“Best of” and “year end” lists are so often a tricky adventure for critic and reader, alike. Theatre critics, no doubt forced by their employers to create a “best of” list of shows from the year that has been, more often than not deride the experience. Nevertheless, a Top 10 list of theatre shows from critics in New York and London provide us with a glimpse into performances we may never have heard of or seen on the other side of the globe, at the same time hinting at trophy possibilities come awards season.
Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood, theatre critics for the New York Times, typically had very different lists for their best shows of 2015. The two critics agreed only on one thing – that 2015 was far from a lean year both on and off Broadway, providing plenty of highlights and, gasp, even some risk-taking on the Great White Way!
Ben Brantley’s theatre highlights include Hamilton, a hip hop musical about America’s founding fathers, a British import in the future history play King Charles III, and Fool for Love, an interpretation of Sam Shepard’s 1983 play about “the cruel cycle of endless love”.
Charles Isherwood on the other hand, denied placing Hamilton on his “best of” list for 2015 simply because it had already received ample press and countless accolades in the past few months. Instead, Isherwood mostly highlights new, smaller productions such as the Public Theater’s Eclipsed, the Roundabout Theater Company’s The Humans, and a mostly silent cast in Small Mouth Sounds.
On the other side of the Atlantic, The Guardian theatre critics Lyn Gardner and Michael Billington gave their best offerings of London’s theatre for 2015. Gardner’s list includes Almeida Theatre’s Oresteia and Carmen Disruption (a Bizet Carmen adaptation), plus a children’s’ puppetry show Beasty Baby. Meanwhile, Billington’s best theatre shows of 2015 include the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Tom Morton-Smith’s play about the father of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, and Martin McDonagh’s play Hangmen at the Royal Court.