Top 10: theatre

Jerusalem (Royal Court, 2009)

Jez Butterworth's lyrical, satirical play managed to say something new about old England and Mark Rylance found a new, naturalistic acting style to match it.


Jerry Springer: the Opera (National Theatre, 2003)

Obscene and blasphemous, this musical touched on something immediate in pop culture and something eternal about faith, too.

Frost/Nixon (Donmar Warehouse, 2006)

Much more dramatic than the actual interviews, this play produced an extraordinary performance from Michael Sheen, who almost literally seemed to become the man who rose without trace.


Stones in His Pockets (New Ambassadors, 2000)

Two actors, yet a cast of thousands: it made you realise how most performers are required to give just a fraction of what they could, if asked nicely.


Black Watch (National Theatre of Scotland, 2008)

Part reportage, part experimental theatre, Gregory Burke's play gave the best idea yet of what it is like, these days, to have to fight for your country.

Billy Elliot the Musical (2006, Victoria Palace Theatre)

The Strictly Come Miners' Strike musical at last tapped Elton John's gift for stage music and said something tough about a tough time.


The History Boys (National Theatre, 2004)

Alan Bennett was at his cleverest and yet most perverse in this essay on education, literature and flawed teachers.


Hedda Gabler (Almeida, 2005)

Ibsen's study of frustrated womanhood was made modern by fresh performances from Eve Best and Benedict Cumberbatch, and made them both stars.


Democracy (National Theatre, 2003)

It was the decade when Michael Frayn overtook Tom Stoppard as the master of the intellectual play - and this tale of postwar German politics proved that an evening of grey men in grey suits need not be grey.

War Horse (National Theatre, 2007)

Asking us to spare tears for a horse when so many men who rode them also fell to their deaths in the First World War should have been problematic, but audiences cried anyway. The best animal play since Equus (and best animal puppetry since The Lion King).

Andrew Billen has worked as a celebrity interviewer for, successively, The Observer, the Evening Standard and, currently The Times. For his columns, he was awarded reviewer of the year in 2006 Press Gazette Magazine Awards.

This article first appeared in the 14 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Muslim Jesus