After another thrilling year for Fringe Theatre, we look back at our pick of the top ten off-West End productions of 2019.
Dark Sublime at Trafalgar Studios 2
Star Trek: The Next Generation star Marina Sirtis made her West End debut in the world premiere of Dark Sublime.
Directed by Andrew Keates (As Is and Dessa Rose – Trafalgar Studios), Dark Sublime, the debut play by Michael Dennis, was a love-letter to British sci-fi television – both those that make it and those that adore it.
Radio at The Arcola Theatre
Josh Roche directed Adam Gillen as Charlie Fairbanks in a one-man play about memory, love and spaceships.
Charlie Fairbanks was born in the dead centre of the United States at the dead centre of the twentieth century. Americans are going to the Moon and Charlie’s sure he’ll be the first one there. But as he shines his spotlight on the Moon, so too does it illuminate the darker side to his nation’s history.
FIVER at Southwark Playhouse
FIVER, by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees, followed the story of a humble £5 note as it passes through the hands and pockets of different people in London. Often unnoticed and obviously unaware, the fiver is present for significant moments in each person’s life – from an appreciation of their skills as a street performer, the start or end of relationships to the simple realisation that they can afford a bed for the night.
The fantastic score meant Fiver secured a sell-out run, and dedicated fans are hoping for a cast album to be released.
Circa at The Old Red Lion
Thomas Flynn and Daniel Abelson led the cast in Tom Ratcliffe’s debut play, Circa, exploring the blurred identity of the gay relationship in the modern age. Investigating one man’s romantic life over a period of thirty years, Circa followed his different relationships and encounters. The cast also featured Antony Gabriel, Joseph Rowe and Jenna Fincken.
tick, tick… Boom! at The Bridge House Theatre
tick, tick… Boom! is an autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who went on to win a Pulitzer and three Tony Awards for Rent. It’s the story of the composer on the brink of turning 30, his fear of falling into oblivion, and the sacrifices he made to achieve his big break in the theatre. Set in 1990, ‘tick, tick … Boom!’ is a compelling, endearing and personal story of discovery that embraces the universal ideal of holding onto your dreams through life’s most difficult challenges.
Vincent River at Trafalgar Studios 2
Louise Jameson and Thomas Mahy reprised their roles in Robert Chevara’s acclaimed production of Philip Ridley’s Vincent River, when it transferred to Trafalgar Studios from Park Theatre.
Philip Ridley’s modern classic was a huge success when it premiered at Hampstead Theatre in 2001, and a West End smash at Trafalgar Studios in 2007. This production was seen at London’s Park Theatre in 2018. Thrilling, heartbreaking and darkly humorous by turns, its now seen as one of the most powerful explorations of hate crime – and society’s need to crush ‘difference’ – ever written.
A Prayer for Wings at The King’s Head Theatre
Starring an all-Welsh cast, comprising Llinos Daniel, Alis Wyn Davies and Luke Rhodri, London audiences had a rare chance to see Sean Mathias direct his own work.
A Prayer For Wings tells the story of a mother and daughter, Mam and Rita, who have no other family and live in a disused church in central Swansea. Mam suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) and Rita is her daughter, minder and keeper. She’s been caring for her mother since she was ten years old. Weary of the responsibility, Rita dreams of a better life, with a wonderful man, in another country, so she sells sexual favours for cash. Alarmingly relevant, Sean Mathias’ debut play explores the conflict and burden of caring responsibilities, interdependence and family, set against an individual’s hopes and dreams.
Hedgehog at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
A story of the anxiety, sex, love, family and identity, as well as coming to terms with life, her place in this brave new world and ultimately, how we all find a way to cope. Written for one female voice, and based on real experiences, Hedgehog attempts to unpack the odyssey of the day to day, how huge and insurmountable the world can seem to a person coming to terms with adulthood, and how the creeping spectre of anxiety takes root in young people.
Directed by Georgia Richardson, Hedgehog is written by Alexander Knott, and starred Zöe Grain as Manda with Emily Costello and Lucy Annable.
Wife at The Kiln Theatre
Four couples intersect with a production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. When it comes to identity, gender and unrequited love, how do societal expectations and pressures change over time? Samuel Adamson maps a constellation of four queer stories within four generations in one family.
Worlds End at The King’s Head Theatre
The King’s Head’s popular Queer Season ended with World’s End – the debut play from upcoming writer James Corley, directed by Harry Mackrill.
It’s November 1998 on the World’s End Estate in Chelsea. Energetic single mum Viv (Patricia Potter; Holby City) has just moved in with her shy, troubled son Ben (Tom Milligan; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, West End), eager to start afresh and escape economic precarity. Next door, single father and painter-cum-security guard Ylli and his confident, yet enigmatic son Besnik are also negotiating their horizons, against the televised backdrop of catastrophe in their native Kosovo.