The best theater of 2022

10. Prima Facie

Jodie Comer made a sensational West End debut in Suzie Miller’s hard-hitting play, set for Broadway in the spring. Best known for her television role in Killing Eve, she Comer proved she can be equally charismatic and commanding on stage, playing a lawyer who ends up on the witness stand after a sexual assault. Read the full review

9. Two Palestinians go to stalk

At the Royal Court in London, Sami Ibrahim’s drama captured the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the prism of a family in a village east of Jerusalem. It started out as a stand-up act and played out the brutality of conflict with searing scenes alongside extravaganza, then backed out to deliver a suction cup punch. Exactly what a newly written theater should show. Read the full review

8. Our generation

At nearly four hours, Alecky Blythe’s drama about a dozen young men still left us wanting more. Powerfully directed by Daniel Evans for a Chichester Festival and National Theater co-production, it ran for five years and captured their dreams and disappointments, migrant experiences, parental clashes, physical problems, school grades and Snapchat jokes. Literal theater at its most vigorous. Read the full review

7. Crazy for you

It wasn’t just the dance performances that made this Chichester production so joyous, although Charlie Stemp’s sublimely agile performance was just short of perfection. The 1992 musical – directed by its original choreographer Susan Stroman – combined physical wit, witty banter, and a compelling score by George and Ira Gershwin. Those who missed it will be able to see it in London next summer. Read the full review

6. Oklahoma!

In a year that has brought a glut of successful but safe revivals, this reworking of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical at the Young Vic, London has shown us how a well-known and well-loved show can be remade and become new and barely dangerous. Directed by Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein, it was sexy and haunting with lots of experimentalism and jaw-dropping singing. Read the full review

5. Who Killed My Father

Also at the Young Vic, director Ivo van Hove’s adaptation of Édouard Louis’ autobiographical novel was staged as a gut-wrenching monologue with Hans Kesting playing both the estranged gay son and the sick, homophobic father. Devastating and endearing, he channeled his story of straitjacket masculinity and the oppressive effects of poverty through empathy and love. A stupendous performance. Read the full review

4. Beautiful evil things

This year has been filled with retellings of ancient Greek tragedies. A touring production co-created by Ad Infinitum’s Deborah Pugh and George Mann, Beautiful Evil Things was electrifying. Narrated from the decapitated head of Medusa and containing an epic quality despite being recited by Pugh alone, her story was conveyed as much through movement and sound as the script. Read the full review

3. The doctor

This revival of Robert Icke’s drama about identity, faith, and medical ethics felt like one of the most charged comedies of our time. Tackling the culture wars with cerebral audacity, he moved from the Almeida to the West End with another brilliant performance from Juliet Stevenson. She pushed us out of our comfort zones and made us question not only our certainly held beliefs, but also certainty itself. Read the full review

2. The Chairs

Eugène Ionesco’s 1952 absurdist drama about a pair of entertainers performing fictions in their living room became physical theater’s most virtuosic show in the hands of husband-and-wife duo Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter, in Omar Elerian’s production at the Almeida. Magni, who passed away during the year, left us this magical farewell gift. Read the full review

1. Iphigenia to Splott

An incandescent revival of Gary Owen’s monologue, directed by Rachel O’Riordan at the Lyric Hammersmith seven years after having staged it at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre. It was an ancient Greek tragedy and a play about the state of the nation rolled into one. Sophie Melville has been a tour de force as a working class woman in an impoverished corner of Wales showing no signs of improving. She spoke in beautifully adrenaline-pumping demotic and owned every inch of the stage as she told her own shocking story of love, loss and silent heroism. Powerful and urgent political drama, especially for those who thought theater did not speak to or for them. Read the full review Arifa Akbar

***

“Exciting, heartbreaking, heartbreaking”: the choices of the critics

Medea

Standing at the foot of a catwalk, the audience has turned into a chorus witnessing the fatal rivalry between Medea and Creon. Using Liz Lochhead’s rich and acerbic take, Michael Boyd’s National Theater of Scotland production at the Edinburgh International Festival fielded a steely Adura Onashile as an offended wife who was a perfect match for the suave Jason of Robert Jack. Intense and larger than life. Marco Pescatore

Bren. Calone. Fi

A monologue with songs, Brên. Calone. Bethan Marlow’s Fi (Brain. Heart. Me) felt much more meaningful than its short runtime. Played by Lowri Izzard and directed by Izzy Rabey at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, it was a witty, uninhibited and seductively sweet – in Welsh, at last – expression of lesbian desire and first love flourishes. Gareth Llŷr Evans

Things hidden since the foundation of the world

At home in Manchester, Javaad Alipor’s new show was the most mind-blowing piece of theater I’ve seen all year. He takes things you might think you know—the Internet, pop music, murder mystery podcasts—and turns them upside down. The very idea of ​​instantaneous knowledge promised by sites like Wikipedia is deconstructed in this performance, which has managed to be incredibly intelligent and gloriously theatrical. Catherine Love

