It may not look like May outside my window with the relentless grey tinge that accompanies that most uninvited of all types of weather: gusty winds and general sogginess. Even April’s tree blossom has resigned its fate to raining down onto the city’s pavements. The good news is the bank holiday weekend promises to bring some warm and sunny spells. Which means we can all get out and about in London town, with some fantastic theatre, art and design exhibitions, ballet and sumptuous opera. And let’s not forget the wedding of the year, coming to a TV screen near you. Here are my tips for the top things to do in London in May 2018. May you have a marvellous May!
Flavour of the Month
My favourite country opera season kicks off on the 31 May with Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). It was Mozart’s last opera, premiering in 1791 just two months before his death. Garsington Opera’s production sees Cardiff Singer of the World prize-winner Louise Alder sing the role of Pamina, Jonathan McGovern sing Papageno, whilst leading British tenor Benjamin Hulett makes his Garsington debut as Tamino. I’ve dusted off my picnic blanket, and I cannot wait for my musical and pastoral day out in the grounds of Garsington’s home in Wormsley! You can read about last year’s outing to Garsington here.
Tartuffe at Theatre Royal Haymarket
Molière’s comedic masterpiece has been given an American makeover. Inspired by real events, playwright Christopher Hampton’s (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons) adaptation sees the action move from Paris to Los Angeles where a French film tycoon finds his life uprooted by an Evangelist. The man on the left is everyone’s favourite rogue from Peaky Blinders, Paul Anderson, and the lady in red on the right is Audrey Fleurot, femme fatale from French TV hit, Spiral. Tartuffe is the west end’s first bilingual production, alternating between French and English with full surtitles.
Gender-swapping is on the agenda at Shakespeare’s Globe this May. Newbie Artistic Director Michelle Terry debuts as Hamlet, playing opposite a male actor as Ophelia. She will also be taking on the role of Adam in As you Like it. Reviews will be on the blog in May.
A Little Princess
My favourite children’s book is coming to the London stage for one night-only on 28 May. Starring Amanda Abbington (Mrs Watson in Sherlock) and with the Royal Philharmonic Concert in the orchestral seat, this is going to be a magical evening for all your princesses and princes.
Orlando Bloom stars as a cop who moonlights as a killer-for-hire in the multi-award winning black comedy thriller. Opens at the Trafalgar Studios on 18 May.
Cinderella but not as you know her
Matthew Bourne’s Sadler’s Wells production of Cinderella is coming to a cinema near you on the 15 May, with a live Q&A with Bourne via satellite. The love story is set in London during the Blitz, when a chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella and her dashing young RAF pilot. Matthew Bourne’s vivid story telling takes the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent score.
This May, former Principal of the Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky reprises her award-winning role as Queen Elizabeth I in this dynamic exploration of her life and lovers, in a unique chamber work which seamlessly blends dance, music, text and song. Note: the Royal Opera House production is taking place at The Barbican.
Opera Holland Park
I can’t recommend Opera Holland Park enough. It’s a magical evening of music and song, with the beautifully dishevelled Holland House acting as the stage backdrop. The season opens on 29 May with Verdi’s tragic masterpiece, La Traviata. Other operas on show include Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Mascagni’s Isabeau and Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
It’s the first Azzedine Alaïa exhibition in the UK, conceived and co-curated with the couturier before his untimely death in November 2017. The Tunisian-born designer fashioned clothes for the likes of Michelle Obama, Grace Jones, Rihanna and Greta Garbo. He took inspiration from the ancient Amazons, and designed by draping and sculpting by hand on his models, meticulously cutting all his own patterns. The exhibition presents over 60 outstanding examples of his craft over the course of his career including the zipped dress, the bandage dress, the corset belt, the stretch body, perforated leather, as well as iconic pieces made in his early years as a couturier, always with an eye to magnify a woman’s body. Opens 10 May.
William de Morgan
Sublime Symmetry showcases 80 of the Victorian ceramic artist’s most sought-after lusterware pots, decorative tiles, vases and plates, and has been curated from the De Morgan Foundation’s collection, with generous loans from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the London Mathematical Society, and the University of London’s Senate House. Exploring De Morgan’s upbringing in a radical, forward thinking household in London with his eminent father, mathematician Augustus De Morgan, the exhibition delves into how William applied mathematical flair to his designs to create stunning ceramics with his trademark patterns, symmetry and contours of shapes and fantastical beasts. As part of the exhibition, Guildhall Art Gallery will be holding a number of events, including a Late Night, talks, family events and more. Opens 11 May.
Royal Academy 250
Also on the 19 May is the other big event in town: the opening of the Royal Academy’s new campus, as part of the celebrations of its 250th anniversary year. Following a transformational redevelopment, the new Royal Academy will reveal more of the elements that make the RA unique – sharing with the public historic treasures from its Collection, the work of its Royal Academicians and the Royal Academy Schools, alongside its world-class exhibitions programme. One of the most significant outcomes of the redevelopment is the link between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, uniting the two-acre campus. This will provide 70% more space than the RA’s original Burlington House footprint.
Getting close to Marilyn Monroe
If you thought you knew Marilyn, think again. Proud Galleries will be showcasing photos never seen before, a rare collection captured by Milton H. Greene. Milton photographed the actress in 52 different settings resulting in an archive of over 5000 images. Up Close with Marilyn opens 11 May at Proud Central.
It’s time for Hampstead’s annual showcase of original art, with more than 100 galleries under one roof and artworks from over 1,000 artists priced between £100 and £6,000. Hampstead Art Fair opens 10 May. And Wimbledon has its own art fair, also opening on the 10 May. Wander around 8 floors and 150 working studios with the opportunity to meet artists.
Covent Garden May Fayre Puppet
Celebrate Mr Punch’s 356th birthday with Punch and Judy enthusiasts from all over the country, set in the garden of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden (The Actors’ Church). The annual free family day marks the anniversary of Samuel Pepys’ first recorded sighting of a Punch and Judy-style show in Covent Garden in 1662. Follow the brass band procession around Covent Garden, attend the midday church service with Mr Punch in the pulpit, and spend the afternoon watching puppet, music and dance performances. 13 May.
The most important wedding since the other wedding…
You would need to be docked on Planet Mars not to know about the big event on the 19 May. And no, I don’t mean the re-opening of the Royal Academy, which is equally exciting. It’s the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on the 19th, and London and the rest of the realm will be in full patriotic swing for this romantic event. I’m making a lemon and elderflower cake in their honour (this is the wedding cake which will be served, after all), and celebrating with friends in my Hammersmith. I’m expecting the river pubs to overflow with revellers as we all lift a glass to the newlyweds (I think a gin concoction, don’t you?) What will you be doing on the big day?
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