Our writers take a look back at 2018, and pick their favourite events of the last year.

Looking back on 2018, one production, in particular, stands out. Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ ancient Greek Comedy about a group of women who attempt to stop the civil war with a sex strike, brought to us by amateur actors at University College London, far surpassed my expectations. With wonderfully homemade costumes, and minimal props or scenery, the cast managed to capture perfectly the sights of ancient Athens bringing it to life for today’s audience by sheer enthusiasm alone. The play used humour to illustrate issues still being faced by women today 2000 years later, and I left the theatre feeling uplifted yet mindful.

– Beth McMillan

Beautiful Thing. Image by Mark Dawson Photography via Tobacco Factory Theatre

Beautiful Thing is by far my favourite production of 2018. It intersects homosexuality with working-class realities, both of which need to be explored more in modern day entertainment. Despite Jamie and Ste’s struggles, Beautiful Thing was far from bleak. Mark Tweddle imbued Johnathan Harvey’s play with astute humour and characters who, far from being cardboard cut-outs, command the stage and the audience’s attention. The Ridge Community Choir belted out Mama Cass’ songs with enthusiasm and power. It is often challenging to recapture a feeling or fleeting emotion, but when I remember the high notes of Beautiful Thing, the impression it left on me overwhelms me again.

– Lexi Burgess

Deputy Lifestyle Editor 

I may be repeating myself, or I didn’t go to as many plays as I wanted, but “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was my favourite event of 2018. Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell outdid themselves in the updated, yet timeless classic directed by Benedict Andrews. Even though it may be heavy sometimes, it is what makes it real by showing complex human relations, especially comparing to the 1958 film adaptation that was restricted by censorship. It stays with you for a long time after seeing it. 

  Berenika Balcer

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Image courtesy of National Theatre

2018, it’s finally over. Three hundred sixty-five days of slog and monotony. Hasta la vista, baby. However, there were some excellent bits, theatre-wise. Notably, my more recent trip to ‘Stop! The Play’. I’m still amazed at the quality of the acting and production, and that’s why I’m going to choose it as my Arts and Culture highlight of 2018. It was funny, flamboyant, and utterly superfluous. Shambolic in the best way; fantastic. I look forward to seeing what the cast and crew have in store for the year ahead, and if they top ‘Stop!’, I’ll eat one of Evelyn’s many hats.

– Lara Orriss

Lifestyle Editor

My favourite production this year seemed to elude me until the final hour. The Royal Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker this Christmas, broadcast live to The Dukes in Lancaster was the perfect festive show I could have asked for. Among the stressful week of final deadlines and workloads towering over my head, this show offered the best few hours of magical escapism I could have asked for, with exceptional dancers who’s technique was on point (forgive the pun) as well as beautiful costumes, effects, and music. For me, what made this show the highlight of the year was the chemistry between Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Marcelino Sambé as Clara and The Nutcracker on stage. 

– Ruth Walbank

Arts and Culture Editor 

Nutcracker. Image courtesy of Trafalgar Releasing

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been one of this year’s most talked about shows, and deservedly so. Recently surpassing its first anniversary on the West End, this heartwarming coming of age musical had humble beginnings last year in the Sheffield Crucible. It transferred after receiving rave reviews from both audiences and critics, and now resulting in multiple Olivier award nominations and a national stage on screen showing. It is based on the experiences of Jamie Campbell; a boy featured in a BBC 3 documentary who went to prom in a dress, despite resistance. It has spawned some fantastic acting talent in John McCrae, Luke Bayer and Rebecca McKinnis who are sure to have a successful career when they leave Jamie, after the cast changes at the end of January. 

– Toby Cooke

Carolynne  Editor 

I have to say my highlight from 2018 was seeing The Exploded Circus. No question about it. The show was both mesmerising, I loved the aesthetic, and the performers were brilliantly talented. Of all the shows I went to see throughout last year it stood out as a favourite.

– Isaac Rolfe

Exploded Circus. Photo by Eric Richmond via Lancaster Arts

I was fortunate enough to see a vast array of theatre in 2018, but my stand out piece had to be Legally Blonde at The Palace, Manchester over summer. If you find the film uplifting, you’ll love the musical. If you don’t like the film, you’ll probably still find joy in the musical somewhere. There’s even a real, tiny dog. With an incredible soundtrack and bundles of energy, this was a jubilant celebration of female empowerment and independence which, as cliche as it sounds, came at a time when I needed it. If it tours again, I implore you to go and see it; it’s worth the train to Manchester. 

– Becky Scott

Associate Editor

I was incredibly fortunate to see Company in 2018 at Gielgud Theatre, and it was a theatrical experience I will never forget. Marianne Eliot (Director of The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time and War Horse) reimagined Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical by changing the gender of the lead character which transformed the entire show making it feel modern and exciting. It also starred Rosalie Craig, Patti LuPone (!), Mel Giedroyc who were all brilliant. The performances, staging and score were perfect, and Company has become one of my favourite musicals. I even got to meet Patti LuPone (the original Fantine) at the stage door afterwards. 

– Johnathan Herbert

Associate Editor

Company. Image by Johnathan Herbert

I am certainly not an opera connoisseur, I do not know much about it, but I have known about Carmen – an opera about a passionate Gypsy whose tragic love story was the talk of the late 19th century Europe, especially in France where it premiered in 1875. Arias you can hear throughout the spectacle such as Habanera or the Toreador Song are among the most famous opera arias of all times. That’s why if like me, you’re an opera novice; Carmen is a good starting point. I saw the show in Wroclaw Opera (Poland), and of course, it wasn’t as grand and opulent as, e.g. La Scala in Milan, but it was still awe-inspiring. 

– Marta Wójtowicz