Yet again the whole Chrisparkle team has met behind closed doors (well, I sat at my PC) to determine who should win the gongs in this year’s annual Chrisparkle Awards. Countless actors, musicians, dancers and writers are on tenterhooks to discover if they’ve hit the Big Time. Eligibility for the awards means I have to have seen the shows and blogged about them in the period 11th January 2015 to 14th January 2016; however, this year, shows seen abroad are ineligible (primarily because they would have won everything in their categories, which would have been boring for everyone!)
Izzy whizzy, let’s get busy.
The first award is for Best Dance Production (Contemporary and Classical)
In 3rd place, the exquisite artistry of the Moscow City Ballet performing Giselle at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in January 2015.
In 2nd place, the technical brilliance and fantastic humour of the Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in their two programmes at London’s Peacock Theatre, in September.
In 1st place, for the third time in four years, the fantastic programme by the Richard Alston Dance Company that we saw at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in October.
Classical Music Concert of the Year.
Of the five concerts we saw in 2014, these are the top three:
In 3rd place, Christoph Koenig conducting Beethoven Eroica and Elgar’s Violin Concerto, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Pinchas Zukerman, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in April.
In 2nd place, Alexander Shelley conducting From Paris to New York, a programme of American and Russian music with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Boris Giltburg, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in November.
In 1st place, the amazing tenth Malcolm Arnold Festival, Reaching Across The Globe Gala Concert with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Gibbons, with soloists Jess Gillam and Martin James Bartlett, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in October.
Best Entertainment Show of the Year.
By which I mean anything else that doesn’t fall into any other categories – for example pantos, circuses, revues and anything else hard to classify.
In 3rd place, the bright and jolly Cinderella at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in December.
In 2nd place, the fascinating and brilliantly executed mime drama Light, performed by Theatre Ad Infinitum at the Royal Theatre, Northampton, in February.
In 1st place, the constantly beguiling and hilarious Burlesque Show at the Royal, Northampton in January 2015.
Best Star Standup of the Year.
We saw far fewer big name stand-up comics this year – only six, and a couple of those were below par! So here’s the top three:
In 3rd place, one of two local boys done good, the hilariously unshowbizzy James Acaster, at the Royal, Northampton in October.
In 2nd place, the other of two local boys done good, the unexpectedly spot-on Alan Carr in his Yap Yap Yap tour, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in May.
In 1st place, the unsurpassable wit of the amazing Dara O’Briain in his Crowd Tickler tour, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in May.
Best Stand-up at the Screaming Blue Murder nights in Northampton.
As ever, a hotly contested award; we saw twenty-four comics at the Screaming Blue Murder nights last year, of whom seven made the shortlist, and the top five are:
In 5th place, the avuncular and surprising Andrew Watts (11th September)
In 4th place, the now very successful and always refreshing Joe Lycett (23rd January 2015)
In 3rd place, new to us and a great find, Zoe Lyons (11th September)
In 2nd place, a previous winner and always brilliant, Markus Birdman (27th February)
In 1st place, a guy whose act just took off with amazing success, Ian Cognito (6th February)
Like last year, this is a combination of new musicals and revivals; I saw thirteen, from which there was a shortlist of six, and it was very hard to pick a winner – even the shows way down the list were excellent. But a winner has been chosen! Here are the top five:
In 5th place, the fun and funky combination of great songs and performances that is Kinky Boots, that we saw at the Adelphi Theatre in December.
In 4th place, the beautiful and moving revival of the Sound of Music at the Curve Theatre, Leicester that we saw in January 2015.
In 3rd place, the revelation that was Mack and Mabel, at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in August.
In 2nd place, the show I’d always wanted to see and was well worth the wait, the marvellous Show Boat at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in January 2016.
In 1st place, the fantastic and innovative revival of Oklahoma! at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in February.
Best New Play.
Just to clarify, this is my definition of a new play, which is something that’s new to me and to most of its audience – so it might have been around before but on its first UK tour, or a new adaptation of a work originally in another format. An extremely difficult decision, as you have to compare such different genres; but somehow I chose a final five from the eleven contenders:
In 5th place, the chillingly effective An Audience with Jimmy Savile, at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, in July.
In 4th place, the Marmite production which we thought worked incredibly well, Dinner with Saddam at the Menier Chocolate Factory, in October.
In 3rd place, the hilarious and beautifully structured Peter Pan Goes Wrong, at the Royal Theatre, Northampton in February.
In 2nd place, the haunting and disturbing adaptation of Brave New World, at the Royal, Northampton in September.
In 1st place, the brilliantly staged and performed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in March.
Best Revival of a Play.
Saw nineteen revivals, whittled it down to a very long shortlist of ten; the winner was quite easy to identify, but the runners-up were much harder:
In 5th place, a thought-provoking play that made the audience part of the experiment, Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at the Crucible Studio in Sheffield, in July.
In 4th place, the authoritative and hilarious satire on the landed gentry, Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class, at the Trafalgar Studios in January 2015.
In 3rd place, the mesmerising and emotional revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, at the Curve Studio in Leicester, in October.
In 2nd place, James Dacre’s masterful staging of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Holy Sepulchre Church in Northampton in April.
