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London events in May

Get ready for a marvellous month with our selection of the best events, exhibitions and things to do in May 2020 in London

Swans, Kensington Gardens, London, May 2017
Richard/ Flickr
By Time Out London Things To Do |

Prepare yourself for a marvellous May in London. Spring has officially sprung, the days are warming up and London’s parks are at their blooming best. Spend those sunny May days in London exploring the capital's great outdoors or sinking a drink (or two) on one of London's rooftop bars, which have just started to open. Be sure to make the most of not one, but two Bank Holidays in May, by checking out the city's new exhibitions and theatre shows. May in London is also the month of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London Craft Week, London Wine Week, the Hackney Half Marathon, Chelsea Fringe and Museums at NightHere's our guide to the best events, parties, pop-ups and things to do in May 2020 in London. You're in for one sweet, sweet month.

While your diary’s out, remember that it's never too early to start planning for June either.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

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The best May events in London

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Things to do

Bank holiday in London

Sound the long weekend klaxon! Spring is upon us and you know what that means – there's a bank holiday on the horizon. The early May bank holiday (Friday May 8 2020) is the most important for Londoners.  Yes, it’s one of two bank holidays this month, and this year it falls on Friday: we're celebrating Victory in Europe (VE) Day. 2020 marks the 75th year since the end of World War II. This means late hours for pubs, with closing time moved from 11pm to 1am on  Friday night, as well as commemorative arts and cultural events at London institutions including the Imperial War Museum.There are heaps happening across London, so where do you start making plans? Right here, that’s where. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to celebrating the weekend. Whatever you like to get up to in your spare time (well, within reason), we’ve got you covered with all the best new art exhibitions, new theatre shows, day trips and the best clubs in London.  And if you enjoyed this bank holiday, you're going to love what's coming up later this month... Tat's right, two bank holidays in one month. The late May bank holiday this year falls on Monday May 25. No excuses for not living your best life this month. You have many sweet, empty days to fill. Make them count.

Emilia Clarke, The Seagull, 2019
Photograph: Charlie Gray
Theatre, Drama

‘The Seagull’

Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross

The Jamie Lloyd Company kicks off a busy 2020 with Anya Reiss’s unique modernisation of Chekhov’s wistful masterpiece ‘The Seagull’. Emilia Clarke makes her West End stage debut as vain young actress Nina alongside a first-rate cast including Robert Glenister, Daniel Monks, Indira Varma, Danny Ashok and Sophie Wu.

'Omeros' at Gate Theatre
Theatre, Drama


Gate Theatre, Notting Hill

Poet Derek Walcott's ‘Omeros’ is his landmark work; in it, he reimagines Classical epic the Iliad for a setting on Caribbean island Saint Lucia. 

secretsundaze @ THAT 03-06-12
Anomalous Visuals
Nightlife, Clubs

May bank holiday parties

Skip, bounce and bogle into the new season with our round-up of the long weekend’s best club nights from Friday May 27 to Sunday May 29 2017. If you feel a sudden spring in your step, you could go for a full three-day bender. Just make sure you plan for a very quiet Tuesday. RECOMMENDED: Your guide to the May bank holiday in London

Cao Fei 'Nova' (2019) Video. Image courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Cao Fei: ‘Blueprints’

Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park
4 out of 5 stars

Time is slipping, narratives are falling apart and reality is spinning into fantasy in this immersive show from Beijing-based multimedia artist Cao Fei, featuring VR headsets and an immersive recreation of her Beijing studio. It’s brutally relatable, time-travelling sociopolitical art about people and places being transformed by work and capitalism, surveillance and control.

Tom Stoppard, 2019
© Matt Humphrey
Theatre, Drama


Wyndham's Theatre, Charing Cross Road

The 81-year-old theatre legend’s new play is about the titular Jewish quarter of Vienna and follows it from its heyday as a haven for the Jews of Europe to the clampdown of the Nazi regime. 

Nmon Ford, Orfeus: A House Opera, Young Vic
© Jose Zakany
Theatre, Musicals

‘Orfeus: A House Music Opera’

Young Vic, Southwark

You want a mash-up of opera, house music and the Orfeus myth? SURE YOU DO. Created by American baritone Nmon Ford, ‘Orfeus’ is set in a dystopian near-future and features creator Ford himself as the eponymous hero, who must save the poet Eurydice from his fascist father, Pluto.

