Gill Sutherland, Herald arts editor, shares some of her favourite arts highlights from 2018.
I’ve seen and been immersed in so many amazing projects and events in 2018, but a few standouts follow.
I loved 2017’s A Christmas Carol at the RSC — a great heart-warming tale given political punch and lots of heart — but the 2018 revisit, this time starring Aden Gillett as a very believable Scrooge, was even better: more bells, whistles and magic.
Other RSC highs in 2018 include Erica Whyman’s beautiful and youthful Romeo and Juliet; a romping Merry Wives of Windsor; perfectly quirky musical Miss Littlewood; the gloriously gauche Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich; Timon of Athens, with Kathryn Hunter’s stellar take on the titular role; and the thought-provoking Spring Mischief Festival, which retold two important global political stories: the arrest of Turkish journalist Can Dündar in #WeAreArrested and the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico in Day of the Living. Oh, and I rather liked the ‘Marmitey’ Macbeth too.
There’s been some great theatre going on around smaller venues in the area too. The Bear Pit continues to put on amateur drama of high quality, and this year’s riotous The 39 Steps, and incredibly moving wartime tales Lilies on the Land and Blackadder Goes Forth, saw the theatre company once again punching above its weight.
Another war tale that was a real treat to behold was Antic Disposition’s Henry V, transported to the trenches of the First World War. Performed on the Armistice 100th anniversary at Holy Trinity, it was full of significance.
Celebrating three decades of offering young people the chance to create amazing drama, Playbox Theatre put on some truly wondrous shows. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Britpop-inspired Canterbury Tales and chilling festive offering of The Snow Queen were particular favourites.
Stratford Musical Theatre Company also continued to engage local youngsters in some inspiring shows. Their mega production of Les Misérables, with a cast of 80, was an absolute stonker.
During the long hot summer there was no better place to be than picnicking and listening to glorious music at Longborough Festival Opera. I loved the contemporary take on Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
Stratford Literary Festival always delivers a glut of must-see events. After a visit this year I was inspired to read local author Susan Fletcher’s latest book, House of Glass, a beautifully told, haunting tale — and my book of the year.