Top 10 theatre openings in London this May
Spring is well and truly here, and what better way to cool down from the sun with this month's hottest theatre openings. Big stars returning in big musicals, premieres and revivals of some great plays, and a new era begins at one of the country's most iconic theatre spaces.
Revived in London for the first time in over 30 years, Chess returns for a five-week run at the Coliseum. With music by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and lyrics from Sir Tim Rice, the musical is set around a chess world championship that sees two grandmasters – one American, one Russian – go head to head for the title. Michael Ball is back on stage after he was last seen in Sweeney Todd, and he’s joined by Cassidy Janson (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and Alexandra Burke (The Bodyguard).
Nina Raine’s Consent gets a West End transfer following a sold-out run at the National Theatre last year. It’s a blistering look at consent, sexual violence and the justice system. Directed by Roger Michell, the cast includes Stephen Campbell Moore and Clare Foster. We reviewed the show in the Dorfman last year, and hailed it a ‘vitally formidable new drama’, so we can’t wait for it to return.
John Logan’s play Red sees American painter Mark Rothko commissioned to create murals for a restaurant in New York. Together with his assistant Ken, the pair embark on the project which sparks lively debate about art and society between them. Michael Grandage directs Alfred Molina (who originated the role at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009) and Alfred Enoch as the young assistant.
As You Like It/Hamlet
Michelle Terry gets her first season as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe underway with a double bill from the Globe Ensemble, the theatre’s new 12-strong rep company. Terry will star in the title role of Hamlet, and both productions will be directed by Federay Holmes and Elle While. These first plays could be an indication of what lies ahead in the exciting future for the Globe.
In what is a busy month for Roger Michell, his production of Joe Penhall’s Mood Music opens at the Old Vic. The play follows Cat, a young songwriter and her producer Bernard who lock horns over who owns the rights to a hit song. It promises to delve into the dark side of the music industry, and stars Ben Chaplin and Seana Kerslake.
Ophelia Lovibond and Claire Skinner star in Barney Norris’ play about a family from Winchester dealing with the grief of losing a father, and who runs the family farm now he’s gone. Another play, another setup at the Bridge too. The theatre opened with Young Marx (proscenium arch), which was followed up by Julius Caesar (promenade), and Nightfall will be performed in thrust, with the stage stretching out into the stalls.
The third play in Dominic Dromgoole’s season to reinvigorate Oscar Wilde’s great plays in London is An Ideal Husband, which stars Edward and Freddie Fox, and Frances Barber. If you’ve already seen A Woman of No Importance and Lady Windermere’s Fan, you’ll know these revivals are charming, funny, and not to be missed.
As the sun arrives, the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park opens its gates for the first time this year. A revival of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s 2015 production of Peter Pan gets things kicked off in 2018. We gave the show a five star review when it first opened, labelling it a ‘wonderfully charming and enchanting evening of outdoor theatre’, so, again, we’re looking forward to having it back on stage.
Moliere’s classic comedy Tartuffe is reimagined for the Trump-era by Christopher Hampton. Set in LA, the play sees a French media tycoon who is tricked by a radical evangelist who looks set to take over the Frenchman’s life. Alternating between French and English with surtitles – and billed as the West End’s first ever dual language theatre production – it stars Peaky Blinders’ Paul Anderson.
Get your skates on and head down to Southwark Playhouse for this revival of the Kander and Ebb musical, The Rink. Premiering on Broadway in 1984, starring Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli, it’s about a housewife who is set to sell a skating rink to developers before her estranged daughter shows up hoping to save the rink, and rebuild a relationship with her mother. Caroline O’Connor and Gemma Sutton star in what promises to be a treat for fans of Kander and Ebb’s other shows, like Chicago and Cabaret.