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  • Writer's pictureAndrew G. Cooper

The Top 10 Shows I Saw in 2018

It's time again for my annual year-end wrap up of theatre watching! Last year I made the goal of seeing at least 50 shows in 2018 and by golly I did it! I saw 70 shows this year and I'm already excited to see what I dive into for 2019. Though only in its second year, I really love doing these lists because they remind me of all the amazing theatre that I saw over the last 52 weeks. It gives me a retrospective look at what I admire and love about theatre and what I aspire to contribute to the theatre community that I'm a part of.

This year's list is going to be extra special because I had the delightful opportunity to travel to London, UK and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! If you're interested in reading a bit about my tastes in theatre and what I saw last year, you can check out last year's top ten list!

So here it is, my top ten list for 2019 in ascending order.


10. Redpatch by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver (Citadel Theatre)

I'm a sucker for a good movement show and this show did physical theatre right. I thought the mask work was creative and effective, and the mix of wartime and indigenous stories and storytelling was compelling. The production's use of set pieces props was low tech and inventive. I loved the physical vocabulary that was established in the opening sequence and then repeated throughout the piece. It was a strong story told by strong performers and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

9. The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe (Verb Theatre and Calgary Young People's Theatre)

Photo: Rob Galbraith

What a powerful script. No wonder it's won multiple awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The language was so true and fierce and the actors in this production really rocked it. I loved seeing a group of young women who were actually teenagers take on these roles, it's one of the reasons I think the writing felt so alive to me while in the audience. It was fast-paced, fun, and kicked ass.

8. Games by Henry Naylor (Guilded Balloon and Redbeard Theatre)

Photo: Steve Ullathorne

This show is one of the most relevant pieces of theatre I saw this year and definitely a highlight of the Edinburgh Fringe for me. The parallels between Nazi Germany and contemporary America shown through the struggles of these athletes in the olympics were startling. The only thing I loved more than the two actors in the show were the two characters they were portraying. It was eloquent, simple storytelling with massive heart and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

7. Backup (Chaliwaté Company and Focus Company)

Photo: Alice Piemme

This show really left me wanting more in the best way! The performers were masters of objects and puppetry, using scale, multimedia, and their bodies to garner humour and weave an intricate story without words. There was a reveal at the end of a polar bear that was hidden on stage the whole show that was just incredible.

6. GLORY by Tracey Power (Western Canada Theatre)

Photo: Western Canada Theatre

This show was fun. I love the swing music and all the hockey (told through dance) was delightful to watch. The show had a good message and left me thinking, which I always love in a good piece of theatre.

5. Thrones! The Musical Parody (RME)

Photo: Thrones! The Musical Parody

Game of Thrones and a musical? Two of my favourite things! This show was way better than I thought it was going to be. There was a great variety of musical theatre song styles and the singing was top notch. The show was obviously geared towards hardcore fans of the HBO Game of Thrones series, so I got a lot of pleasure from the many references and inside jokes. This is the first time I saw a show where I understood the kind of cult fanacism that something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show has. They made a great story and I was very impressed with the staging and theatricality. It was a fringe show, through and through.

4. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard (Alberta Theatre Projects)

Photo: Benjamin Laird

What a beautiful play; very thoughtful and funny. I can hardly believe I've never seen it or even read it before! The performers knocked it out of the park (especially the two leading ladies!) and left me both thinking and feeling at the end.

3. My Land (Recirquel Company)

Photo : Pályi Zsófia

I've seen circus before, but never like this. Start to finish, this show was full of things that I didn't think were humanly possible, and I'm not being hyperbolic. The performers were all so strong and dynamic and the show was full of surprises and things I've never seen on stage before. The lighting and set and use of mirrors and sand in the show was very impressive.

2. Children of God by Corey Payette (Western Canada Theatre)

Photo: Emily Cooper

This could be the most powerful musical I've seen to date. This show really soars. It's so important, has a great message, a beautiful score and great performances. The ending of the show is so human and so theatrical and may be my favourite moment I've ever experienced in a theatre.

1. Matilda the Musical with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, based on the book by Raold Dahl (Royal Shakespeare Company)

Photo: Manuel Harlan

I cried so much during this show. What a demonstration of what theatre can be! I saw quite a few shows in the West End while I was in London and this one took the cake! The staging of this show and how it included the audience over and over again was superb. The music was beautiful, the choreography was absolutely brilliant and all the performers (especially the children!) were amazing. I. Loved. It.


I saw senvety shows in 2018 and I'm hoping to see at least 52 again next year. 2019, let's do this! Here's a full list of the shows I saw (in chronological order):

The Birds and The Bees • Saucy Fops More Hodge Than Podge • GLORY • Twelfth Night, or What You Will • Children of God • The True Love Story of My Parents • Sure Thing • Insect Love • Perfect Pitch • Louis and Dave • The Hunchback of Notre Dame • The Gift • Your Mother's Butt • Love Always • I do. You Die. • The Rental • Blind Willie & The Talking Dog • Armstrong's War • Fat Chick Seeks: tales of internet dating • Flute Loops • No Bunnies: a magic show for grown-ups • Bike Thief • I Eat My Toast with a Knife and Fork • Here Is Where I Stay • It All Started with a Dick Pic - The Stripsical • Buferno • Law of the Land • Victor Rubilar • Cate Great! • The Street Circus • Rueben DotDotDot • Kinky Boots • Imperium I: Conspirator • Imperium II: Dictator • Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical • The Book of Mormon • Flight • Famous Puppet Death Scenes • Harry Poppers and the Deathly Swallows • Backup • Polaris • The Lost Things • Thrones! The Musical • The Time Machine • Games • Notflix • My Land • Doctor Faustus • Into The Woods • Honour Beat • The Virgin Trial • Mickey & Judy • WROL (Without Rule of Law) • Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man • The Year of Magical Thinking • The Wolves • Mary and Max - A New Musical • The Bottle Picker Monologues • Freddie in the Neighbourhood • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead • Origin of the Species • Blood: a Scientific Romance • The Comedy Compant • Red patch • What a Young Wife Ought to Know • Lord of Thrones Epsidoe 4 • A Christmas Carol (Theatre Calgary)• Twas the Night Before Christmas: a new musical • A Christmas Carol (Citadel Theatre) • Sedna


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