Richard Bean

Richard Bean: applauded for One Man, Two Guvnors

The Critics Circle

Critical Highlights from the Past

Some award-winning favourites

Published: 01/02/2014

Michael Coveney

Lucy Prebble: The Sugar Syndrome (2003)

I didn’t vote for her, but I’m glad others did. It’s amazing how

prescient and just so many winning nominations have been over 25 years, but

especially in this category, from Philip Ridley and Martin McDonagh through

to Nina Raine and Polly Stenham, great talents all, original and sparkish.

 

Libby Purves

Stephen Sondheim: Merrily We Roll Along (2012)

It is the surprises you remember. This was one of Sondheim's less successful

musicals in its time, with a perverse backwards structure and few memorable

tunes, but Maria Friedman's brave revival made it suddenly flare into clarity,

vigour and truth. The ending, an irony on a generation's hope, left me

stunned.

 

Clive Hirschhorn

Tom Stoppard: Arcadia (1993)

The past and the present overlapped to brilliant effect in Arcadia,

arguably the finest English-speaking play to emerge in the last decade of the

20th century. The elegance of Tom Stoppard’s language, the complexity of its

themes (chaos versus disorder, the misinterpretations of past events by

present historians and scientists) and its intriguing parallel plot-lines combined

to exhilarating effect in Trevor Nunn’s stunning original production. A

masterpiece.

 

Aleks Sierz

Philip Ridley: The Fastest Clock in the Universe (1992)

Some theatre shows blow your mind. This was the case with

Philip Ridley's shocking but poetic second play, first put on at the Hampstead

in a production that introduced a very young Jude Law, who played an even

younger 15-year-old. I'll never forget Con O'Neill and Jonathan Coy as the

main characters and Emma Amos as the Cockney teen. The play was very

funny, but also frightening in its climax, when a pregnant women gets kicked

in the stomach. It was provocative new writing, controversial as well as

beautifully wrought.

 

Gerald Berkowitz

Tony Kushner: Angels In America (1992)

In an American canon dominated by domestic melodramas, Angels in

America took on no less a subject than the entire American experience, as

filtered through the prism of the AIDS years, with an audacity of invention and

breadth of imagination not seen since the early experiments of Eugene

O'Neill.

 

Heather Neill

Tom Stoppard: Arcadia (1993)

In this challenging, moving, funny and humane play, Tom Stoppard combines

science and art, intellectual rigour and emotion in a swirling narrative which

plays with time while rooting the action in a particular, changing, place - a

country house. He examines Classical order and Romanticism while providing

plentiful opportunities for his actors.

 

Carole Woddis

Michael Frayn: Copenhagen (1998): Joe Penhall: Blue/Orange (2000)

Two thrilling intellectual and emotional rides: the one through history and

Heisenberg’s Theory of Uncertainty, as exhilarating and stretching as a good

downhill ski run: the other, similarly hermetic, in which Joe Penhall bravely

confronted psychiatry and power relations through the prism of schizophrenia

and the black community.

 

Ian Shuttleworth

Jez Butterworth: Mojo (2005)

Twenty-six-year-old Jez Butterworth has come a long way in the five years

since, with bizarre inspiration, he co-scripted a stage adaptation of

Katharine Whitehorn's recipe book Cooking In A Bedsitter. Mojo 

mixes sex and drugs and rock'n'roll with gang warfare and a marvellously

black comic sensibility. Butterworth enjoys writing about brutal,

amoral politicking and counter-politicking, and with Mojo he has hit the

jackpot; he leaves the audience, like his characters, scrambling to keep

up with barely suggested twists, but grimly enjoying the struggle.

 

Robert Tanitch

Chiwetel Ejiofor: Blue/Orange (2000)

Charismatic, brilliantly alternating between the rational and irrational.

 

Jane Edwardes

Simon McBurney: Mnemonic (1999)

Experimental companies don’t often fit neatly into the categories required by

award ceremonies, so it’s surprising and pleasing that the ever-inventive

Complicite has won two awards for Best Play. Mnemonic is my favourite in

which we were encouraged to feel a link between a 4000 year-old mummy

and our lives today.

 

Ray Bennett

Mark Rylance: Jerusalem (2009)

Mark Rylance gives a relentlessly entertaining performance as a

ferociously and hilariously vulgar rascal with a rampaging lust for life in Jez

Butterworth’s raucous and exhilarating play that captivates from the start and

right away makes the three-hour running time seem that it will be much too

short.

 

Matt Trueman

Sam Mendes: Twelfth Night; Uncle Vanya (2002)

It’s 5am. I’m 17, skiving off school to get day seats to that final

Mendes double-bill. Twelfth Night. Uncle Vanya. Linked by a line from a

sonnet: ‘Oh learn to read what silent love hath writ.’ And Simon Russell Beale,

of course; his Vanya, a husk; his Malvolio, an insurrection.

 

Philip Fisher

William Dudley: The Coast of Utopia Trilogy (2002)

With this design, William Dudley changed the face of theatre forever. By

introducing computer-generated imagery, he added an extra dimension to the

visual presentation of plays and musicals. In addition, he allowed directors to

speed up scene changes, reducing running time and also providing them with

the possibility of eliminating dull blackouts.

 

 

Michael Darvell

Richard Bean: One Man, Two Guvnors (2011)

I saw Richard Bean’s play, an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s farce, A Servant

of Two Masters, one Sunday afternoon when I have never heard laughter like

it in a London theatre. The combination of Bean’s script, Nicholas Hytner’s

direction and James Corden’s lead performance proved to be absolute comic

perfection.

CONTACT

Enquiries about the Critics' Circle should be made to the Hon Gen Sec Rick Jones by email criticscircleallsections@gmail.com or telephone 020 8698 2460.