Top news stories of 2018
From new artistic directors, to Gillian Lynne passing away, we round up some of the biggest news stories of the year
Blimey, we've reached the end of 2018! Well done everyone. As we're done we've decided to look back on some of the hottest news stories of the last 12 months.
Some dismaying news in June was that political playwright James Graham's script for his upcoming Brexit TV drama had been leaked online. The script for the Channel 4 programme, which is due to star Benedict Cumberbatch, was stolen and Graham took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
In October the news finally arrived that the long awaited Dear Evan Hansen was arriving in the UK. It's not the only big American import that was announced this year – shows like Waitress and Come From Away and more are also on the cards.
2018 was a big year for re-opening theatres, Kiln Theatre reopened officially in September 2018, following a name change that was announced in April. Many people came out in support of the new moniker and expressed delight at the new look. Meanwhile, the beautiful Battersea Arts Centre's Grand Hall re-opened in September after a fire almost entirely destroyed the space in March 2015.
When the Old Vic announced a new musical about suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst – staged to mark the 200th anniversary of some women being given the vote – we were excited. But as the show opened in September, it delayed its press night and turned its first preview into a dress rehearsal. The musical never entirely recovered from its problems, but we saw it and on the basis of its initial outing, we decided we couldn't wait to see what it would be when finished.
This year seems to be the year for new productions of West Side Story. Belgian visionary director Ivo van Hove announced he would be directing a new production on Broadway in 2020. That version will feature new choreography from Teresa De Keersmaeker – so not Jerome Robbins. Later in the year the Royal Exchange announced it would be staging the first UK production not to use Robbins' choreography and the Curve in Leicester will be running the musical over Christmas 2019. It was definitely the year for West Side Story news.
We'd probably say that every year was the year of the understudy, such unsung heroes are they. But in 2018 we most definitely saw lots of high profile understudy moments in London, not least Jennifer Caldwell, who was working front of house and was called upon to step in for someone on Knights of the Rose at the Arts Theatre in July. That followed closely on from Super Trouper Steph Parry who raced across London from 42nd Street to make sure the show would go on for Mamma Mia!
Probably one of the most exciting announcements of the year for WhatsOnStage readers was that Heathers the Musical would be arriving in London. It opened initially in June at the Other Palace theatre before transferring to the West End later in the year. You all went completely bananas for the show which was an absolute blast.
There were many sad deaths in 2018, including the inimitable Cicely Berry, RSC voice coach and all-round theatre person extraordinaire. In July, the brilliant choreographer Gillian Lynne passed away aged 92, just days after Andrew Lloyd Webber re-named the New London Theatre the Gillian Lynne Theatre. An appropriate tribute, we felt.
In 2018 we saw some legends convene for the 18th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards at the Prince of Wales Theatre. It was an absolute delight to be there to watch as the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, John McCrea, Carrie Hope Fletcher and many more were given their #WOSAwards. This year promises to be even bigger and better, so we'd probably advise getting your tickets now... The UK faired well in awards elsewhere, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Angels in America getting lots of Tony nominations and wins.
There was big news in theatre's critical landscape in May this year, after the Guardian let Lyn Gardner go as a reviewer after 23 years. It caused shock waves throughout the industry, with many high profile theatre creatives coming out in support of her work. Since the announcement, Gardner has continued writing for The Stage, the Independent and many more, however, so her unique and importance voice has not been lost.
It was announced only this month that the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End had been acquired by the aptly named Ambassador Theatre Group. The venue was reportedly sold for around £12 million, with ATG taking over running the venue in early January. It marks a big change for the London theatre landscape.
Last year Tom Hiddleston starred in Kenneth Branagh's RADA production of Hamlet, which had limited tickets available. Luckily this year Hiddleston announced his latest stage venture, and it should be a tiny bit easier to get tickets (but this is Hiddleston, so still make sure you're first in the queue). After releasing a mysterious trailer online, the news came that he would be performing in Harold Pinter's Betrayal as part of Jamie Lloyd's ambitious season of Pinter plays.
There were several very exciting artistic director announcements this year, not least the recent Tarek Iskander at BAC, Lynette Linton at the Bush Theatre, Madani Younis at the Southbank Centre, Rachel O'Riordan at the Lyric, Roxana Silbert at Hampstead and Michael Longhurst at the Donmar Warehouse. We can't wait to see what all these (relative) newbies get up to.
Following the revelations last year around harassment in the creative industries, Equity released a code of conduct in April, called Agenda for Change. It moved to establish, once and for all, safe spaces for its 43,000 members to work in, free of sexual and other harassment, bullying and abuse. It was a welcome and necessary announcement.