I was asked an interesting question at the end of last week. Interesting because it made me think quite hard. What is my favourite show? That’s a big commitment to make and favourites can fluctuate over time. I couldn’t settle on just one favourite, instead compiling an ordered list. In doing so, I’ve missed out some greats such as the Marat Sade in 1996 at The Bristol Old Vic and 4.48 Psychosis at the Alma Tavern in 2009 – yes I do have a very long memory.
I once saw a fabulous production of Bouncers and Shakers performed by sixth formers at Bristol Cathedral Choir School in circa 2003, long before it became an Academy. And, few in the city will forget The Lion King in 2012. The show caused the Bristol Hippodrome theatre to rearrange its entire stalls seating for impressive and full sized elephants and rhinos to parade through. I’ve also had to leave out The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s somewhere around 1997 Swan Lake and Rambert’s Swansong.
Generally, when you live in the provinces, most of the theatre you experience tends to be commercial. That’s clearly reflected in the following compilation.
1. Slava’s Snow Snow – Bristol Hippodrome 2013 and 2017
First place was a really difficult decision made easy by the fact we were drawn back to Slava’s Snow Show three times in the same week after press night. Interestingly, people either love or hate this show. Those that hate it say they just don’t understand it. It’s hard to relate to that opinion, because this show is just beautiful. It’s funny, soulful and blends expert visual effects with humour, slapstick, tragic moments and of course snow.
I’ve had Vincent Fiorino’s Blue canary, Roman Dubinnikov’s Krasivaya and L Subramaniam with Stephane Grappelli’s Illusion on constant repeat since Saturday night. There’s also some fascinating old footage on YouTube of Slava Polunin in Blue Canary, though some videos depend on how fluent your Russian is.
The giant balls, the snow, the music. It’s magical. Slava’s Snow Show is absolutely the best show I’ve ever experienced.
2. The Barber of Seville WNO – Bristol Hippodrome 2016
Nicholas Lester and Nico Darmanin were the perfect partnership in this funny Rossini opera. It toured alongside The Marriage of Figaro and Figaro Gets a Divorce, as part of the Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) 2016 Figaro Forever season. We loved Lester’s Largo al Factotum so much we went back a second time.
3. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – Saddler’s Wells, Dominion Theatre and Bristol Hippodrome
There are so many wonderful Matthew Bourne ballets, but his 1995 Swan Lake was ground breaking. I’ve lost count of the number of times and places I’ve seen it since it first opened. With an updated, lofty and cold Royal Family, the traditional female swans danced by men and a fully fleshed out plot, this interpretation is unforgettable. It’s funny, brutal and tragic and danced to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music.
4. Mary Poppins – Bristol Hippodrome 2004 and 2015
It’s been back since 2004, but The Bristol Hippodrome was where this show launched the World Premiere. The original cast featured Gavin Lee as Bert and Laura Michelle Kelly as Mary Poppins, occasionally covered by the delightfully mischievous Poppy Tierney. This show made magic happen, including Bert dancing across the proscenium arch upside down and Mary flying across the heads of people in the auditorium. Bizarrely, at a later date, a decision was made to remove the song Temper Temper. A head scratching decision considering it was one of the best scenes and songs in the show.
5. Cinderella a Fairy Tale Tobacco Factory Theatres – 2011 and 2016
I remember laughing at this show so much, I got cramp in my face. Tobacco Factory Theatres (TTFT) arguably puts on the best shows for Christmas. This one was so good, it went to London and eventually came back home again. Travelling Light know how to tell a story. If at least one of my Christmas shows each year do not feature a Craig Edwards, Lucy Tuck or Saikat Ahamed, the season’s ruined.
Our 2011 Review: http://chopsybaby.com/magazine/review-cinderella-at-the-tobacco-factory-theatre-bristol/
Our 2016 Review: http://chopsybaby.com/magazine/cinderella-a-fairytale-at-tobacco-factory-theatres-review/
6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Bristol Hippodrome 2015 and 2017
The NT brings to life Christopher John Francis Boone’s quest to find out who killed Wellington, in this stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s book. Both author and theatre company do an impressive job of interpreting Asperger Syndrome, portraying both humour, difficulties and possibilities that the disability causes.
7. The Magic Flute WNO – Bristol Hippodrome 2005 and 2015
Dominic Cooke’s surreal and funny production of Mozart’s Enlightenment opera The Magic Flute, was highly memorable. Its design and direction made it a great entry level opera for all. Of course, Mozart’s talent helped a bit with its easy to follow story, ‘greatest hits’ score and the wonderful Papageno.
8.Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves at the Tobacco Factory Theatres – 2009
Lets all take a moment to think about how wonderful the actor Felix Hayes is. He only needs to look at the audience to make them laugh. What a gift. As was the moment he led a band of forty thieves in the form of Action Men, one called Julian. Still remember it now! This was another winner from the then singular Tobacco Factory Theatre and Travelling Light.
9. The Phantom of the Opera – Her Majesty’s and The Bristol Hippodrome
Everyone’s allowed at least one guilty pleasure when it comes to theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s melodrama based on Gaston Leroux’s novel is ours. It’s another we’ve seen many times. Too many times probably. We’ll commit to our favourite Phantom as being John Owen Jones and John Barrowman as Raoul.
10. Hamlet – National Theatre Live – 2015
So this one is a bit of a cheat, but it was live theatre even if it was broadcast into the Odeon Bristol in 2015. Benedict Cumberbatch does a jolly good job with the depressing Shakespeare tragedy. The whole thing is dark and brooding, but absolutely plays the laughs Shakespeare gives and then adds a few of its own. Cumberbatch’s perfectly delivered introspection and the gentle Sian Brooke’s descent into madness is gripping. If you haven’t seen it yet, do watch out for an Encore screening.