Sing your heart out for the boys

It’s a tragedy that Roy Williams’ 2002 comedy is as chilling today as it was 20 years ago. But this drama which exposes the venomous racism of a group of England supporters in a south London bar looks like it could have been written ready for this year’s tournament. Beautifully heartbreaking, in Nicole Charles’ production at Minerva in Chichester, her insidiousness stayed with you well beyond the final score. Anya Ryan

The return home

Every element of Jamie Glover’s touring revival, starring Keith Allen, Mathew Horne and Shanaya Rafaat, captured the sleazy horror and savage comedy of Harold Pinter’s 1965 masterpiece. Nothing more than Liz Ascroft’s set, which made it seem that the comedy’s somber wallpapered North London living room, a kind of petri dish for misogyny, was taller than a giant’s beanstalk. Ryan Gilbey

A concert for ghosts

A whole room crying… Rori Hawthorn, Hanora Kamen and Liz Kitchen in A Gig for Ghosts. Photography: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

No show has made my heart feel as full this year as Fran Bushe’s queer folk musical. Hanora Kamen and Rori Hawthorn were perfect as imperfect lovers, their sweet and funny story underlined by silly jokes and beautiful harmonies. Performed in the intimate upstairs space of the Soho theatre, this endearing tale of grief and the love it comes from had the entire room in tears. Kate Wyver

Much ado about nothing

Director Robert Hastie struck new jokes with a cast that included deaf, disabled and neurodiverse actors in Sheffield Crucible in a co-production with Ramps on the Moon. If you’re a theater critic, you see a lot of noise. Watching Daneka Etchells as Beatrice played her lines like a master discovering new notes was amazing. Hero was absolutely heartbreaking when he was wrongfully accused of infidelity in a production that also had an abundance of glee. Nick Ahad

Propaganda: A New Musical

At the Lyric in Belfast, Conor Mitchell’s stirring musical theater production stood out for the ambition and scope of its post-WWII canvas. Set in bombed-out Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948-49, his characters are desperate to survive. Hard-hitting performances, bold design, and a soundtrack that fuses jazz, big band numbers, and operatic lyricism come together, creating a multi-layered drama that pits art against populism, truth against fake news. Helen Meany

Wonderful boy

Pow! In Ross Willis’ high school comedy, directed by Sally Cookson at the Bristol Old Vic, superhero Captain Chatter assists a stuttering student. Wham! His design was irresistibly bold, a comic book brought to life with the approachability inherent in every scene. Ka-boom! In his debut, Raphel Famotibe gave vivid performances. I burst! His hilarious analysis of Hamlet even argued for vulgarity as the soul of wit. Chris Wiegand

All of us

There is a compassion deficit in our politics, and often in our social media as well. In contrast, Francesca Martinez’s play arrived at the National Theater as a thrilling reboot of radical empathy. Exploring the vicious neglect of the disabled experience, it was unashamedly emotional and argumentative. Refusing to feel hopeless, she unleashed what Martinez calls “shaky rage,” a challenge to hearts and minds. David Jay

The animal kingdom

Ashna Rabheru, Martina Laird, Ragevan Vasan, Jonathan McGuinness and Paul Keating in Animal Kingdom.

Exciting… Ashna Rabheru, Martina Laird, Ragevan Vasan, Jonathan McGuinness and Paul Keating in The Animal Kingdom. Photography: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Sometimes it is the small shows that reveal the full power of the theatre. Ten months later, I remain haunted by Ruby Thomas’ play at the Hampstead Theatre, a family portrait revolving around an unspeakable thing that happened, in a series of therapy sessions. Were they real? And who were we: theater audience, voyeurs or spectators at the zoo? It was just talk, but text, direction, design and performance converged to give words the strength of body shots. Claire Armitstead

Walking with ghosts

Monologues may be a cheap theater option, but Gabriel Byrne’s Walking With Ghosts (in Dublin, Wexford, Edinburgh and London) was a solo exhibition with the scale and impact of an epic play. Byrne spent the first half in childhood Ireland, the second half in the show’s adulthood, the word images (a bald barber with a list of toupees for different occasions) reaching for an Irish Under Milk Wood, this lyricism making the horrors (abuse, addiction, mourning) are even more pungent when they come. Mark Lawson

Bill Elliott

Billy doesn’t exactly dance in director Nikolai Foster’s thrilling new production of the musical at Leicester’s Curve. Box. Kick. Yell out. It roars. This was a stage show with all the heart of Stephen Daldry’s film, but with added grit, danger and depth. Lee Hall’s script seemed a little sharper and Elton John’s music, achingly tender but somehow more truthful. And the dance? Electricity. Miriam Gillinson

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