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The Best Theatre to See in May

It’s a new month, the sun is shining and, with the outdoor theatre season kicking off, there are even more shows to choose from! Where oh where will you go? Allow us to offer up a suggestion or eight.

It’s a new month, the sun is shining and, with the outdoor theatre season kicking off, there are even more shows to choose from! Where oh where will you go? Allow us to offer up a suggestion or eight.

One of the most hotly anticipated shows this May is the Old Vic’s take on Woyzeck. Artistic Director Matthew Warchus is definitely not making life easy for himself with this one: Büchner had never actually finished the play when he died in 1837, and the bits there are, are notoriously hard going. However, with a new version by Jack ‘Harry Potter’ Thorne and John Boyega in the titular role, this could turn out to be a very exciting show indeed.  
Another new opening that has our hearts racing is tick, tick… BOOM!, which will be playing at the Park Theatre. An autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, it’s about what life is like when you’re almost thirty and your big break in theatre just doesn’t want to materialise. Of course, we all know that what really happens is that, a couple of years later, you write a wildly successful little show called Rent. But don’t let that stop you from getting a ticket.

Woyzeck, Photo by AKSE P19 Pentagram
But now, on to the big new musical in town: Annie. You can’t argue with the fact that it’s a classic. You also can’t argue with the fact that extremely high-pitched singing by sugary sweet, little orphans is not everybody’s cup of tea. But it will without a doubt make for a nice family outing, and with Miranda Hart putting her nastiest foot forward as Miss Hannigan, there should be plenty to keep the grownups entertained as well. And, of course, there’s a bit with a dog.
Another family show that adults won’t mind being dragged along to is Adventures in Wonderland, playing at The Vaults. You may already be familiar with Alice’s Adventures Underground, an immersive theatre adventure in which the audience follows Alice down the rabbit hole. The company behind it, Les Enfants Terribles, have created a similar experience for children aged five and over, with a ‘choose your own adventure’-style setup. Sounds like that might be worth borrowing a niece/nephew/neighbour child for.

Not keen on family entertainment? In that case, the Peacock Theatre’s the place to be this month. The Jakop Ahlbom Company are paying a visit with their show Horror, and, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not one for the faint of heart. After a much-acclaimed run at last year’s Mime Festival, this homage to the horror genre is back in all its gruesome, gory glory, which includes nods to films like The Ring and The Exorcist. Apparently the special effects are very good as well, so attend at your own peril.
For physical theatre entertainment that’s a bit easier on the nerves, Sadler’s Wells has programmed a short run of Akram Khan’s solo performance DESH. Interlacing stories about his own homeland, the UK, and that of his parents, Bangladesh, Khan has created an extremely varied show. It features dance, poetry and absolutely gorgeous visuals courtesy of Oscar-winning artist Tim Yip.

Alice's Adventures Underground, photo by Jason Joyce
Should the weather gods be on our side this month, now is also the time to start planning your open air theatre outings. With Emma Rice at the helm of her second and last summer season at Shakespeare’s Globe, you can bet there’s going to be increased interest in its entire summer programme, but particularly in Twelfth Night, which Rice is directing. We can only wait and see if it’ll be a similar boundary-pushing, cross-dressing disco fest to last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In any case, we’re definitely excited for the return of Katy Owen, who was a much-loved Puck and who will be tackling the role of Malvolio here.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning
Meanwhile, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is opening their season with a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town. Its billing as the theatre’s ‘biggest dance musical yet’ is promising: they know how to do great choreography at Regent’s Park, and the man they have for the job is Drew McOnie. McOnie’s most recent success was Jesus Christ Superstar at the same theatre, which bagged him an Olivier nomination, so we have high hopes.