Readers’ favourite stage shows of 2022 | Stage

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Leeds Playhouse

I had been wanting to see Hedwig live for the better part of four years and it somehow managed to surpass my expectations. The atmosphere in the room during the first preview was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I really hope it comes back next year as more people should get to see it. Ella Catherall, 22, Edinburgh

Wilf

Traverse theatre, Edinburgh

From the beginning, this show was so funny and tender and shocking. I cackled with glee, the performers were fantastic, the writing was stunning, the use of music, the sound, the lights, the design – everything! As a theatre director (especially a sick director at the fringe) you can become desensitised to work and notice the container more than the story, or you don’t always leave plays as euphorically inspired as others. I voicenoted 10 friends immediately after the show because I desperately wanted them to share this experience. Stephanie Kempson, 35, Bristol

Magnolia Walls

Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne

An amazing show that used testimonies from real military spouses to present a piece of theatre that gave a voice to a silent group of women who aren’t acknowledged or celebrated by the armed forces. Powerful storytelling. Sarah Dodd, 40, Northumberland

To Kill a Mockingbird

Gielgud theatre, London

This year it has to be, hands down, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was well worth the wait after the first run was postponed. Rafe Spall was brilliant as Atticus. It’s such a wonderful story and this production really did it justice (pardon the pun). I still get emotional when I think of the last line, “All rise”. Jenny Hughes, 52, Northamptonshire

Dickie Beau in ¡Showmanism! Photograph: Sarah Ainslie

¡Showmanism!

Theatre Royal Bath

After an overwhelming and difficult year, watching this show by Dickie Beau helped restore my faith in humanity. It reminded me how beautiful humanity’s freakish obsession with sharing and creating stories really is. It reminded me how sympathetic humans are as creatures; we are all just tiny little specks in a massive confusing universe, and all we are trying to do is recognise and be recognised in return. This show honours that endeavour so cleverly and beautifully. Lorelei, 21, London

The Book Thief

Bolton Octagon

I knew the book but didn’t know what to expect from a musical adaptation – and it turned out to be superb. The songs worked well, the stage scenery and lighting were stunning on such a small stage. There was also a bit of puppetry, which was just beautiful. It was a standing ovation and floods of tears from me. This show should definitely tour. Jan, 48, Manchester

Folk

Hampstead theatre, London

I heard good things and went without knowing much about it. It’s an intimate, very moving show. The writing and directing were great, and the four players performed gracefully. One of the rare times where theatre really speaks to you and makes you part of it. Julio Roel, 50, NHS nurse, London

Whale of a Time

Alphabetti theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

A beautiful story of two men, one old and one young, thrown together in the belly of a whale with no idea what connects them. It explores generational differences and how the world has changed in the north-east through a growing relationship between the two. It made me laugh out loud and sob my heart out. It stayed with me for a long time after. Ann Hunter, 54, Gateshead

Our Generation

National Theatre, London

I have an educational background and the characters resonated with me in ways that made me remember the very best about students and schools and families with school-age children. The harrowing final act made me recognise the profound impact Covid has had on the mental and physical wellbeing of an entire generation of children. Our Generation should be prescribed watching for everyone connected with the delivery of education in this country. Richard Pace, London

Siena Kelly and Jake Davies in That Is Not Who I Am/Rapture at the Royal Court, London.
Siena Kelly and Jake Davies in That Is Not Who I Am/Rapture at the Royal Court, London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

That Is Not Who I Am/Rapture

Royal Court, London

At a time when disinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories abound, here was a play (promoted as That Is Not Who I Am by Dave Davidson) about the nature of belief, about our own gullibility and confirmation bias. In Rapture, Lucy Kirkwood lies to us and then lies to us again, and even as the play spirals into absurdity, an astonishing number of spectators (and I saw the show twice) left the theatre believing that the central couple were real, that their story had indeed been suppressed by the Home Office. Susceptibility to conspiracy beliefs, the play shows us, is not exclusively the province of a right-wing fringe. And the fact that the show generated such outsized controversy (for all the wrong reasons) only proved its point. It made my heart race. Alex, 34, Durham, North Carolina, US

My Neighbour Totoro

Barbican, London

It was amazing to see one of my favourite animation films brought to life on stage while still retaining its charm. The puppetry was brilliant – I’m still in awe of how they did certain scenes. Ami Okumura Jones and Mei Mac were amazing in the lead roles. The audience couldn’t help but be in awe when Totoro appeared on stage. It’s one of the longest standing ovations I have ever seen in a theatre, and rightly so. I left with a big smile on my face. Sol Loredo, 31, Stockton-on-Tees

