Monday, 4 January 2016

The Plastic Bag Awards 2015

It's that time of year again, it's time for the Plastic Bag Awards 2015, affectionately known as the Baggies! The nominations have been scrutinised, the judging panel have locked themselves away in a room for a couple of day to argue the case for one nominee above another and have finally been released with unanimous decisions.

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I give you … the Baggies 2015!

Best Theatre - Shakespeare

As we enter the 400th anniversary of the death of Mr Shakespeare then this award has slightly more poignancy that normal. I saw quite a few Shakespeare productions in 2015, including the long-awaited Benedict Cumberbatch version of 'Hamlet'. As ever in recent years, there were a goodly few visits to Shakespeare's Globe for some open-air theatre over the summer as well as sundry productions in more normal theatres. The nominations are:

'Romeo & Juliet' @ The Globe
'The Merchant of Venice' @ The Globe
'Measure for Measure' @ The Globe
'As You Like It' @ the National Theatre
'The Winter's Tale' @ The Garrick Theatre

The winner is the last Shakespeare production I saw over the year, the new Kenneth Branagh company production of 'The Winter's Tale' which is the best production of that play that I've yet seen. It gained double points for being set at Christmas with snow outside and a Christmas Tree inside. Judi Dench was superb.

Best Theatre - Drama

I saw a lot of plays in 2015 and most would fall into this category. I saw a great version of 'Not I' in the Beckett festival at the Barbican over the summer and a touching 'Our Country's Good' at the National but I'm afraid both were pipped at the post. The nominees are:

'Di and Viv and Rose' @ the Vaudeville Theatre
'The Motherfucker With The Hat' @ the National Theatre
'The Oresteia' @ The Globe
'Stevie' @ Hampstead Theatre
'Mr Foote's Other Leg' @ Hampstead Theatre

There were some great productions this year and included some very pleasant surprises like 'The Mofo in the Hat' and 'Stevie' but the Baggy must go to 'Mr Foote's Other Leg' with Simon Russell Beale and Dervla Kirwan, a great script and a great production.

Best Theatre - Musical

It's been a funny year for the musical - the West End is still full of them but where are the new musicals coming through? We need some new smash hits, I think, and I'm hoping that 'Kinky Boots' will rise to the challenge. The nominees are:

'Beautiful' @ the Aldwych Theatre
'Grand Hotel' @ Southwark Playhouse
'Kinky Boots' @ the Adelphi Theatre
'Guys and Dolls' @ the Savoy Theatre
'Xanadu' @ Southwark Theatre

The winner is probably inevitable judging from the number of times I went back to see it on its short run at Southwark - the masterpiece that is 'Grand Hotel'! The great cast led by Scott Garnham as the Baron and Christine Gimandi as Grushinskaya. Well done people!

Best Entertainment

As you all know by now, an 'entertainment' is anything that isn't a proper play or musical and includes a wide variety of productions, from staged talks to one-off events and song cycles. The nominees are:

'Sweeney Todd' @ the Coliseum
'An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer' @ Hackney Empire
Tracey Thorn @ Waterstone's, Piccadilly
'Songs for a New World' @ St James's Theatre
'La Soiree' on the Southbank

The winner is 'Songs for a New World' party because it was completely new for me and something to discover and largely because of Cynthia Erivo who is currently making it big on Broadway.

Best Film

I didn't see many new films in 2015 but saw a few old films in new prints, cleaned up and re-presented. The nominees are:

'Travels With My Aunt' @ the British Film Institute
'Into The Woods' @ Brixton Ritzy
'Wild Tales' @ Curzon Victoria
'Brief Encounter @ the British Film Institute
'Gone With The Wind' @ the British Film Institute

In a surprise to myself, the winner of 'Best Film' is 'Brief Encounter' with it's terribly British accents and acting. It's a timeless love story that I've seen before on TV but seeing it on the big screen was a very different experience. Well done to Celia and Trevor, our immortal lovers.

Best Gig

2015 was a year of few gigs but they were all really good and mainly old favourites rather than new people. The nominees are:

Buffy Sainte-Marie @ the O2 Brooklyn Bowl
Amanda Palmer @ Union Chapel
Culture Club @ Hammersmith
Madonna @ the O2
Kim Wilde's Christmas Party @ the Coronet

The winner is Buffy Sainte-Marie at Brooklyn Bowl at the O2. I'd seen Buffy earlier in the year at the Tabernacle but the Brooklyn Bowl gig was spectacular in more ways than one: the new album was released by then so we had some great live versions of the songs, there was a fabulous light show, the sound was excellent and there was a definite good vibe surrounding the place. Well done Buffy!

Best Live Performance

This category is for a single performance on a stage, whether it's at a gig or in a musical, it's the performance that matters. The nominees are:

'Roses at the Station' by Scott Garnham in 'Grand Hotel'
'Stars & the Moon' by Jenna Russell in 'Songs for a New World'
'Power In The Blood' by Buffy Sainte-Marie @ Brooklyn Bowl
'Rebel Heart' by Madonna @ the O2
'Kids In America' by Kim Wilde @ the Coronet

There were some great performances this year but the winner is Jenna Russell's touching song about growth and love from 'Songs for a New World'. She gave different performances in that show to reflect the mood and the song but her wistful love song wins the day. Well done Jenna!

Best Exhibition

2015 was a year of some great exhibitions and the Goya portraits and 'Defining Beauty' Greek statues exhibitions narrowly missed the nominations, which are:

'Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends' @ the National Portrait Gallery
'Inventing Impressionism' @ the National Gallery
'Grayson Perry - Who Are You?' @ the National Portrait Gallery
'Sonia Delaunay' @ Tate Modern
Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun at Le Grand Palais, Paris

The winner is Sonia Delaunay with her wonderfully colourful works that made me gasp with wonder and shed a tear at the beauty of her paintings.

Best Book

A variety of books were explored this year, fiction, non-fiction and autobiography and the nominees are:

'Naked at the Albert Hall' by Tracey Thorn
'Anger is an Energy' by John Lydon
'The Shepherd's Crown' by Terry Pratchett
'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' by Neil Gaiman
'Black by Design' by Pauline Black

The winner is John Lydon for his brutally honest autobiography, 'Anger is an Energy' in which he tackles some very difficult experiences head on. We get Johnny Rotten and John Lydon - two for the price of one. Well done John!

Best Dance

This is a new category for 2015 when I discovered the joys of dance. The nominees are:

'Woolf Works' by the Royal Ballet @ Royal Opera House
'Triple Bill' by Birmingham Royal Ballet @ Sadler's Wells
'Romeo & Juliet' by the Royal Ballet @ Royal Opera House
'Nutcracker' by the Royal Ballet @ Royal Opera House
'Sleeping Beauty' by Matthew Bourne's New Adventures @ Sadler's Wells

'Woolf Works' was the catalyst that made me want to explore ballet so hats off to that production, but it was 'Romeo & Juliet' that made me fall in love with ballet and that production by the Royal Ballet is the winner. The athleticism, the dancing, the staging and costumes all brought this classic tale to life and captured my imagination. And made me want to see more. Luckily the production is captured on DVD and, even luckier, I have it. Well done Royal Ballet!

And there you have them - the Baggies 2015! All the nominees should be pleased with themselves for making the final cut and, while not everyone can be a winner, simply being nominated is an honour and tribute.  2016 is a new year so let's see what it brings...

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