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My most memorable shows of 2022

2022 has been the most wonderful, busy, theatre-focused learning curve for me. I was taken on a wild ride in my professional life, with one of my employers laying off staff and closing down, and me subsequently losing a job. I needed something to keep me going and excited, and made me feel like I contribute. That’s when I started West End Evenings and committed to seeing a minimum of 2 shows per week. What happened next?

* 123 shows

* Only 2 shows seen twice (“The Lion King” and “Come From Away”)

* 70+ venues

I explored London daily and started to remember specific locations based on local theatres rather than tube stations or landmarks.

I commuted to huge venues in Wembley, or Wimbledon as well as to tiny theatres like Baron’s Court Theatre and Jermyn Street Theatre (where you have to pass through the stage to get to the toilet). I found my favourite seat in the Arts Theatre in the West End (the side benches, you get to see some of the backstage action!) and fell in love with Sam Wanamaker’s Playhouse, my currently favourite venue. I’ve learned not to take my lunch leftovers in a Tupperware for a show (RIP my sweet potato curry, thrown away by the security at Dominion Theatre). I was close to losing my phone when it almost fell between the cracks in the Playhouse Theatre (the Kit Kat Club). And… I’ve met some of the nicest people in London. Hands down.

From intimate monologues to huge West End shows – every single show made me feel or learn something new. How can I pick the “best” show of the year? My answer is, it’s impossible. I’d rather name it “memorable” because the shows in this post are the ones that will always make me feel something special in my heart. So here we go. Listed in no particular order, all of these are just as special for me.

My most memorable shows of 2022

The P World  Bush Theatre

“If five per cent of people are gay then that means there are a hundred million gay Muslims”. This show just opened a completely new understanding of current LGBTQ issues for me. It drew a striking portrait of 2020’s male identity and loneliness, both in Pakistan and in the UK. The show was a unique experience – it touched me to the core, and created that uncomfortable realisation that you’re stuck in your social bubble and don’t even grasp the tragedy that may be happening just next door. It sprinkled some Bollywood charm too, for a good balance, and all in all, it delivered such a well-rounded, catharsis-like feeling.

Read my full review here

The Producers – Bridewell Centre

I wrote it then and I still stand by it: this show delivered more laughs for me than “The Book of Mormon”. An amateur theatre production that almost blew the roof of Bridewell Theatre and made me completely forget about anything outside the auditorium walls. The play was such a bomb of random humour, catchy songs, and a brilliantly written story. And did not, in any way, delivered any less entertainment than the comedy shows you get to see on the West End. Generally, after seeing a couple of shows produced by the City Academy, I have to say, they always deliver. Keep an eye on their 2023 show plans!

Read my full review here

Tom Dick and Harry – Alexandra Palace

At its core, this is a high-flown true story about a mass escape from a nazi camp. But wait, there’s more! Here’s what you must do to get “Tom Dick and Harry” in its entirety: add some Monthy Python humour. Sprinkle with Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Nazis (“Jojo Rabbit,” anyone?). Add an epic, almost cinematic music score. Throw in nine fantastic actors in incredibly physically demanding roles. Voila! You have cooked yourself one of the best plays of 2022. It’s performed in the round, and with slight audience participation – a fun but non-awkward way to create an “immersive” experience.

Read my full review here

Hakawatis – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

2 factors made this show a memorable one. 1) Storytelling – spot on! At its core, it’s a tension-based story of women waiting for their (possible) death in the royal prison. In the meantime, to take their mind off the potential death, they tell old and new traditional tales, about magic, genies, love and talking animals. The way they tell the tales is captivating: each woman has their style, either sarcastic, energetic or romantic – and makes the story truly special. 2) Venue – Sam Wanamaker’s Playhouse is London’s only candle-lit theatre, and the warm light of candles and the smell of melting wax add to the slow, winter feel of the performance. I’d love to see this show return one day!

Starcrossed – Wilton’s Music Hall

Rachel Garnet’s “Starcrossed”, which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2018, reimagines William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a gay love story between the known yet supporting characters: Mercutio and Tybalt. The show looked like it took a huge effort to prepare – it featured real sword fights, live songs and tons of quick outfit changes. I thoroughly enjoyed following the growing affection between the two heroes and the ridiculously fun humour used in the script.

One more important factor in the play was the light design. It was balanced to perfection, with lots of colours, and every scene, if only suddenly stopped and captured, would potentially look like a painting. 

Read my full review here

My Neighbour Totoro – Barbican

When I think of the most memorable stagey moments of this year, a couple of scenes from “Totoro” show up in my mind right away. Starting from the reveal of a huge, fluffy Totoro in the magical forest, through the moment when the huge cat-bus flies above the stage – such moments just made me FEEL things, not just simply follow the plot. The creativity that went into the creation of the magical Studio Ghibli world on the stage is incredible. The production delivered a standard of fairytale storytelling never before seen in theatre. Creatures produced by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop looked out of this world, and the seems like the audience loved it – tickets for the show’s full run got sold out rather quickly. I just wish there was a chance to see this show in London again – with its picturesque stage set, costumes, and 90’s childhood story, it’s a definition of escapism in its essence!

Casanova – Sadler’s Wells

This play truly moved me. It showed me the beauty of a human body (all the dancers were shaped like mythical gods), but also a much more complex story behind the man who’s mostly known for his sexual encounters. Can you imagine there are multiple scenes of intimacy and orgies, all done as dance sequences, tastefully and elegantly? And then, some segments include actors wearing masks, so you can’t see emotions through their facial expressions – but they still somehow express themselves through dance in a clear way. A beautiful show!

Read my review here

Zuzanna Chmielewska

Digital Marketer by profession, published travel book author, avid theatre goer and an amateur Malaysia tour guide in my free time. Find me in one of London's theatres, travelling in Asia or cooking and photographing new recipes in my kitchen. I would try anything once (at least!). My theatre blog:



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