The Ike Awards Hall of Fame: 2018

Skip to: Breaking the Code, The Great Gatsby, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Vivian’s Music 1969, Proxy, Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho

So, with Christmas becoming the moment for my regular end-of-year awards, I thought Easter would be a good spot for my now annual review of Ike Awards from years gone by.

For the recap: during lockdown, I embarked on a project to backdate Ike Awards (my equivalent to five stars) for plays prior to spring 2017 when I started doing this. I went through years 2012 and 2016, and had intended to catch up all the way to the present, but by this point I decided I liked doing this as a retrospective, often having the chance to see where they play and/or group is now. So from 2017 onwards, I’ve been going forward one year at a time.

However, at least one Ike winner from 2018 knows she’s in the queue and is getting impatient, so let’s take a look at the greatest plays I saw from that year. And this was a good year.

Breaking the Code

I rarely review traditional amateur dramatics on this blog. That’s not because traditional amateur dramatics should be written off before you’ve seen in – indeed, some performances are damned good – but, if you’re going to confine yourselves to published scripts that already knows, it’s near-impossible to produce something that isn’t a worse version of a prior professional production. I, on the other hand, look for work that is different, or better, or both. The People’s Theatre have managed this by doing something that most professional theatres can’t: adding an ensemble to the cast. It’s quite common for musicals to have an ensemble but rare for conventional theatre – nevertheless, the People’s Theatre made it look like Hugh Whitmore’s play was written for a cast of twenty all along.

However, the clincher was the performance of David Jack as Alan Turing. I know I said that it’s near-impossible for an amateur group to be as good as the professional productions, but honestly, that was up there with the best performances of the fully professional actors. A common mistake I see amateur theatre make (the People’s is not immune from this themselves) is to think good acting mean remembering all the lines and charging through them word-perfect. Hugh Whitmore’s play is the classic it is because it define Alan Turing as a character so well, and David Jack understood every nuance written into the scripts and brought it to the fore.

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The Greatest Gatsby never told


The Guild of Misrule’s immersive adaptationĀ The Great Gatsby is still going strong a year for very good reasons. Far more than a novelty, it’s an outstanding theatrical experience unlike anything else you’ll see.

Like any festival, the Vault Festival has its share of hits and misses, but you’ll struggle to name a bigger hit thanĀ The Great Gatsby. For six weeks in 2017, the already eclectic crowd was joined by an assortment of dashing chaps and jitterbugs queuing for an immersive production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. With the entire run selling out weeks ahead, it was soon back by popular demand for one month only in June. Then one month turned into another month, then the rest of 2017, and now it’s still running whilst Vault 2018 goes on.

It’s not too surprising that a production like this is running for long, especially in London where there’s a market for just about every niche imaginable. (And come on, who doesn’t want to join a hedonistic 1920s party in their favourite jitterbug dress?) What is surprising is just how immersive this is. Usually “immersive” theatre is a promenade performance, maybe a bit of audience interaction, but without these bells and whistles it’s still structurally a conventional play. The Guild of Misrule’s adaptation, however, is so much more.

Ike Award for outstanding theatre: The Great Gatsby, Guild of Misrule

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