8 must-see stage shows in May

Don't miss Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl or Denise Gough's Olivier-winning performance in People, Places & Things

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At Radio Times, we enjoy a good show whether it’s on the small screen or the stage. Every week, we review the productions that are causing a stir in London’s Theatreland and beyond.

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Below, you’ll find our recommendations for May. There are four shows that we’ve seen and loved, including a new farce and Kit Harington’s scary Doctor Faustus, and four new openings — from outdoor puppetry to an exciting dance production of Jekyll & Hyde.


Funny Girl ★★★★★

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Funny Girl is at the Savoy Theatre until 8 October

This classic musical about US entertainer Fanny Brice is the hottest ticket in the West End. Sheridan Smith steals the show as Fanny Brice, the girl from a poor area of Brooklyn with a gift for singing, acting and above all comedy, who rose from playing burlesque review theatres to superstar status. This is a good old-fashioned West End show with 11 o’clock numbers that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Read the full review 

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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery ★★★★★

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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is at Criterion Theatre until 31 August

The trio behind The Play That Goes Wrong push the laughter buttons even harder with this new farce. Expect double-crossings, infidelity, mistaken identities, dropped trousers and hilarious twists. The cast produces a display of physical comedy and inspired wordplay that never flags for a second. Read the full review

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Doctor Faustus ★★★★

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Doctor Faustus is at Duke of York’s Theatre until 25 June

After six series of Game of Thrones, Kit Harington’s return to the London stage is causing a commotion every night in St Martin’s Lane – the like of which hasn’t been seen since Madonna worked in the vicinity. Billed as a play by Christopher Marlowe and Colin Teevan, this is a fascinating sandwich of Elizabethan theological and philosophical discussion about predestination with Teevan’s clever modern-day insert in the middle developing a theme of celebrity and performance. Director Jamie Lloyd gives the nightmare vision a horror-film treatment — from the staring undead in dirty undies invading Faustus’s space to the spine-shivering moment when he summons Lucifer. Read the full review

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People, Places & Things ★★★★★

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People, Places & Things is at Wyndham’s Theatre until 18 June

Once in a while a piece of theatre comes along that’s so riveting you almost forget to breathe while watching it. Such is the case with Duncan Macmillan’s uncompromising examination of addiction, featuring a mesmerising performance by Denise Gough who scooped Best Actress at the Olivier Awards last month. She plays Emma, an actress who checks herself into rehab after her life becomes blighted by abuse of alcohol and practically every drug you can name. Read the full review

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 30 April

For theatre folks, nothing says summer’s around the corner like the start of a new season at the Globe. In a year when we mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, what better way to begin than with his popular fantasy and love letter to the theatre. New artistic director Emma Rice has programmed a season of popular favourites under the collective title Wonder, and has immediately shown the radical touch for which she was appointed by casting cabaret and performance artist Meow Meow as queen of the fairies, Titania. The Taming of the Shrew will join the Dream in repertory from 13 May, starring Kathy Rose O’Brien as Kate.

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 Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet will be at Garrick Theatre from 12 May to 13 August

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s year-long residency at the Garrick has proved a success both in terms of critical reaction and bums on seats. Kenneth Branagh and co-director Rob Ashford have cannily cast Lily James and Richard Madden (who both starred in Branagh’s opulent film of Cinderella last year) as Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. James’s recent turns in TV mega-hits Downton Abbey and War and Peace, plus Derek Jacobi’s return to the stage as Mercutio, can only add to the appeal.

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Running Wild

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Running Wild is at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from 13 May to 12 June

London’s other popular outdoor venue starts a new season in epic style with Samuel Adamson’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s story about a boy who is separated from his mother in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami, and learns to survive in the Indonesian jungle with the help of an elephant called Oona. Featuring a cast of over 40 and puppetry by former War Horse operators, this is the biggest production ever mounted by the Regent’s Park venue.

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Jekyll & Hyde

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Jekyll & Hyde is at The Old Vic from 20 to 28 May

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror tale The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is being turned into a dance thriller with music by Tony-nominated composer Grant Olding. Choreographer Drew McConie’s previous productions include Olivier-winning In the Heights, the UK tour of Oklahoma! and a critically acclaimed Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith. 

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For more theatre reviews, go to: radiotimes.com/westend

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