Did you hear the one about the critic in 2007 who dreamed he was reviewing a show about the abolition of slavery? He woke up and found he was.
That was how 2007 felt at times, particularly at Birmingham Rep, where two slavery-related shows, Motherland and Rough Crossings, appeared within a short space of time on the main stage this autumn. Both were long on spectacle and good intentions, but sadly lacking in compelling drama.
It helped make the Rep's main house the most problematic venue in the region. While its success in attracting diverse audiences is to be applauded (and will presumably shield it from the Arts Council's latest round of cuts) it delivered far more than its share of misfiring shows.
Artistic director Rachel Kavanaugh's programming got off to the worst possible start when, with the whole of world theatre to choose from, she inexplicably launched her first season with Charlotte Jones's Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, a serious contender for the worst play I have ever seen in a theatre.
The two chief redeeming productions were Kavanaugh's own Uncle Vanya and visiting company Kneehigh's adaptation of the classic British film Brief Encounter, which was witty and inventive without the irritating self-regard which has made me a Kneehigh sceptic in the past.
Otherwise the Rep's best moments came in The Door, with Bryony Lavery's fine new play Last Easter and some outstanding community work including the Young REP's absolutely gripping account of Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project, an ensemble piece about a homophobic murder and its impact on a small community, and the Decypher Collective's virtuoso "grime theatre" piece 81632, performed as part of Punch Records' Bass Music Festival.
The Royal Shakespeare Company had a wonderful year. In the spring its historic Complete Works Festival came to an end, only slightly marred by the ill-judged and lengthy delay to the press performance of Sir Ian McKellen's King Lear because of an injury to the leading actress Frances Barber. It seemed like a flashback to an earlier, more precious RSC.
Highlights of the last third of Complete Works included the best of the American contributions, a wonderful updated Merchant of Venice from New York's Theatre for a New Audience, with a magnificent Shylock in F Murray Abraham.
The Complete Works came so close to spoiling us that it was almost a relief when the RSC unveiled a thoroughly naff Macbeth, which quickly restored some critical perspective. But it was only a brief setback before the plaudits began to roll again as Michael Boyd completed his Histories cycle, with David Warner returning to the fold after 40 years to play Falstaff.
There was so much of interest going on on stage in Stratford that it went almost unnoticed that the old auditorium in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was coming close to being flattened. But the company's temporary home in The Courtyard, which already seems a familiar old friend, offers an exciting foretaste of what will replace it.
One completely new theatre which was unveiled during 2007 was the Belgrade Theatre's new B2. This cross between the RSC's Swan and the National's Cottesloe quickly announced itself as one of the region's most exciting theatre spaces with the opening production of Ferdinand Bruckner's Pains of Youth from associate director Gadi Roll.
Unfortunately Roll's commitment to physical theatre proved a touch excessive, with an ankle injury to an actress leading to the run being curtailed.
Roll's second production, Don Juan Comes Back from the War, proved an original and haunting spectacle on the main stage, but the Coventry public, which turned out in numbers for the thin and sentimental Visiting Mr Green with Warren Mitchell, could hardly have been less interested in it.
It will be interesting to see how artistic director Hamish Glen's focus on challenging European drama survives beyond this initial season.
The Belgrade's near-neighbour, Warwick Arts Centre, provided me with three particular highlights during the year.
First of all came Conor McPherson's The Seafarer from the National Theatre, where Jim Norton had just collected the Olivier Award for best supporting actor even though it wasn't clear to me that he was playing a supporting role.
A pedant asked me if it was literally true, as I said in my review, that I would go and see anything Norton was in. Well perhaps not quite: I wouldn't go and see him if he was in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis or anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
My other two favourites at the Arts Centre were a revival of Sizwe Bansi is Dead (in French, but completely communicative) from Peter Brook and his Theatre des Bouffes du Nord and the world premiere of The Cleansing of Constance Brown by Birmingham's own Stan's Cafe.
Turning on its head the economic appeal of small-cast shows, this one limits its audience to just 25 per performance, because the action takes place within the restricted sightlines of a 15-metre corridor. Intricately choreographed, the piece constantly switches time and place to tell a quickfire sequence of short stories without words: a true theatrical tour de force.
I clocked up a lot of miles on the M5 visiting the region's other important venue.
Malvern Festival Theatre retained its near monopoly on upmarket touring drama, giving Midlanders the opportunity, for example, to see Billie Piper in the revival of Christopher Hampton's Treats, Antony Sher in Jean-Paul Sartre's rarelystaged Kean and Charles Dance in Shadow-lands , all before they settled into the West End.
Typical of the Malvern brand were two productions directed by Sir Peter Hall, a fine Pygmalion with Tim Pigott-Smith and Harold Pinter's Old Times.
Other notable productions at Malvern included The Importance of Being Earnest with Penelope Keith, a revival of Terence Rattigan's French Without Tears from English Touring Theatre which was well-nigh perfect despite (or perhaps because of) an absence of well-known actors, and The Last Confession, Roger Crane's whodunit about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I with David Suchet and a who's-who of mature British character actors.
The last was a production from the Chichester Festival Theatre, which also brought us a revival of the RSC's 1980s blockbuster, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Though slightly reduced from the scale of the original this was still a major theatre event which drew disappointing audiences at the Hippodrome.
More successful, albeit on a smaller scale, at luring an audience off the beaten drama track was the Britain's first International Mask Festival, which put Stourbridge back on the theatre map in October with a programme including the first UK appearance for several years of legendary nomadic company Footsbarn.
And even more international in scope was the Dynamics 07 festival of puppet theatre which interestingly combined the expertise of its puppeteer organisers with the audience development circuits in the Black Country and rural areas to bring companies from Slovakia, Pakistan, Hungary, Russia and Turkey to perform in schools and village halls around the West Midlands.