Cashy C’s: The Musical

Bradford

Cashy C’s: The Musical is a site-specific theatre experience set in a pawnbroker’s shop. The piece used bassline and rap to tell working-class stories of people living on the breadline in the UK today. The razor-sharp and well written script brought colour and life to otherwise depressing stories of what living under a Conservative government has been like for many people. Created before the cost of living crisis, the topic seems more urgent today than ever – as many people struggle to heat their homes and feed their children. As well as a play, this was also a call to action for audience members to hold the government to account on their role in the over 330,000 excess deaths in Great Britain linked to austerity. Jack, Bradford

Don Quixote

Dundee Rep

I go to most productions at the Rep as well as others around the country, and this really stood out. It’s beautifully written in a way that combined humour and emotion. Original in its setting and relevant in its subject matter, it left a lasting impression on me. It was also very well acted, overall such an enjoyable production. Laura Li, 47, Dundee

David Tennant and Sharon Small in Good at the Harold Pinter theatre, London.
David Tennant and Sharon Small in Good at the Harold Pinter theatre, London. Photograph: Johan Persson

Good

Harold Pinter theatre, London

I have always rated David Tennant as a stage actor and he did not disappoint in this intense production, with just three actors for the majority of the play. The shocking final images that show where this good man has ended up are chilling, because it is all too believable, especially in the current climate where government seeks people to blame for their own failings and looks to deflect our hate and anger at them. John Deeth, 58, Gloucestershire

The Royal Ballet: Mayerling

Royal Opera House, London

By a mile it is Mayerling with Vadim Muntagirov playing the lead role of Prince Rudolf. I saw both his performances and would have gone to more if he’d been dancing more. It is the most incredible dancing and acting performance I’ve seen in over 30 years of regular ballet attendance. I was in tears long before the end. It is a great ballet and he has proved he is not only the greatest male classical dancer in the world today, but a great interpreter of an incredibly complex character. Well done Vadim, and also the Royal Ballet for the incredible coaching they give their dancers. Joan Hopton, 66, Preston

The Land of Lost Content

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Written and performed by Henry Madd, this was my favourite show of the Edinburgh fringe: a beautiful blend of theatre and poetry that took us on a moving coming-of-age story. It was storytelling at its most pure. The crafting of the words was mesmerisingly beautiful but it also included the realism of how hard your teen years can be, stripping away the shininess of growing up in an idyllic place and replacing it with the more relatable grit of reality. The poetry gave it a great rhythm and the drama kept me hooked throughout. Charlotte Coster, 30, West Sussex

The Misfortune of the English

The Orange Tree, Richmond

A new play about a true story. Some 1930s schoolboys got lost on a holiday in Germany after their teacher led them on a misadventure, to devastating ends. The play was simply extraordinary; it explored a peculiarly English syndrome – of unearned, entitled supremacy and where it leads. As a European living in the UK, it was a play that really spoke to me. The production was extraordinary; the whole set design was fog, that transformed a theatre space into mountains. The acting was moving, and I felt sorry for the English, but now understand them better. I’d love to see it return. Chris, Richmond

Outlier

Bristol Old Vic

I’ve seen Outlier twice and I was blown away both times. I am a from a rural working-class background and theatre never felt like it was for me until I saw this show in a pub in Bristol. I then heard it was going to the Old Vic, and was interested to see what it was going to be like there. I loved it and I’ve been back to the theatre a few times since. I’ve never seen myself represented in theatre so this felt special. Chris Hyde, 30, Bristol

Enough of Him

National Theatre of Scotland

This play blew me away and left me speechless when leaving the theatre. The way it dealt with slavery as well as marriages not based around love was so direct and powerful. Jacob Dudgeon, 25, Dundee

Man of 100 Faces

King’s Head theatre, London

Man of 100 Faces is a biography of Sir Paul Dukes and his exploits as a spy in revolutionary Russia. It’s a one-man show, written and enacted by Saul Boyer, who plays the lead and a cast of other well-defined characters with seamless brilliance. The title could equally describe Dukes and Boyer. With few props but boundless energy, he propels the life story with humour and genuine suspense to create a magical drama. Proper storytelling by a virtuoso performer. Paul Bogan, 65, London