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2017 Round-up Lynne Walsh's theatre of the year

AN EVENTFUL year, with murders, kidnapped children, suicidal depression, lost souls and found loves.

Conor McPherson’s Girl from the North Country won standing ovations at the Old Vic, with its magical use of Bob Dylan’s finest songs.

This took many, including critics, by sweet surprise. There are always cynics claiming McPherson’s work lacks teeth and the hopeless floundering of hapless drifters in the liminal space of a flophouse or bar may not be to everyone’s taste, but this carried an emotional charge reminiscent of a Steinbeck or Miller.

It transfers to the West End soon. Go if only to hear Shelia Atim sing Tight Connection to My Heart.

The Rose Theatre’s My Brilliant Friend was an adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels in two plays encompassing a quartet of books.

The lives of two friends in post-war Italy through to contemporary times are the focus and while the writer claims not to be political — and it’s true that her depiction of the Red Brigade is cartoon-like — sexual politics permeates the piece, dictating the possibilities of both women’s lives.

We learn that the only way to control a strong woman’s identity is to steal it.

The consistently brave Orange Tree in Richmond-upon-Thames managed Brechtian alienation and immersive theatre in Every Brilliant Thing, in which the protagonist took the idiocy of mindfulness to extremes, announcing with gusto all the brilliant things which kept him from dark thoughts.

This was another evening, though, where I questioned the protocol of having a press night, which often includes critics, VIPs, plus drama students. As an old-school reporter-cum-critic, I want to monitor the responses of honest-to-goodness audience members who’ve paid for a ticket!

No such problem back at the Rose, for All or Nothing, the “Mod” musical, in which Chris Simmonds, formerly The Bill’s DC Mickey Webb, was perfectly narcissistic and adorable as Steve Marriott of the Small Faces, who lived fast and died young.

This has toured for a while and will continue while audiences turn up, cry, sigh, giggle and gyrate. We were on our feet for a 20-minute encore.

My theatre event of the year, however, was These Trees Are Made of Blood at the Arcola.

It's a powerful juxtaposition of the seamy Coup Coup Club in Argentina during the dirty war with the white-scarved Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, determined to discover the fate of their “disappeared” children.

It was superbly directed and performed and a reminder that such storytelling is devastating and necessary.




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