As 2007 lies waxily on its death bed, coughing quietly and trying not to make a fuss, I thought it might be interesting to look to the year ahead - what excitements might it hold? What glorious adventures await? Who will I end up needlessly and foolishly offending in 2008? Let's gaze into the tea leaves briefly, shall we...
The London International Mime Festival opens. No one notices.
Following news that the Old Vic’s star studded Speed-the-Plow is not selling well enough, Kevin Spacey jumps to rescue in the only way he knows how. A poorly proofed Old Vic press release lands on in our inboxes proudly announcing that Hollywood sweetheart Denise Richards has become Assistant Stage Manager on the production, while the role of Audience Member Who Has Left His Mobile Phone On will be played by Jonny Lee Miller, with Dakota Fanning putting in a cameo has his embarrassed daughter. No news yet on who will be taking the part of Artistic Director.
Jersey Boys opens. The Bergerac Fan Club leave at the interval, crushingly disappointed.
Struggling for anything else to write, the critics decide to begin a new debate about theatre blogging by suggesting that in an environment where ‘everyone’s a critic’ our theatre culture loses its rigour. Meanwhile in an attempt to devote more space to adverts, newspaper critics are asked if it would be possible to reduce the length of their reviews slightly, replacing the tradition 300 words with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
Still with nothing to write about, the critics are getting desperate – regularly calling Nick Hytner begging him to say something incendiary. Finally Martin Crimp’s The City opens at the Royal Court, directed by Katie Mitchell. Critics dine out on condescension for the rest of the month.
Black Watch finally lands in London, to a collective critical orgasm from the first stringers. Billington, Spencer and De Jongh trip over each other to claim that the production demonstrates the perfect alliance between formal experiment and the political content, conclusively (I said conclusively) proving that the Future of Theatre™ is much the same as the Present of Theatre, with a bit more dancing.
Nothing happens in July. Literally nothing.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival arrives to a maelstrom of complaints on the Guardian website from irritated people in London bored of hearing people talk about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. These whingers are quickly repelled by a second wave of commenters highlighting how obsessed people are with London the rest of the year. However, in a haunting echo of the Spanish Civil War, this second group quickly becomes riven by infighting over the issue of whether Edinburgh gives more attention to theatre in the regions or is a distraction from it. Following an article by Lyn Gardner claiming that this was a return to form for the festival the debate grows so large that, unable to retain coherency or structure, it collapses, leaking irately polite comments across the Guardian Website.
Slung Low’s Helium, winner of the Samuel Beckett Trust Award 2008, opens at the Barbican. Despite being a wonderful production, the makers quickly realise that the awfulness of previous winners has opened up a critical vacuum in the Pit Theatre, sucking in positive adjectives and review stars, rendering the show tragically luke warm.
Michael Grandage announces his new season at the Donmar, which will include a half week long run for a production of A View from the Bridge, starring Prince William and the body of John Gielgud. Tickets sell out so fast they actually rupture time, throwing some ticket buyers back in time several years to the moment at which the Donmar last did something interesting.
Guardian critic Michael Billington becomes so obsessed by his dislike of sensory titillation he makes the surprising demand that he hears, smells and sees nothing at the theatre. If only, he asserts, there was some way of imbibing political drama as a purely abstract concept, without the lights and the sounds and the theatre to distract us from the serious business of theatre.
Michael Billington is bought a book for Christmas. He retires happy.
Have a Happy New Year.*
(Thought let's get a few things straight about New Year. It's a horrible celebration. As a consequence of the fact that everyone is required to celebrate at precisely the same time, it has somehow become this grotesque fun-off, in which bands of anxious revellers are pitted against each other in some kind of joy-sucking battle to identify the coolest people. Why is it that this party, more than any other is required to represent us - who our friends are, what we like doing, how much fun we are capable of having. I simply can't have fun under all this pressure. Anyway, enough of that or Woody Allen will be round demanding royalties.)