ve written will be linked below.
Red Pitch, Bush Theatre
Associate Artistic Director Daniel Bailey and playwright Tyrell Williams created a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age story at the Bush Theatre. Luring us in with the football antics and life-long friendship between three South London boys (which was an absolute pleasure to be seen acted by Francis Lovehall, Kedar Williams-Stirling, and Emeka Sessay), Red Pitch gave us crystalline commentary on gentrification and the displacement of London’s locals. All in all, it was a great year for the Bush Theatre and their sports-related socially conscious programming – which leads me onto…
Fair Play, Bush Theatre
My thoughts here. Sadly, my blog post didn’t mention Monique’s Tonko’s direction here. That, with Ella Road’s ability to manipulate a globally covered sports scandal into an individual experience that resonates for everyone in the audience, and Naomi Dawson’s immersive set design made this one of the standout plays I saw this year. I came away from it challenging my own biases around competitive sport, although I didn’t realise I had any.
Hungry, Soho Theatre
My review here. It seems like the theatre that’s stayed with me the most has been the ones that can distil a structural/systemic issue into a microcosm that’s so keenly felt by the characters, that you can’t help but keenly feel it yourself. Chris Bush’s Hungry did this in spades. So much so, I can’t wait to see her next production, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, coming to the National Theatre from 9 February to 25 March 2023.
For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, Royal Court Theatre
Originally playing at the New Diorama, this play transferred to the Royal Court Theatre for a limited 5-week run. What a brilliant decision that was – so many SW residents for whom the Royal Court Theatre is their local were able to witness this joyful, colourful fantasia about Black boys, in therapy, sharing their experiences of living – and of not wanting to live anymore. Ryan Calais Cameron and his resilient cast of six gave us characters to care and feel pain for, amidst the exuberance, music, and diasporic jokes.
The Burnt City, Punchdrunk
An experience, not a play, this is one of the few genuinely innovative adaptations of ancient classical literature to come to London this year. The Burnt City was a large, powerful, haunting production in a warehouse in Woolwich. It’s easy to want to spend the whole day in there, getting lost in the silent but visceral physical performances (devised by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle) as you follow the performers act out the siege of Troy. As it’s on a loop, you get to try out many different vantage points, see the story from many different characters’ perspectives, and lose yourself completely to the creative team’s designs (Felix Barrett, Livi Vaughan, Beatrice Minns, Stephen Dobbie, F9, and Ben Donoghue). This is the only show on my list still playing and I’d highly recommend you make your way to One Cartridge Place (they even have a NYE remixed version of the experience!)
Here are a few plays that I had the privilege of seeing in 2022 although technically they’re reruns.
Jerusalem, Apollo Theatre
Mark Rylance returning to the stage as Johnny “Rooster” Byron and Mackenzie Crook as sidekick Ginger alone makes this a show I can’t not put on my list. Its original run was at the Royal Court Theatre in 2009, so I’m grateful I was able to see it again in all its Bacchic, carnivalesque glory.
Queens of Sheba, Soho Theatre
This production, similar in many ways to For Black Boys (which makes sense as Ryan Calais Cameron worked on this as well), was first mounted in 2018 but was brought back to Soho Theatre in early 2022. And thank goodness it was – I will never forget the scene where the Queens impersonate Black roadmen in the club. That scene alone made me laugh more than I ever have during a play. It was lyrical, whimsical and touching, never failing to speak on issues of being a Black woman and navigating misogynoir perceptively.