This spring’s must-see shows

Timothy Barber
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ONE of the more niche benefits of an unusually warm spring is the fact that it makes venturing to Shakespeare’s Globe less of a trial of endurance against the elements. The start of this year’s al fresco shows at the Globe – opening with All’s Well that Ends Well and Hamlet, no less – opens what should be a strong season in London theatre.

London’s other major open air venue, the always-charming Regent’s Park theatre, gets underway next week with an ambitious project to stage William Golding’s famous book Lord of the Flies (19 May). Back at the Globe, lighter fare will be had with a couple of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, As You Like It (17 May) and Much Ado about Nothing (21 May). The latter will make an interesting comparison with another production opening at the Wyndams Theatre (1 June) and sure to be a hit with David Tennant and Catherine Tate leading the cast.

Before that, equally showy casting comes with a new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (Garrick Theatre, from 25 May) – Rupert Everett plays Henry Higgins, Kara Tointon is Eliza Doolittle, while Diana Rigg is Mrs Higgins.

That’ll be a popular hit, no doubt, but if we’re talking unmissable, look no further than The Cherry Orchard at the National. Director Howard Davies has been creating extraordinary shows based on lesser-known Russian plays for the past few seasons – his production of Bulgakkov’s the White Guard last year was riveting stuff, and that play’s adaptor Andrew Upton is here the adaptor of Chekhov’s classic too, while Zoe Wanamaker leads the cast as Ranyevskaya.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Douglas Henshall will star in Harold Pinter’s dark classic Betrayal (Comedy Theatre, from 16 June), while the Wire’s Dominic West leads in a revival of the cruel comedy Butley (Duchess Theatre, from 6 June) by Pinter’s late friend Simon Gray.