Bill Bailey‘s work in progress show at the Leicester Square Theatre was my first of 2014 and it was absolutely hilarious and a pleasure to see Bailey’s unique mix of music and straight stand up in such an intimate place.
In complete contrast was Jeff Dunham, a brash American with puppets at Wembley Arena, who had people from all walks of life in stitches with Peanut and Achmed. Also, Jon Richardson, a favourite of mine, cheered me up greatly on one grumpy Friday at the Hammersmith Apollo.
At Richmond Theatre I saw The Pride, a thought-provoking exploration of homosexuality as a taboo, with Mathew Horne providing fantastic comic relief. See How They Run was extremely entertaining in a very different way, with Warwick Davis turning up the farce and having some fun.
1984 at the Playhouse Theatre conveyed the unsettling tone of George Orwell’s classic well, and although a misjudged framing device let it down slightly I still deemed it a success. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was an excellent book to stage adaptation and had possibly my favourite staging of the year, designed to sensitively handle the Asperger’s theme.
But War Horse was my dramatic masterpiece of the year, with the puppetry of the horse absolutely blowing me away along with the raw emotion of the show. In fact, it was so good I couldn’t resist making the War Horse and Military Wives prom my first ever promming experience at the Royal Albert Hall, which just left me craving more. Next year I’m determined to go as many times as I can fit in.
Seeing The Barber of Seville on a June evening in the grounds of Chiswick House was very special, with operatic voices drifting over the lawn and a completely relaxed vibe. I’d love to see more open air stuff like this next summer. Guildford Symphony Orchestra also impressed me this year.
Finally, because this is rather genre-defying, seeing War of the Worlds conducted by composer Jeff Wayne and sung by some likeable, well-known stars with a martian descending from the O2’s roof was an awesome performance to round off the year.