But for those who did look back, the West End revivals of two Schiller plays, Don Carlos and Mary Stuart, were generally agreed to be the year's most startling success.
The common denominator of both shows – apart from the rare virtue of dramatizing historical events with the tension and pace of a thriller – was the Donmar’s Michael Grandage, who directed Don Carlos and produced Phyllida Lloyd’s Mary Stuart.
As The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer said, “Schiller, usually box-office poison, suddenly became a smash hit 200 years after his death”.
In a year of relatively few new musicals, another consensus was formed over director Stephen Daldry’s stage version of his own film, Billy Elliot about which The Observer’s Susannah Clapp said “helped remake the idea of a musical...Stephen Daldry’s show had not only panache but political edge.
Of the National Theatre’s offerings Marrianne Elliott’s revival of Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community proved to be artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s most conspicuous success. The rarely performed drama topped the list compiled by Time Out’s Theatre Editor Jane Edwardes who called the production “storming.” There was high praise too for another Ibsen revival, the Almeida theatre’s Hedda Gabler which The Observer’s Clapp described as featuring a “fearsome” Eve Best in the title role. The Independent’s Paul Taylor agreed, describing Richard Eyer’s translation and production as “pitch-perfect.”