#24 - "Clumsily engineered and overblown" - Seventeen

Lyric Hammersmith

Actors aged around 70 play kids of 17 in Matthew Whittet’s none-too convincing play, where the emphasis is more on manic energy than cross-generational revelation. It’s the day after A-levels and schoolfriends Mike, Jess, Tom and Emilia – plus two unwelcome adherents - meet in a playground to get pissed. There are some moving moments among the revelations about the group’s dynamic and parental outside, but the social relationships feel clumsily engineered and the physical action overblown. Dennis Potter achieved more in Blue Remembered Hills. Kudos, though, to the cast, who make up in energy what the whole production lacks in subtlety.

#23 - "Cloth-eared, clod-hopping but essential" - My Country; a work in progress

National Theatre

After the Brexit vote, NT boss Rufus Norris sent interviewers to talk to voters: Carol Ann Duffy has their verbatim snippets spoken by representatives of (some) British regions at the behest of Brittania, who also voices Tory big beasts and Nigel Farage. Yes it’s cloth-eared, clod-hopping, even insulting at times – Welshmen sing, Scots drink Scotch – but this was an essential thing for the National to do, and its fragmentary nature is not only deliberate but illustrative. It makes you relive and re-examine the whole painful process again, surely not for the last time. And if it doesn’t have any answers – well, we’re learning that’s also not uncommon, aren’t we?

#22 - "Extraordinary tale of influence, affection and shifting artistic tides" - Michelangelo & Sebastiano

National Gallery

What an extraordinary tale of influence, affection and shifting artistic tides is told in the National Gallery’s dazzling show about Michelangelo and the younger friend and collaborator who pre-deceased him. It’s not only the loaned artworks that impress but the preserved letters full of early respect and friendship that dwindle as the older artists tries to control and then hobble his collaborator (who was his superior in oil painting). I loved Michelangelo and was ignorant of Sebastiano before this, but it is the fragments of a destroyed version of The Visitation by the latter that stayed with me. There’s a novel in this story, surely.

#21 - "Exuberant, panto-style polemic" - The Miser

Garrick Theatre

How great is it that a week’s London openings include Daniel Radcliffe in Stoppard, Imelda Staunton in Albee, a serious drama about the founding of the SDP and this exuberantly panto-style polemic, that repositions Moliere’s Harpagon as one of the one per cent? Griff Rhys Jones is the titular skinflint, Lee Mack a brilliantly truculent Jacques in a production that relies on the tropes and talents of the stand-up circuit. It’s messy and uneven to be sure, but the slapstick is well done, not to mention the cod-Gallic exposulations: “Pret a Manger!”

#20 - "Tragicomic psychodrama goes up to 11" - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Harold Pinter Theatre

Imelda Staunton is thrillingly unlovely as Martha in Edward Albee’s long, dark, pissed night of a play – a performance as gutsy as her Mama Rose in Gypsy, but more frankly savage and eventually human. She’s matched by Conleth Hill as husband George, a mangy, pouchy old tomcat who can still claw and bite. James Macdonald’s production is meticulously orchestrated: Imogen Poots and Luke Treadaway are great in the challenging support roles. I love this play but the tragicomic psychodrama goes up to 11. I think Albee, who I twice interviewed, was embarrassed by its excess, and the shadow it cast over his other work. But here, you can see why it did so.

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