CHRISTMAS QUIZ 2012: CLICK HERE for answers and the WINNER!
Dear Santa Baby,
Thanks for all the lovely shows you provided for us this year, and for all the nice people who came on our theatre trips with us. I thought you’d like to know that we have been awfully good Theatreguys in 2012. We took our lovely friends to see some terrific shows on Mr Cook’s very comfortable coaches, and though theatre seat prices continued to creep up, we managed to keep the prices reasonable as well.
We didn’t do quite so many visits this year as last but we hadn’t planned to anyway, because the wonderful Olympics distracted us, and we did sneak away on holiday on more than one occasion. But we still managed to offer 47 different shows spread over 51 trips. And every year throws up different adventures….
For instance, who would have thought that one of the most exciting nights in the theatre - Chariots of Fire at Hampstead – would turn into a nightmare when the same play transferred to the Gielgud? A lengthy correspondence with the theatre about our booking ensued!
And later we had one of those very rare occasions (no more than 3 or 4 in 30 years) when we arrived at the theatre to find that the performance had been cancelled. For me, a small number of productions lacked lustre, but as some of our friends enjoyed them, I won’t say any more about that.
On the other hand, it’s surprising how often things go right. Michael Grandage’s farewell to the Donmar with Richard ll was ravishing, and Eddie Redmayne as Richard II could not have been better - I doubt I’ll be able to see another production of this play without drawing comparisons. Josie Rourke’s first season at this address was wide-ranging and eclectic, and with The Recruiting Officer, The Physicists and Berenice, she showed an assured hand as a director and a worthy follower to Michael Grandage as the Donmar’s Artistic Director.
There were inspired comic turns from Mark Gattiss and Mackenzie Crook in The Recruiting Officer, Samantha Bond and Tim McInerney in What the Butler Saw, Danny DeVito in The Sunshine Boys, Rob Brydon in A Chorus of Disapproval, and Simon Russell Beale had the time of his life in Privates on Parade. And this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tamsin Greig, and especially Doon McKichan doing her dance-to-remember, in Jumpy.
Where were the new musicals? No, I don’t count Singin’ in the Rain and Top Hat as new, and I didn’t get to see Matilda myself, but I heard good reports. However, there are some interesting ones coming up in the New Year to look forward to.
As always, certain performers caught the eye. I’ve already mentioned Simon Russell Beale, but before we saw his Privates, he’d already showed other aspects of his talent in Timon of Athens. John Heffernan was another who displayed both comic and tragic abilities in She Stoops to Conquer and The Physicists. Rory Keenan effortlessly dominated Philadelphia, Here I Come! while Rory Kinnear gave the star performance in The Last of the Haussmans. The cast of Posh all gave star-making performances – we shall be seeing a lot more of them. It’s a pity so few of our Group booked, and missed a theatrical milestone.
It was good to see Nicholas Farrell come to the fore in The Browning Version, and Anna Chancellor continued to impress in that double-bill with South Downs. I’m sure David Suchet is a very nice man, but when he unleashes his power on stage, as he did in All My Sons and again this year in Long Day’s Journey into Night, he is terrifying. He was matched blow for blow in that play by Laurie Metcalf in a mesmerising, detailed performance.
Young actresses, especially pretty young actresses, often have difficulty persuading critics and audiences of their worth, so it was good to see Anna Friel and Laura Carmichael bring their own assurance and beauty to Uncle Vanya in a production that was perhaps less valued by critics than it deserved – but which our group took to its heart.
I was among those who raised my eyebrows when Sheridan Smith was announced as Hedda Gabler. Well, what do I know? Her performance was fearless, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. In fact my highlight of the year was seeing Hedda Gabler at a matinee performance with a lot of secondary school students, who weren’t familiar with the play. Their reaction proved that Ibsen still has the power to shock - and they cheered the actors at the end as if at a rock concert!
And I loved the Rogers and Hammerstein concert with John Wilson’s Orchestra, especially his coaxing those intoxicatingly romantic blue notes out of 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue'. Others might say that the best musical event, Tchaikovsky’s, came towards the end of the year: we’d eagerly looked forward to Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, and it was magical – vampires and that baby!
Despite the recession, group offers were hard to come by for certain shows, and I could write a whole book about how Mike and I worked out special offers for the new Michael Grandage season (£5 off for groups), and for some other plays that offered no group discount. Nevertheless, we have already booked 26 shows for next year. So, Santa Baby, be an angel and make sure that all our nice friends have new diaries. I know you can’t make them enter the dates they have booked, but it would be so helpful if everybody did.
And Santa, I hope you will be especially generous to our friends Chris, Jon and Marcus at the Donmar box-office, to Sophie at the Royal Opera House, to Dave and his helpers at the Hampstead Theatre, and to the friendly people at See Tickets, ATG, Nimax and Delfont Mackintosh. (I don’t mind if you miss out the staff at the Gielgud Theatre this year, or indeed the folk at the box-office at the National. We had a wobbly period with the Old Vic as well, but they have redeemed themselves recently with our Kiss Me, Kate rebooking.)
All the drivers of Cook’s Coaches have been consistently obliging, and got us safely to the theatres and home again. They deserve a big reward.
We promise to be good Theatreguys again next year – in fact, as long as our public wants us to be and we are able. We lined up the entire Michael Grandage season, and several shows that it’s difficult to get tickets for, such as The Audience, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland. There are sure to be more next year, but we promise to do our best.
What do we want in 2013? More laughs and excitement, more drama on stage and less off; more interesting and rewarding nights out at the theatre, please Santa Baby!
Fredo and Mike
P.S. We hope our Group will tell us their own highlights of the year by posting them on our Opinions page.