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The Green Room: What is the best theatre show you have ever seen?

A selection of shows chosen by our panel. Clockwise from top left: Jerusalem, Chimerica, Les Miserables and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photos: Tristram Kenton

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​

John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film

Rosemary Crackers is 50 and has worked extensively in TV, film and theatre for nearly 30 years

Adam Lovett, 45, has appeared in Oscar-winning films, on TV and in theatre at the RSC, National Theatre, and the West End

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Jenny Talbot is 39 and has 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays

 

Peter A few possibilities – mostly from long ago, perhaps rose-tinted.

Rosemary If it’s about individual performance, then it’s [Mark Rylance] in Jerusalem. Or the Judy Garland one with Tracie Bennett.

JonIt was called End of the Rainbow.

Adam So many, and inevitably the ones I saw earlier in my career made more of an impression. The all-male As You Like It that Declan Donnellan directed with Adrian Lester. The original production of The Weir.

Jenny There are different shows for different times in my life, but Les Miserables is up there. The storytelling is immaculate.

John Chimerica was astounding.

Albert The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a joy. Having read the book first, the show was beyond expectations and told the story in a way that only theatre can.

Adam A lot of Robert Lepage, in particular Seven Streams of the River Ota. And Complicite’s Mnemonic. A lot of Complicite really. It’s hard to choose one.

Rosemary Mine are all quite recent as I didn’t go to the theatre much when I was young.

Albert The shows I saw as a child, which gave me my love for theatre, and were probably terrible, have a real place in the list.

Jenny An incredible King Lear with Robert Stephens at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I think the director was Adrian Noble.

Peter Vanessa Redgrave in The Lady from the Sea. A Manchester Royal Exchange production that came to London’s Roundhouse, directed by Michael Elliott. The set was rock pools and she entered running and splashing through them. The soundscape was terrific with whale sounds the call of the sea.

John I suppose that’s getting to the heart of it. ‘What is the best?’ is a different question to ‘What has been the best theatrical experience?’

Adam The Richard Eyre production of Guys and Dolls. I saw the revival with Clive Rowe four times. It was amazing.

Albert More recently, A Monster Calls at the Old Vic was incredibly powerful.

Adam Oh God, and Ian Holm’s King Lear. Now that was special.

Rosemary Anyone else waiting to hear the name of a show they were in?

Peter I also saw Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The fairies were magical – trapezes and spinning plates. The lovers were hilarious. Sadly the Mechanicals weren’t.

Rosemary I loved the first production of Angels in America.

Jenny I was lucky enough to witness The Passion of Port Talbot [National Theatre Wales’ opening production] a few years ago. Immersive, site-specific stuff has never been my bag, but that was incredibly special.

Peter Hair was a big event when it first opened.

Adam Stephen Dillane and Linus Roache in Uncle Vanya at the Young Vic. With Jo McInnes and Anastasia Hille. That stays with me.

Rosemary Oh I didn’t enjoy that Uncle Vanya. And this is why they shouldn’t give prizes for art, see? Because it’s subjective.

Jenny I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Chekhov play…

John I’ve never enjoyed Chekhov either. I’ve tried so hard.

Albert ‘What makes a good show?’ might be a better question then. Rosemary is right. This is subjective. I love the sense of anticipation sitting in the stalls waiting for a show to start that you have heard is very good. And then, when it delivers, the feeling you have walking on air along the pavement as you leave.

Jenny Something that stays with you, that moves you, that makes you leave the theatre surprised that the world is still there… This is slightly old school, but the original Crazy for You was absolutely joyous.

Peter The first production of No Man’s Land with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.

John My first experiences seeing shows at the RSC will stay with me.

JonI’m trying to count how many actors, directors, playwrights, names we have in this topic. We’ve mentioned actors the most.

Adam Well, Complicite and Lepage are more director-led.

JonTrue, but we have mentioned fewer directors.

John So it’s about performance? I suppose performance moves me more than the show itself.

Adam Well, the As You Like It was terrific mainly because of Declan and not just because Adrian Lester was the best thing in the world (he was very good).

Rosemary Gasping is important. Things that make you gasp.

JonI gasped at that As You Like It. Lester put in a register change on “If I were a man” in the epilogue and it was one of the most exciting, confusing gender-queer moments I’ve ever seen on stage.

John Adrian Lester’s been in some amazing shows. I could make a list just of his. That Othello with Rory Kinnear.

JonI was in that. You get to be teacher’s pet this week.

Jenny I don’t think it’s about the actor for me, it’s usually the storytelling and the way of putting it across.

Adam There’s a feeling when you see a show that changes your life – that they were performing just for you. It saw into a part of you that no one else can see. That’s what makes it all so special.

Albert This is such a personal topic. Nobody is right or wrong.

John As a self-involved actor, my favourite productions are mostly the ones I’ve been in.

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