The best theater of 2022

10. At First Sight

Jodie Comer made her sensational West End debut in Suzie Miller’s hard-hitting play, which is slated for Broadway this spring. Best known for her TV role in Killing Eve, Comer has proven she can be just as charismatic and authoritative on stage, playing a lawyer who finds herself on the witness stand after a sexual assault. Read the full review

9. Two Palestinians dogging

At the Royal Court in London, Sami Ibrahim’s drama captured the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the lens of a family in a village east of Jerusalem. It started as a stand-up act and played up the brutality of the conflict with searing scenes set alongside fantasy, then pulled back to land a punch. Exactly what a new-writing theater should present. Read the full review

8. Our Generation

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

7. Crazy about you

It wasn’t just the jaw-dropping dance numbers that made this Chichester production so joyous, although Charlie Stemp’s sublimely nimble performance was near perfection. The 1992 musical – helmed by its original choreographer Susan Stroman – combined physical wit, zingy banter and an irresistible score by George and Ira Gershwin. Those who missed it can find it in London next summer. Read the full review

6. Oklahoma!

In a year that has brought a glut of successful but sure-fire revivals, this reworking of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical at the Young Vic, London, showed us how a well-known and beloved show can be remade and become new and freshly dangerous. Directed by Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein, it was sexy and unsettling with plenty of experimentalism and amazing vocals. 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 an eviscerating monologue with Hans Kesting playing both an estranged gay son and an ailing homophobic father. Devastating and tender, he channeled his story of straitjacket masculinity and the crushing effects of poverty through empathy and love. A breathtaking performance. Read the full review

4. Beautiful Evil Things

This year has been filled with tales of ancient Greek tragedies. A touring production co-created by Ad Infinitum’s Deborah Pugh and George Mann, Beautiful Evil Things was electrifying on the left. Told through the decapitated head of Medusa and containing an epic quality despite being single-handedly directed by Pugh, its story was delivered through motion and sound as much as 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 busiest plays of our time. Tackling the culture wars with cerebral boldness, he moved from the Almeida to the West End with another stellar performance from Juliet Stevenson. It pushed us out of our comfort zones and made us question not just our beliefs, but certainty itself. Read the full review

2. Chairs

Eugène Ionesco’s absurd 1952 drama about a pair of performers playing make-believe in their living room has become the most virtuosic spectacle of physical theater in the hands of husband and wife duo Marcello Magni and Kathryn Hunter, in the production of ‘Omar Elerian at the Almeida. Magni, who died later that year, left us this magical parting gift. Read the full review

1. Iphigenia in Splott

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

***

“Exciting, heartbreaking, mind-blowing”: critics’ picks

Medea

Standing at the foot of a catwalk, the audience becomes a choir witnessing the fatal rivalry between Medea and Kreon. Using Liz Lochhead’s rich and rugged version, the National Theater of Scotland’s production of Michael Boyd at the Edinburgh International Festival featured an unyielding Adura Onashile as the aggrieved wife who was quite the match for the suave Jason of RobertJack. Intense and larger than life. Mark Fisher

Bren. Callon. If

A monologue with songs, Brên. Callon. Bethan Marlow’s Fi (Brain. Heart. Me) seemed far more important than its short length. Performed by Lowri Izzard and directed by Izzy Rabey at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, it was a witty, uninhibited and seductively sweet expression – in Welsh, at last – of lesbian desire and the first impulses of sex. ‘love. Gareth Llr Evans

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

Back home in Manchester, Javaad Alipoor’s new show was the most jaw-dropping play I’ve seen all year. It takes things you think you know — the internet, pop music, murder mystery podcasts — and turns them inside out. The very idea of ​​instant knowledge as promised by sites like Wikipedia is deconstructed in this performance, which manages to be dazzlingly clever and gloriously theatrical. Catherine Love

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads

It’s a tragedy that Roy Williams’ 2002 play is as chilling today as it was 20 years ago. But this drama deciphering the venomous racism of a group of England fans in a drunken south London setting feels like it could have been written ready for this year’s tournament. Beautifully heartbreaking, in Nicole Charles’ production at the Minerva in Chichester, its insidiousness has stayed with you far beyond the final score. anya ryan

