One of the joys of being childless is that you can put the money you would have spent on nappies and Nintendo to one side and go and see a lot of plays and films. The downside is that no one will visit me when I’m in a nursing home.
It’s been a brilliant twelve months in terms of culture. I got to spend a few days at Hay on Wye and a week in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival. I got to fulfil a long overdue ambition and see the amazing Blondie perform at the Splendour festival, caught loads of art and culture at the Wirksworth Festival, the Derby Feste and the Embankment Festival.
As ever I’ve read voraciously and watched as many films as I could get through. It’s predictable but as its January I feel obliged to put my oar in and make a few lists of the things I loved in 2011. Humour me. You might not agree with me but this what I especially liked. I’ve only written a brief sentence about each one. Hopefully if you’re tempted you might look some of them up on this internet thing.
I’ve been lucky enough to see over thirty new films this last year and unlucky enough to miss a fair few I didn’t get chance to catch. Here’s my top 5 of the year:
1. Weekend: I loved this film. Talking, talking, talking and lots of themes I could relate. I love a film that’s heavy on dialogue provided it’s well written and this film was an absolute stormer.
2. Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine’s directorial debut was a harrowing film to watch but had poignancy also. Brilliantly acted.
3. Submarine: Very funny film. It made me laugh for too long.
4. The Awakening: I do like a good ghost film and the twisty plot defeated my powers of deduction. Very atmospheric.
5. We Need to Talk About Kevin: I watched this with trepidation, expecting a botch job of one of my favourite books but was pleasantly surprised.
I love a bit of stand-up and caught loads of stuff at Edinburgh, at the Leicester Comedy Festival and around the country, seeing more than 40 acts in total. These were my favourites:
1. Scott Capuro: irreverent and offensive to everyone, indiscriminately. My kind of act.
2. Isy Suttie: She’s off of “Peep Show” and she sings hilarious comedy songs. Love her stuff.
3. Zoe Lyons: This woman seems to speak with my brain.
4. David Sedaris: Not strictly a stand-up but David is hilarious. If you get chance then try to see him. He has genius comic timing and commands a room just by standing at a lectern and reading from his own stuff. Amazing
5. Bethany Black: Astute observational comedy which made me howl
Theatre is my main passion and if I could I would definitely see more. It’s so bloody expensive though. I managed to catch over 50 plays and dance performances though and these were my favourites.
1. Plenty (Sheffield Theatres): Exceptionally well executed and acted version of the David Hare play
2. End of the Rainbow: Moving and entertaining drama about the frailties of Judy Garland
3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Sheffield Theatres): I’ve seen this play many times and this was one of the best versions I’ve seen, with two outstanding leads.
4. Untitled Love Story (Edinburgh): Evocative new play which didn’t get an especially good critical reception but I loved it nonetheless
5. The Pride (Sheffield Theatres): Another success from the brilliant team at Sheffield.
I’ve read over 80 novels this year and I’ve chosen 5 that came out in 2011 which I especially enjoyed.
1. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Multi character tale of life in the music industry which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Brilliant stuff.
2. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham: An intense new novel by the fantastic author of The Hours
3. Smut by Alan Bennett: Short and sweet tales of lust in the middle aged by a master writer
4. Eleven by Mark Watson: Darkly comic tale with well drawn characters and a very human story by a well known stand-up comedian who writes beautifully
5. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst: A sprawling tale by a superb writer
I saw more dance performances this year than I have before and a special mention goes to “L.O.L.” by Protein Dance. It’s touring the country this year. I can’t recommend this enough, witty and very skilled,. Watch the clip and if you can catch it. Even if you think you don’t like contemporary dance I’m sure lots of you would love this.
Hopefully I’ll continue to get to see loads of great stuff this year and I hope you will too.