In 1st place, Jonathan Kent’s stunning production of David Hare’s adaptation of Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull that made up the Young Chekhov experience, at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in October.
As always, in the post-Christmas season, time to consider the turkey of the year – not many candidates this year, but the stand-out disappointment for us was Camelot the Shining City at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield in July.
Last year’s Chrisparkle Awards introduced two new categories for Edinburgh – best play and best entertainment. As this year we saw fifty Edinburgh productions, we now have four categories specifically for Edinburgh. The first is:
Best play – Edinburgh
We saw 20 plays in Edinburgh, shortlisted to the best eleven – and here are the top 5:
In 5th place, the challenging and intimidating experience of Immersive Acting Movement’s Comfort Slaves (New Town Kitchen)
In 4th place, the intelligent and daring production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed by Fear No Colours (C Nova)
In 3rd place, the emotional and thought-provoking Solid Life of Sugar Water by the Graeae Theatre Company (Pleasance Dome)
In 2nd place, the play that made you think differently about rape, the very insightful Wasted by No Prophet Theatre Company (Gilded Balloon Balcony)
In 1st place, a funny, shocking and beautifully performed play that should be compulsory viewing in schools, Hungry Wolf’s A Little Respect (The Space at Surgeon’s Hall)
Best Individual Performance in a Play – Edinburgh
My shortlist of ten absolutely superb performances by ten terrific actors who by rights should all go on to do great things yielded this top three:
In 3rd place, the challenging and powerful performance by Jack Elliot for Thief (Sweet International 2)
In 2nd place, the technically brilliant performance by Matthew Marrs for Odd Shaped Balls (Space Triplex Studio)
In 1st place, the sheer star quality of Hugh Train for Ozymandias (The Space at Jury’s Inn)
Best stand-up comedy show – Edinburgh
Thirteen shows but a shortlist of just four gives this top three:
In 3rd place, the enormously likeable Tats Nkonzo (Pleasance Courtyard)
In 2nd place, the brilliant material and delivery of Rob Beckett (Pleasance Dome)
In 1st place, the late night laughter smorgasbord that is Spank! (Underbelly Cowgate)
Best of the rest – Edinburgh
The sixteen other shows in Edinburgh that don’t fall into the other categories produced a shortlist of seven and this top five:
In 5th place, the pixieland work-out that is Follow The Faun (Spotlites Studio)
In 4th place, card tricks that aren’t magic with the Card Ninja (Sin)
In 3rd place, the inventive ventriloquism of Nina Conti – In Your Face (Pleasance Courtyard)
In 2nd place, great dancing, great choreography and great paintwork in Liberation (Zoo Southside)
In 1st place, Interactive Theatre International’s simply fantastically funny The Wedding Reception (B’est Restaurant)
The Edinburgh turkey, by the way, was the allegedly comic hour of bad language devoid of any humour by Alex Williamson.
Out of the five I saw last year, I’m awarding it to Suffragette.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical.
This is where it gets personal. Nine contenders in the shortlist, and here are the top three:
In 3rd place, Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey in Oklahoma! at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in February.
In 2nd place, Rebecca LaChance as Mabel in Mack and Mabel at the Festival Theatre, Chichester in August.
In 1st place, Laura Pitt-Pulford as Maria in The Sound of Music at the Curve Theatre, Leicester, in January 2015.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical.
Again nine fine performances in the shortlist, producing this top three:
In 3rd place, Michael Ball as Mack in Mack and Mabel at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in August.
In 2nd place, Matt Henry as Lola in Kinky Boots, at the Adelphi Theatre in December.
In 1st place, Tim Driesen as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys at the Milton Keynes Theatre in February.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Play.
Very tough one, this one. Nineteen in the shortlist, but here’s the top five:
In 5th place, Tara Fitzgerald as Bella in Gaslight at the Royal, Northampton in October.
In 4th place, Gemma Chan as Ruth in The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studio in December.
In 3rd place, Tanya Moodie as Constance in King John at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton, in April.
In 2nd place, Ophelia Lovibond as Connie in The Effect at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield in July.
In 1st place, Charlie Brooks as both Sandra in Beautiful Thing in May and especially as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire in October, both at the Curve Studio in Leicester.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Play.
The most hotly fought for award, with twenty-three contenders in my shortlist, and I whittled it down to this:
In 5th place, Nigel Barratt as Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, at the Royal Theatre, Northampton, in April.
In 4th place, Jo Stone-Fewings as King John in King John, at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton, in April.
In 3rd place, James McArdle as Platonov and Lvov in Chichester’s Young Chekhov season in October.
In 2nd place, Samuel West as Ivanov and Trigorin in Chichester’s Young Chekhov season in October.
In 1st place, James McAvoy as Jack in The Ruling Class at the Trafalgar Studios in January 2015.
Theatre of the Year.
For the range and quality on offer, as well as the comfort and enjoyment of the whole theatre experience, this year’s Theatre of the Year is the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, with the Festival Theatre/Minerva Theatre in Chichester as runner-up.
It’s been another fantastic year – and thanks to you gentle reader for continuing to read my theatre reviews. Here’s to another wonderful year of theatre in 2016!