Back to home

Every element of Jamie Glover’s tour revival, which starred Keith Allen, Mathew Horne and Shanaya Rafaat, captured the sordid horror and savage comedy of Harold Pinter’s 1965 masterpiece. that Liz Ascroft’s set, which made the darkly carpeted north London living room look like a sort of Petri dish for misogyny, was bigger than a giant bean. Ryan Gilbey

A concert for ghosts

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

No show has filled my heart this year like Fran Bushe’s queer folk musical. Hanora Kamen and Rori Hawthorn were perfect as imperfect lovers, their sweet and funny story underscored by silly jokes and beautiful harmonies. Played in the intimate space upstairs at the Soho Theatre, this tender story of mourning and the love that ensues brought the whole room to tears. Kate Wyver

A lot of noise for nothing

Director Robert Hastie has found new jokes with a cast including deaf, disabled and neurodiverse actors at Sheffield Crucible in a co-production with Ramps on the Moon. If you’re a theater critic, you see a lot of Much Teens. Seeing Daneka Etchells as Beatrice played her lines like a maestro discovering new notes was amazing. Hero was utterly heartbreaking when he was wrongfully accused of infidelity in a production that also had an abundance of joy. Nick Ahad

Propaganda: a new musical

At the Belfast Lyric, Conor Mitchell’s thrilling musical theater production stood out for the ambition and scale of its post-WWII canvas. Set in bombed-out Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948-49, its characters desperately try to survive. Punchy performances, bold design and a score that blends jazz, big band numbers and operatic lyricism merge, creating a multi-layered drama that pits art against populism, truth against fake news. Helen Meany

wonder boy

pow! In Ross Willis’ high school play, directed by Sally Cookson at Bristol Old Vic, the superhero Captain Chatter assists a student who stutters. Bang! Its design was irresistibly bold, an animated comic with an inherent accessibility to every scene. Ka-boom! Making his debut, Raphel Famotibe led a stellar performance. Bang! His hilarious analysis of Hamlet even argued for blasphemy to be the soul of the spirit. Chris Wiegand

All of us

There is a compassion deficit in our politics, and often in our social media as well. Against this, Francesca Martinez’s play arrived at the National Theater as an exciting reboot of radical empathy. Exploring the vicious neglect of the disabled experience, he was unabashedly emotional and argumentative. Refusing to feel hopeless, he unleashed what Martinez calls “wobbly rage,” a challenge to hearts and minds. david jays

the animal kingdom

Ashna Rabheru, Martina Laird, Ragevan Vasan, Jonathan McGuinness and Paul Keating in The 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’s the little shows that reveal the full power of theatre. Ten months later, I’m still haunted by Ruby Thomas’ play at the Hampstead Theatre, a portrait of a family revolving around an indescribable thing that happened, in a series of therapy sessions. Were they real? And who were we, theater audience, voyeurs or zoo spectators? It was all speech, but text, direction, design and performance converged to give the words the force of body blows. Claire Armitstead

walk with ghosts

Monologues can be a cheap theatrical option, but Gabriel Byrne’s Walking With Ghosts (in Dublin, Wexford, Edinburgh and London) was a one-man show with the scale and impact of an epic play. Byrne spent the first half as a child in Ireland, the second in showbiz as an adult, the word pictures (a bald barber with a list of toupees for different occasions) doing an Irish Under Milk Wood, this lyricism making the horrors (abuse, addiction, bereavement) even more pungent when they come. Marc Lawson

Billy Elliot

Billy doesn’t exactly dance in the thrilling new production of director Nikolai Foster’s musical at Leicester’s Curve. He is boxing. Kicking. Shouts. Roars. Here is a stage spectacle with all the heart of Stephen Daldry’s film but with more courage, danger and depth. Lee Hall’s script was a little sharper and Elton John’s music painfully tender but somehow more truthful. And the dance? Electricity. Miriam Gillinson

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