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Mark Shenton’s theatre picks: May 18

Anna-Jane Casey, Rebecca Caine and Clare Burt in rehearsals for Flowers for Mrs Harris. Photo: Johan Persson Anna-Jane Casey, Rebecca Caine and Clare Burt in rehearsals for Flowers for Mrs Harris. Photo: Johan Persson
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I’m a day early with my picks this week, because from May 19-25 I’ll be ranking the top 50 theatre composers of all time to coincide with The Stage’s musical theatre week, starting on May 19.

On May 17, I was pointing out the paucity of original British musicals on the West End landscape, yet this week brings not one but two by the same composer, Richard Taylor: to Sheffield, with the premiere of Flowers for Mrs Harris at the Crucible; and the West End, with previews beginning for The Go-Between, originally premiered regionally five years ago). So this may be a good time to be celebrating musicals after all.

Other highlights of the week ahead include the latest show from the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, reuniting the director with the stars of his film version of Cinderella to play the title roles in Romeo and Juliet, Olivier-winning choreographer Drew McOnie premiering the latest work of his own McOnie company at the Old Vic, the opening of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre season, a Young Vic revival for Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, a new Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe, and Max Stafford-Clark’s bill of short political plays, A View from Islington North, arriving at the Arts, among others.

Romeo and Juliet – Garrick Theatre, London

The penultimate production in the Garrick Theatre residency of the Kenneth Branagh company sees Branagh and Rob Ashford co-directing Richard Madden and Lily James, stars of Branagh’s film Cinderella, in the title roles of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, now previewing prior to an official opening on May 25. The cast also includes Derek Jacobi as Mercurio and Meera Syal as the nurse.

Blue/Orange – Young Vic, London

The Young Vic revives Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, about mental illness and its treatment, originally seen at the National, opening on May 19 with a cast that comprises David Haig, Daniel Kaluuya and Luke Norris, under the direction of Matthew Xia.

Jekyll and Hyde – Old Vic, London

Drew McOnie – Olivier winner this year for his work on In the Heights – makes his Old Vic debut directing and choreographing for his own McOnie company, opening May 25. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, this Jekyll and Hyde stars Daniel Collins (currently also in Show Boat at the New London, but obviously on a temporary leave of absence from that) and Tim Hodges in the title roles.

Running Wild – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Michael Morpurgo’s novel Running Wild is adapted for the stage by Samuel Adamson in a version previously presented by Chichester’s youth company, now receives its professional premiere, opening on May 19 under the co-direction of the Open Air’s artistic director Timothy Sheader and Dale Rooks.

The Taming of the Shrew – Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Caroline Byrne directs an all Irish company in The Taming of the Shrew, led by Kathy Rose O’Brien as Kate and Edward MacLiam as Petruchio, opening May 20.

The Invisible Hand – Tricycle Theatre, London

Sid Sagar and Parth Thakerar in The Invisible Hand. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Sid Sagar and Parth Thakerar in The Invisible Hand. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Ayard Akhtar’s Disgraced, seen here at the Bush Theatre, won the 2013 Pulitzer prize for drama; Indhu Rubasingham now directs Daniel Lapaine and Tony Jayawardena in his latest, The Invisible Hand, a political thriller set in the world of global finance, opening on May 18.

A Subject of Concern and Scandal – Finborough Theatre, London

The Branagh season will end with Branagh playing the title role in one of John Osborne’s most famous plays, The Entertainer. But first the ever-enterprising Finborough unearths a much more rarely seen Osborne play, originally written for TV in 1960 when it starred Richard Burton and Rachel Roberts. It was subsequently brought to the theatrical stage in Nottingham in the early 1960s. Now A Subject of Concern and Scandal, based on the the true story of the last man to stand trial for blasphemy in England, receives its London stage premiere, with a  cast that includes Jamie Muscato (last seen in Bend it Like Beckham), opening on May 23.

A View from Islington North – Arts Theatre, London

Max Stafford-Clark directs a new bill of political satires, A View from Islington North, including work by Alistair Beaton, David Hare, Caryl Churchill, Stella Feehily, and Mark Ravenhill and music by Billy Bragg, opening on May 24.

Flowers for Mrs Harris – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Daniel Evans directs a new British musical by Richard Taylor (soon to be represented by the West End premiere of his 2011 show The Go-Between) and Rachel Wagstaff as his final production at the helm at Sheffield, opening on May 23. The cast of Flowers for Mrs Harris is led by Clare Burt in the title role.

King John – Rose Theatre, Kingston

Rehearsals for King John
Rehearsals for King John

Trevor Nunn, former long-time artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and shorter-term artistic director of the National Theatre, continues with his mission to complete directing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. King John is the penultimate one he has to tackle, and does so at Kingston (where last year he staged a controversial all-white revival of War of the Roses), opening on May 18. The cast includes Jamie Ballard in the title role, with Lisa Dillon as Constance and Maggie Steed as Queen Eleanor.

Brighton Festival/Brighton Fringe — various venues

Running until May 29, this year’s Brighton festivals this week offers a Brighton run for last year’s Edinburgh hit Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, adapted by Lee Hall from Alan Warner’s novel and directed by Vicky Featherstone running now to May 21 at the Theatre Royal. Running from May 25-28, Nick Bagnall’s Globe touring production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, co-produced with Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, will play at Brighton Open Air Theatre.

The Threepenny Opera – Olivier, National Theatre, London

Rufus Norris directs Rory Kinnear as Macheath in Simon Stephens’s new version of Brecht/Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, now previewing ahead of opening on May 26 at the National’s Olivier.

Sunset at the Villa Thalia – Dorfman, National Theatre, London

Meanwhile, in the Dorfman, Simon Godwin directs the premiere of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play Sunset at the Villa Thalia, with a cast that includes Elizabeth McGovern, Ben Miles and Pippa Nixon, previewing from May 25 ahead of opening on June 1.

Aladdin – Prince Edward Theatre, London

Previews also begin May 27 for Disney’s Aladdin, coming to the Prince Edward direct from Broadway, before opening officially on June 15.

Last chance to see

It’s farewell to Jamie Lloyd’s production of The Maids on May 21, while at the National the fantastic production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs ends June 2.

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