Welcome to May and all the great new shows it ushers in. Here are my picks of the best shows that you can find in and around London and the UK
Opening Off-West End
DEATH OF A SALESMAN is the much-anticipated new production of the Arthur Miller classic from star director Marianne Elliott, with a standout cast including Olivier Award-winner Sharon D Clarke (Caroline, or Change), Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Suits, Selma) who makes his UK stage debut, and Arinzé Kene (Misty), bringing a unique vision to one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, seen through the eyes of an African American family. From May 1 to July 13. NB The entire run is sold out, returns only.
THIS ISLAND’S MINE In this first ever revival since debuting thirty years ago, Philip Osment’s passionate and humane drama of forbidden love is ripe for rediscovery. Running at the Kings Head Theatre from May 15th to June 8th, this trip back to the 80s reminds us of how far we have come, but how much we have to lose. In today’s uncertain world, this reminder feels dangerously topical. With a talented young cast and direction by the acclaimed Philip Wilson, this is definitely a play for your diary.
OUT OF WATER is an intriguing-sounding play at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Written by Zoe Cooper ( author of this venue’s charming JESS AND JOE FOREVER in 2016), the play deals with Claire and her wife Kit who have moved from the confines of London to the wide open coasts of South Shields. To be nearer family, to be nearer the sea, to put down roots. To have a baby. Claire’s new job at the local school is a step up, and she wants to make a real difference, but from her interactions with the students she soon discovers that she has as much to learn from them as they have from her. A tender new play about gender, wild swimming, and how we define who we are.
Is it hot in here, or is it just me? Or… another Tennessee Williams play, this time ORPHEUS DESCENDING. Off we go to the South (again), where Lady is trapped in a loveless marriage, surrounded by a dying husband and intolerant people, living a boring small-town life. The arrival of a wild-eyed charismatic drifter (not called the Tramp, by the way) changes everything, as a new life of love and passion suddenly seem possible. But what will be the price? Starring Hattie Morahan, Seth Numrich and Jemima Rooper, this looks interesting, even better that it’s directed by Tamara Harvey. At the Menier Chocolate Factory from 9 May until 6 July.
Touring the UK
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE leaves East London’s Arcola theatre on 11 May and then heads out on a national tour with a great (if a little underused) cast which make it worthwhile. See it in May at Bromley, Ipswich and Salford. Read my review of the show here
Now well into its stride, the 50th anniversary UK tour of the tribal rock musical HAIR carries on with abandon. See it in May at Birmingham, Sunderland, Dartford and Liverpool.
A SUPER HAPPY SHOW (ABOUT FEELING SUPER SAD) has spent May encoring at London’s Vaults and is now back out on tour into June. See it in May at Brighton, Mansfield, Nottingham and Derby. The show is an unlikely-sounding musical about depression, and rather like a lot of experimental shows, it’s well worth a visit.
Opening West End
The much-praised National Theatre production of THE LEHMAN TRILOGY moves in to the Piccadilly Theatre from 11 May to 3 August. With a stunning cast including Simon Russell Beale and Ben Miles as well as having such brilliant reviews behind it, I am sure it will be worth seeing.
AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ is a fabulous fun party, just as I predicted previously; a toe-tapping night out to which you can take anyone. Two hours of jazzy songs from the great Fats Waller, with bounce and oomph, and jazzy dancing too, this is a great musical revue that will set anyone swaying in their seat. Have fun – go now! Running at Southwark Playhouse to June 1. Read my review here
JANE CLEGG at the Finborough Theatre is a play that takes you by surprise. Despite it being 116-years old, the themes it exposes still give the play currency. Committed and detailed performances by all the cast on a charming set are all you could ask for in experiencing this journey through one woman’s liberation. You’ll be gripped. Running to May 18th. Read my review here
NT Live Broadcasts
ALL MY SONS recently opened at the Old Vic to good reviews, with particular praise for Sally Field’s taut performance. For those of us who cannot get to see the play in person, here is a great chance to catch this Arthur Miller classic broadcast live from the Old Vic on 14 May broadcast to a theatre or cinema near you. Check the NTLive website for locations near you here
London shows closing
Closing May 11th – FOLLIES – It’s a very sad farewell to this outstanding five-star mature musical production which will remain the definitive FOLLIES production for many years to come. It is also a reminder of why we have a National Theatre, to show us the best. So please see it if you can. Information and tickets here
Closing May 11th – ALL ABOUT EVE, a stage version of the classic 1950 movie, directed by Ivo van Hove with Gillian Anderson.
Closing May 25th – ADMISSIONS – school entry-fixing exam comedy/drama with Alex Kingston, which then goes out on a short UK tour.
Closing June 1st – THREE SISTERS at the Almeida with Olivier Award-winner Patsy Ferran
Also closing June 1st – THE TWILIGHT ZONE at the Ambassadors.
Closing June 2nd- RIP IT UP – sixties-based melange of performers in a mainly musical evening.