It's that time of year again, when we look back at the performances, the productions and the reasons why this site exists - brilliant theatre staged and seen in the north west. Let us guide you through what we consider to be the best productions of the year seen in this region from our writers. See if you agree with any of them.



Glenn Meads' Productions of 2012
The Match Box at the Liverpool Playhouse Studio space
What a stunning production - Leanne Best gives a mesmerising performance which taps into every emotion and she lets it all out. Simply staged, gripping, poignant and all encompassing - The Match Box is one of those plays that lives with you forever.

The Norman Conquests Trilogy at the Liverpool Playhouse
Seeing them on their own is fine because they are stand alone productions but watching these Alan Ayckbourn classics as a triple bill offered audiences a laughter fest. Seeing the same audience members all day makes you feel part of something and the effect was unique, incredibly funny and heart warming.

A Streetcar Named Desire
at the Liverpool Playhouse
I kept going back to the Playhouse this year because the superb productions just kept on coming. This was another one - led by the brilliant Amanda Drew as Blanche and the excellent Leanne Best (again) as Stella. Atmospheric, sultry and with performances to die for - this excellent production proves why the Playhouse is a gem of a theatre and production company.

David Cunningham
Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Impressive in tackling a distressing subject with grace and imagination so that the play was powerful and moving rather than mawkish.

Julius Caesar at the Lowry (on tour)
A background of tribal conflict in South Africa brought a vivid political aspect to the play and I liked the slightly duplicitous Mark Anthony.

Manchester Lines at First Street - staged by the Library Theatre.
2012 featured many plays staged in imaginative settings requiring unusual levels of audience participation. Manchester Lines was an excellent example of this approach and also served to celebrate the city.

Francesca Waite
Star-Cross'd, at Oldham Coliseum
An uplifting and innovative modern-day Romeo and Juliet, with some vibrant and touching performances set alongside the natural beauty of Oldham's Alexandra Park enhanced by some luxurious stage design.

Close The Coalhouse Door, Northern Stage and Live Theatre at The Lowry
A relevant revival of Alan Plater's 1960s docudrama charting British mining history over 130 years, with Samuel West's engaging direction, a functional but stunning design and powerful performances by a talented ensemble.

Black Roses at The Royal Exchange Studio
The true story of the killing of Sophie Lancaster told bravely with accounts from her mother, Sylvia, alongside affecting poetry by Simon Armitage. With moving but understated performances by Julie Hesmondhalgh and Rachel Austin, and the avoidance of all sentimentality in Sarah Frankcom's direction, this production can't fail to last in the audience's memory.

Craig Hepworth
American Idiot at the Palace Theatre, Manchester
By far one of the most exciting, inventive musicals of the past decade, whilst a few of the Manchester critics felt mixed about it, the show has received some rave reviews around the country and audiences seemed genuinely excited both the nights I attended. Green Days music (that was written as a story based album) pulsates with energy and the hidden depth beneath the surface of this show make it one of the greatest things I have seen on stage in some time.
 
Bette and Joan – The Final Curtain at the Lowry
A fantastic comedy about those battling Hollywood Legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. This was one of the best surprises of the year for me, a very funny comedy that managed to be touching at the same time. The clever story sees one of the ladies at the end of her life....and her arch rival who has already died is back in spirit to help guide her to the afterlife, not before they go a few more rounds first though. Brilliant touring fringe show, hopefully it will return soon
 
An Inspector Calls at the Lowry
Having never seen this before it was wonderful to get the chance to see the show that seems to have been around since time began. It’s easy to see why this play won so many awards, thrilling, exciting and with a brilliant score to match. The company was perfect and the rather inventive set and lighting made for a perfect evening.

Laura Maley
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs at the Lowry
Clever, gruesome and hilarious, I loved Kill The Beast’s first production for its endless supply of laughs, inventive song and dance numbers and a fabulous ensemble cast.

All The Bens at New Century House, Manchester (24:7 Festival)
A fantastic ensemble of Thomas McGarva, Dominic Vulliamy and Daniel McCann portray three equally strong characters. Ian Townsend’s three-hander is as deeply touching as it is brilliantly funny.

You Once Said Yes at The Lowry, Salford Quays
An audience of one, on a journey into the unknown; meeting strangers, forming relationships and reacting to incredible scenarios. An excellent cast and exemplary logistics make this a memorable experience.




Do you agree? What were your highlights of 2012? Leave your comments below.