2010 is almost over and with the news filled with items on the big freeze, here is something to get you warmed up and ready for Christmas, as we look back at the year and ask our busy reviewers what they will remember long after Boxing day? See if you agree with our choices. 

Glenn Meads' Productions of 2010
A Raisin In The Sun at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
What can you say about this production that has not already been said? It was the best play of 2010, no argument as it contained excellent performances and was beautifully staged. Not a dry eye in the house and so involving that you never want it to end. Only question is - where is the West End transfer or tour?

Antony and Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse
Kim Cattrall stepped onto the Liverpool stage and stunned audiences with a multi-layered turn. She was simply mesmerising and proved that she does not need the SATC franchise. Good job, given the reviews of the second movie! But with performances like this under her belt, Kim is welcome back in Liverpool anytime.

Les Miserables at the Lowry
This classic show made an appearance at the Palace Theatre and was very good. But by the time it returned to the region at the Lowry, it was absolutely transformed - more epic, more moving and impeccably performed. Gareth Gates was the revelation here but who can forget John Owen Jones' Valjean? There's more life in this one yet.

Michael Hunt's Productions of 2010
There have been some excellent theatre productions once again in the North West in 2010. Within Liverpool, its five main theatres have offered a variety of productions throughout as well as attracting star names.

It’s been a particular big year for the Everyman and Playhouse theatres and, as Glenn Meads mentions, 2010 will always be remembered for Kim Cattrall’s appearance in Antony and Cleopatra but I cast your eye back to the start of the year and the world premiere of Ghost Stories by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. It was different, clever, and ambitious. The production set out to create a sense of suspense and it achieved this. I also applaud Nyman and Dyson for taking risks that some writers and directors avoid doing all together.

66a Church Road – A Lament Made Of Memories And Kept In Suitcases again showed the brilliance of Daniel Kitson’s art of delivery. He’s still, for me, one of the most talented people to ever step foot on the Everyman stage and I can’t wait for his return in 2011.

The year will also be remembered for the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death; the year he would have celebrated his 70th birthday. Bob Eaton’s Royal Court production, Lennon, was the perfect tribute to the former Beatle member. It managed to tell Lennon’s story simply through the lyrics of his most memorable songs and knitted it together with some fine performances from emerging as well as established talent.

Craig Hepworth
Parade at The Lowry (Produced by The Company)
I honestly think this is not only one of the best productions of the year but one of the best I’ve seen, the fact it was classed as an amateur production and performed by teenagers makes it all the more incredible. A truly magnificent musical with a production that exceeded many West End and Touring shows, its short run is heartbreaking and I hope we get to see this again one day. I’m more than a little excited for their next production.

A Raisin in the Sun at the Royal Exchange
I never reviewed this one but if I had, it would have been a glowing rave. Incredible performances, perfect direction and a simplistic production easily beat the most recent Broadway revival, it’s a sheer crime that this did not transfer straight to the West End. Some may rightly accuse the Exchange of just sticking to the classics, but when this is the result it shows they know exactly what they are doing.
 
Susan and Darren as part of Queer up North
Incredible! Reality crashes with theatre in this beautiful inside look in to the world of mother and son. Tears, Laughter and free buffet, what more could a theatre goer possibly want. Susan and Darren is the kind of show that keeps fringe theatre vibrant and exciting, just brilliant.

Poppy Helm
Les Miserables at the Lowry
I finally caught up with the rest of the theatre world and saw Les Miserables for the first time... and suddenly understood what all the fuss was about. Stunning vocal performances and a hugely elaborate set made this a stand-out production.
 
Blaze at the Lowry
A visually stunning modern dance piece with a fantastic soundtrack and a charismatic cast - I could've watched it over and over again. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for these guys in the future.
 
Crying in the Chapel at Contact
For me, a real educational piece that taught me about a significant local event; the Strangeways riot in 1990. An intense piece which left me feeling like I needed to go and find out more about the events.

Julia Taylor
The Canterbury Tales at the Lowry
A five production as it was so well done and very funny. Would Chaucer, who wrote his tales in the 14th century ever believe that people in the 21st century would still be laughing? The cast took on many roles, played musical instruments and sang unaccompanied and they were terrific.

The Comedy of Errors at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
Again, the cast managed to make us laugh at age old jokes. It was directed by Roxana Silbertm the Associate Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her expertise shone through it and I gave it four stars.

Inconsistent Whisper Of Sanity (24/7) New Century House
A much more intimate and smaller scale production which was part of the 24:7 Theatre Festival. Written by playwright Ian Moore who admitted he intended to stretch the audience. You had to concentrate but if you did, his play set in St Petersburg during the Kronstadt rebellion was incredibly rewarding. Full of tension which is eased by a comic ticket collector and a down-to-earth engine driver.

Dave Cunningham
A Raisin in the Sun at the Royal Exchange
Many of this year’s productions from the Royal Exchange deserve to be on ‘ Best Of’ lists. I’ve picked A Raisin in the Sun as the quality of the acting and the power of the text were an irresistible combination.

The Harder They Come at The Lowry
Taking a cinematic approach and using the music as background for the action gave us a fast-paced production. It could have distracted from the quality of the music but the performances ensured that the wonderful Reggae songs were not swamped by the technique.

La Bohéme (Opera North) at The Lowry
I need a lot of help to understand, let alone appreciate, Opera but Phyllida Lloyd’s direction made Opera North’s production so accessible that the audience could just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere and Puccini’s stunning music.

Malcolm Wallace
The 39 Steps at the Manchester Opera House
Slick, fast, funny, witty etc etc. I cannot praise this adaptation and staging of Hitchcock’s film enough. By far the most entertaining stage production I saw in 2010.
 
A Streetcar Named Desire at the Bolton Octagon
The Octagon Theatre is on a roll.  I saw several productions at the theatre this year and all were good, but Streetcar was special. Strong production values, attention to detail and mesmerising performances from Clare Foster and Amy Nuttall as the sisters combined to deliver a powerful and deeply moving production.
 
Our Day Out at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
A hugely entertaining production from the mind of Willy Russell, this musical adaptation of his 1977 television play ticks all the boxes and fully deserves a life beyond the Liverpool production. Credit to all the cast especially the young non-professional performers who all excelled and were clearly relishing every moment.
 
Rebecca Cohen
Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake at The Lowry
Bourne's adaptation of the traditional ballet was just magical, his unique style and quirky ideas being brought to life by a flawless and talented set of dancers.

Lucky Numbers at the Royal Court, Liverpool
This was the best piece of rounded family entertainment I have seen all year. Writer Mike Yeaman did a wonderful job in balancing comedy with seriousness, whilst Sheila Reid led the piece extremely well with her cheeky characterisation of Nana.

Charley's Aunt at the Royal Exchange
It may have been written in the nineteenth century, yet Brandon Thomas' hilarious and farcical script is timeless. A real crowd pleaser, you couldn't help but leave with a smile on your face.

What were your favourite productions staged in the Northwest? Leave your comments below.