Sunil Gupta
Sunil Gupta 'Untitled 22' from the series 'Christopher Street' (1976) Image courtesy of the artist and Hales Gallery. © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

Masculinities: ‘Liberation Through Photography’

Barbican Centre, Barbican
4 out of 5 stars

Guns and cowboys, beer and beards, this show might be packed with typical images of masculinity, but with it's intimate, erotic shots of soldiers and films of men crying, it’s also full of subversion. In a society where gender is ceaselessly melting into an ever more fluid substance, this exhibition makes you walk away asking infinite questions.

'Welcome to Iran' at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Theatre, Drama

‘Welcome to Iran’

Theatre Royal Stratford East, Stratford

Artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nadia Fall has written and will also direct this narrative of Tehran life. It's a story of illicit raves and escaping the morality police, which aims to create an alternative view into an often-misunderstood country. 

Dear Evan Hansen, Broadway cast 2018
© Matthew Murphy
Theatre, Musicals

‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Noël Coward Theatre, Covent Garden

The tearjerking Tony-winner ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ comes to London. The musical concerns the eponymous troubled teen, who writes himself a series of letters to help him cope with a profoundly difficult time in his life, following the tragic death of a school friend.

Henry Fuseli 'The Weird Sisters, Macbeth' (c.1783) RSC Theatre Collection

‘British Surrealism’

Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich
3 out of 5 stars

A uniquely British look at the twentieth-century art movement, this exhibition provides a fascinating context for legends such as Paul Nash, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.

Photograph: Isa Genzken / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galerie Buchholz Cologne / Berlin / New York

Isa Genzken: ‘Window’

Hauser & Wirth, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Come fly with German punk minimalism supremo Isa Genzken with his brand-new art installation about planes and spaces. Genzken’s work creates in-between spaces, nowheres and adds a bit of nuance in a black and white world.

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

‘Steve McQueen’

Tate Modern, Bankside
5 out of 5 stars

A heavy-hitting art exhibition from Turner Prize- and Oscar-winning Steve McQueen. Go for a painful, moving and totally amazing show about racism, violence, greed, oppression, manipulation and sadness. It’s truly eye-opening stuff.

Dóra Maurer 'Relative Quasi Image' (1996) Private collection © Dóra Maurer Photo: Vintage Galéria / András Bozsó

‘Dóra Maurer’

Tate Modern, Bankside

This year-long free display will introduce British audiences to Dóra Maurer, an Hungarian artist who started making work at a time when her country's government were trying to mould artists' output to their own political ends. 

© 2019 Kehinde Wiley. Image courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery. Photograph by Nicola Tree.

Kehinde Wiley: ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
4 out of 5 stars

A collection of paintings of real women that Barack Obama’s portraitist Kehinde Wiley met on the streets of Dalston, this show is a joyous celebration of black identity.

Photograph: Aubrey Beardsley 'The Kiss of Judas' (1893) Image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum

‘Aubrey Beardsley’

Tate Britain, Millbank
4 out of 5 stars

The Victorians have a reputation for being buttoned-up, but Aubrey Beardsley’s black-and-white drawings are full of sex and death. This gorgeous retrospective covers pretty much everything Beardsley did, from early medievalist and mythological subjects through to illustrations for The Yellow Book and explicit pictures of Ancient Greeks getting frisky. It’s audacious, bold, sexy and knowingly funny.

Hairspray, Michael Ball, 2019
Theatre, Musicals


London Coliseum, Covent Garden

Check out this revival of the big-hearted, acceptance-preaching, ’60s-homaging musical. It’s being billed as a new production, though fans of the original are unlikely to be disappointed, as it reunites director Jack O’Brie, choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and star Michael Ball. 

Image courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum

Kimono: ‘Kyoto to Catwalk’

V&A, South Kensington
4 out of 5 stars

A beguiling look at the history of Japan’s most iconic garment, from the Edo Period (1603-1868) through to the Dutch kimono trade, Victorian obsessions with Japan and modern reinterpretations. This is another excellent exhibition from a museum known for its fashion blockbusters.

Sunday in the Park with George, Jake Gyllenhaal
Theatre, Musicals

‘Sunday in the Park with George’

Savoy Theatre, Strand

Jake Gyllenhaal made his stage debut in London, but has stayed away since. Finally, though, he’s back, reprising his lead role in this recent Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant 1984 musical.

Find great things to do all year round


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