In early 2017, a consortium of Manchester theatres organised a writing competition with the aim of getting more people involved in theatre criticism and review.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the ten winners of that competition and the result has been the creation of this blog: The Greater Manchester Reviewer.
Prior to winning the competition I had been nothing more than a reasonably keen theatre-goer, but now I combine the pleasure of seeing performances with the challenge of creatively writing about them. A whole new world of cultures and characters has opened up – some as fascinating as the shows themselves!
As seems to be the custom for the more professional reviewers out there, I’ve spent some time evaluating what I’ve seen and have produced a list of my favourite shows this year.
This is a list where the rankings are based upon one mandate alone: entertainment. Whether it was conventional theatre in the shape of e.g. a classic novel being adapted for the stage, or whether it was something entirely experimental and innovative; whether it involved singing, dancing, acting, rapping, gymnastics, beat-boxing, throwing biscuits at the audience, eating Kit Kats, or any other form of artistic expression – if it entertained then it appears higher on the end-of-year rankings.
Given that The Greater Manchester Reviewer as a blog only fully took off from March onwards, there may be some productions from January and February that are not included here. And even then, there will still be many other shows missing from the below list – it just isn’t possible for one person to see everything.
However, despite this, the story of theatre in 2017 for The Greater Manchester Reviewer has been a story of 55 theatrical performances across 13 different venues in the Greater Manchester area:
- Bolton: The Octagon
- Manchester: 53Two, Contact Theatre, Home Theatre, Hope Mill Theatre, Nexus Art Cafe, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Great Northern, The Palace Theatre & Opera House
- Oldham: The Coliseum
- Salford: The Lowry, The Salford Arms
- Stockport: The Forum (Romiley)
At the very top of the rankings are those shows that delivered entertainment in new and innovative ways. In some cases I had no idea that some of these concepts and ideas even existed out there, in other cases they were more conventional performances that happened to be brilliantly entertaining.
All those listed towards the top have the elusive attribute of being shows where I would insist “you must go and see it”, as opposed to those in the middle, where it would be more a case of “yes, I’ve seen it, not bad, worth going”.
Even for those at the bottom of the list, the on-stage acting / singing / dancing performances were never the issue – the shows at the bottom are only there because I feel (and this is only my personal opinion) that they are in some way deficient in concept, viability, innovation, writing or construction – again with the fundamental mandate in mind: “I want to be entertained.”
2017 performance rankings
I’ve decided to rank everything I’ve seen in order of what entertained me the most and what I’d most like to see again (or not).
I’ve gone into a little bit more detail on the top ten, trying to summarise just what it was that made them so special. For the rest I’ve kept the summary brief, attempting to encapsulate what I thought of it as succinctly as I can.
Surveying the full list, I would say, in hindsight, that I’d actively seek out the chance to go and see everything in the top ten again (and in one case I did), below that are some very good shows, though I feel less affection for them.
Click on the title of each performance to read the original review …
1: We Are Ian
Venue: Home Theatre, Manchester
Date: Friday 13th October, 2017
Production team: In Bed with My Brother