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The Year 2000 in Review: Best of the Bunch

With Olivier nominations out this week, Whatsonstage.com contributing editor Mark Shenton is minded to cast his own votes in the final instalment of our three-part series on the past year in London’s theatreland.

By • West End

1. Best New Play: Blue Orange, seen at the National's Cottesloe and now transferring to the West End's Duchess, shed light on the state of the NHS.

2. Best Play Revival: The Caretaker, starring Michael Gambon, Rupert Graves and Douglas Hodge at the Comedy, shows Closer author Patrick Marber, in the director’s chair, paying homage to Harold Pinter.

3. Best New Musical: My pick here is a toss-up between Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Beautiful Game and Cameron Mackintosh's production of The Witches of Eastwick. With these productions, both men have forged a different path to the well-worn ones they've previously travelled along.

4. Best Musical Revival: Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse, a 1981 Stephen Sondheim Broadway flop, proved – under Michael Grandage’s direction – to be a thrilling emotional as well as musical journey into lost ideals and lost youth.

5. Best Director: Michael Grandage consequently wins my vote for this accolade, not just for the aforementioned Merrily but also for Passion Play (also at the Donmar) and for As You Like It at the Lyric Hammersmith. He has demonstrated himself to be as comfortable and adept with the classics as he is with modern drama and musicals.

Noteworthy work was also done in 2000 by: Max Stafford-Clark (with a double-bill of Andrea Dunbar's Rita, Sue and Bob, Too and A State Affair) that confirms him as our best director of contemporary drama, period; and Peter Gill, whose revival of Speed-the-Plow was a model of observation and great acting from a trio that comprised US actress Kimberley Williams, UK playwright Patrick Marber (second mention for this author/director/performer) and Mark Strong.

6. Best of Everything Else: This category probably looks like a lump of Best Actors and Actresses plus a few anomalies. But they also deserve special credit. So let’s not forget: Maureen Lipman's hilarious yet touching portrait of play agent Peggy Ramsay in Peggy For You; Maggie Smith in the title role of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van; Harriet Walter, a striking Lady Macbeth opposite Antony Sher for the RSC and strikingly different in Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 at the National; Frances de la Tour's tour-de-force in Noel Coward's Fallen Angels; Victoria Hamilton in As You Like It; Anne-Marie Duff in Collected Stories and as Nora in A Doll's House; Elaine Paige for her Mrs Anna in The King and I; Charles Dance, Paul Rudd and Paul Nicholls as the men in Long Day's Journey into Night; Frank McGuinness for his touching play Dolly West's Kitchen at the Old Vic; Matthew Bourne for his latest Adventures in Motion Pictures dance drama, The Car Man, also at the Old Vic.


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