MON 11 - SUN 17 DEC 2017
War Horse, New Theatre Oxford, Weds 13 Dec – Sat 6 Jan 2018
Soooo excited that the outstanding National Theatre production of War Horse is coming to Oxford New Theatre this month. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and featuring those incredible, life-size puppets of the horses, it’s nearly sold sell-out, so please don’t leave it too late to book.
New Theatre, George Street, Oxford, atgtickets.com
Santa’s Amazing Science Experience, Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury, Sat 16 Dec
Your kids will love this phizz-whizzing science show of festive experiments in the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. A seasonal scientist will leave them biffsquiggled as he performs tricks with smoke, air, ice and snow – the 45 minute experience also includes a tour of the gallery with elf helpers, an appearance from Santa and a gift to take home. Suitable for 5 – 12 year olds. buckscountymuseum.org
Whales: Beneath the Surface, Natural History Museu, now – Feb 2018
Looking for something to now the kids are breaking up? You could combine this brilliant new (ish) family exhibition exploring 50 million years of the whale with a quick skate round the Natural History Museum’s fabulous open air ice rink.
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, nhm.ac.uk
Christmas Comedy – Mike Wilmot, Potters Arms, Thurs 14 Dec
Winner of two Canadian Comedy Awards and best known for his work in It’s All Gone Pete Tong, comedian Mike Wilmot comes to The Potters Arms, a little rural pub outside Amersham this Thursday. Now a well-established night on the national comedy circuit, tickets to this hilarious event includes a turkey roast, making it a cool Christmas party alternative.
The Potters Arms, Fagnall Lane, Winchmore Hill, Bucks, pottersarms.co.uk
Oxford Christmas Market, Broad Street, Oxford, Thurs 7 – Sun 17 Dec
This pretty chalet market bang in the Broad St, one of my favourite Oxford streets, is worth the detour if you’re in central Oxford. Loads of quirky, indie traders so a good chance to scoop up some really unusual pressies, plus food and mulled wine and live music every day. It’s getting to feel a lot like Christmas, folks!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 8 – Sun 31 Dec
Here they come! Su Pollard, you say? (*immediately books all the tickets*). Say hi-de-hi – or should that be hi ho hi ho hi ho? – to the Wicked Queen, who I’ll hazard a guess will be, ahem, vibrantly attired. Mirror mirror on the wall, is this the campest panto of them all? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Waterside Theatre, Exchange St, Aylesbury, Bucks, atgtickets.com
Coffee Concerts, Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, Sun 17 Dec
I’m a big fan of these coffee concerts in central Oxford – I used to go to them with my lovely dad, so I think fondly of them. But sentimentality aside, they stand on their own merit. World class performers in the oldest, purpose-built concert venue in Europe. Daniel Lebhardt is set to play Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit and Beethoven Piano Sonata no 17 in D minor, op 32 no 2 (“The Tempest”).
Morgan & West: A (sort of ) Christmas Carol Magic Show! Pegasus, Oxford, Tues 5 – Sun 24 Dec
More Chuck D – no, not him from Public Enemy, I mean Charles Dickens – as Oxford’s Pegasus theatre also tackle A Christmas Carol this season. This version is presented by magicians Morgan & West (as seen on The Next Great Magician (ITV), Penn & Teller: Fool Us(ITV), and The Slammer (CBBC)).
Pegasus, Magdalen Rd, Oxford, pegasustheatre.org.uk
Santa’s Grotto, Sulgrave Manor, Sun 17 Dec
Did you know that Sulgrave Manor near Banbury is the home of George Washington’s ancestors? Well you do now! Visit the historic estate this Sunday between 11am-4pm for a tour of Santa’s grotto with with Mrs Claus. Ticket also includes letter writing and Reindeer food cookery workshop (booking essential).
Sulgrave Manor, Manor Rd, Sulgrave, nr. Banbury, Oxon, sulgravemanor.co.uk
Jack and the Beanstalk, Wycombe Swan, Sat 9 – Sun 31 Dec
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a boyband alum. Simon Webbe from Blue – no kidding! – stars as our bean-obsessed hero, alongside Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler, CBeebies star Chris Jarvis and veteran panto dame extraordinaire Nigel Ellacott, who notches up this 43rd panto run. Blimey, he’s keen. wycombeswan.co.uk.
Here’s the full panto list in Bucks & Oxon and a bit beyond.
Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates through Dec
Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on 2, 3, 9 & 16 Dec) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto on selected dates between until 23 Dec for kids aged 2 to 17 (somehow, I can’t image my 15 year old son being seen anywhere near a grotto or grown ups dressed as elves – but, hey, each to her own!)
Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, bletchleypark.org.uk
Polly Gibbons & James Pearson, Spin Jazz, Thurs 14 Dec
Last show before Crimbo at Oxford’s hot jazz venue headlines with vocalist Polly Gibbons (above) and pianist James Pearson bringing an evening of song and music to round up the Spin Jazz season. Expect a world-class night out: Polly is a regular performer at top venues from Ronnie Scotts in London, to the iconic Birdland in NYC and James has a staggering fifty album credits to his name, working with everyone from Paul McCartney to Wynton Marsalis.
Spin Jazz, The Wheatsheaf, 129 High Street, Oxford, spinjazz.net
Day Out With Thomas and Father Christmas, Bucks Railway Centre, Sat 16 – Sun 17 Dec
Father Christmas is clearly a fan of the steam train – he’s using Thomas as his grotto this year. If you take the kids you’ll be shown to your seats on the train, and will ride up and down the track a few times as you wait for the old guy to come to our compartment with gifts. The ticket price includes presents for all kids, refreshments (drink and biscuit for children; hot drink, sausage roll and mince pie for adults), a live children’s show, face-painting, Thomas-themed colouring and badge making and you can meet The Fat Controller.
Bucks Railway Centre, Quainton Road Station, Station Rd, Quainton, Bucks, bucksrailwaycentre.org
Working Christmas, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, Weds 6 – Sat 23 Dec
Not a panto lover? For something completely different this month but still brim-full of that Christmassy feeling, head down to The Old Fire Station. Billed as a ‘Christmas play for grown ups’, there’s a brilliant cast of actor/comedians putting on this lovely show.
Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford , oldfirestation.org
Softer – Jenny Holzer Exhibition at Blenheim Palace, until 31 Dec
The fourth artist to to showcase contemporary art at Blenheim Palace (my kids still talk about Ai Wei Wei back in 2015), Holzer will be creating new work directly addressing our military and political history – eeek! For this show she’s developing large-scale light projections that will transform the Formal Gardens after dark in a series of night time public events. Sound cool right? Plus visitors can also explore more meditative areas featuring examples of Holzer’s best-known work.
Hannah Ryggen, Modern Art Oxford, now until 18 Feb 2018
Another corker of an expo from Modern Art, Oxford. Hannah Ryggen was one of Scandinavia’s most outstanding artistic figures of the 20th century, an impassioned artist responding to the socio-political events of her time, from the the rise of fascism and the Nazi occupation of Norway, to nuclear power and media coverage of the Vietnam War. This is the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the UK and surveys her career from early portraiture through to the intricate tapestries that characterised her career from the 1920s onward. Don’t forget that Modern Art Oxford is free entry, and there’s a brill café on site too.
Christmas Concerto by Candlelight, Exeter College, Oxford, Sun 17 Dec
A way to grab a little bit of peace and tranquility on a Sunday afternoon. Christmas Concerto by Candelight is performed by the City of Oxford Orchestra, featuring Pachelbel’s Canon, and Vivaldi’s Winter. Exeter College Chapel is beautiful too so I can’t think this will be anything other than exquisite.
Concerts at 5pm and 8pm. Exeter College Chapel, Oxford, cityofoxfordorchestra.co.uk
Aladdin and the Magical Lamp, JdP Music Building, Oxford, Sat 16 – Fri 22 Dec
Join Alison, the jolly but clueless Genie, her mean money-grabbing boss and a host of other friendly characters for a modern adaptation of the Disney classic Aladdin. Experience a whole new world (geddit) as you fly around Oxford on a magical electric blanket with plenty of entertainment, puppetry, clowning and original songs along the way. Perfect for 2-7 year-olds (£7 per person, under 1s go free). jdp.st-hildas.ox.ac.uk
Christmas Kingdom, Mead Open Farm, Fri 1 – Sun 24 Dec
The Mead Open Farm Christmas Kingdom has the major plus of being all under cover so you can still get in the Christmas spirit if the weather’s less than perfect. Kids can meet Santa in his Grotto and get a Magical Boarding Pass to lots more fun – from festive 3D film, to exploring the Elves’ Christmas Village, to meeting real Reindeer. Some autism- friendly sessions this year too with fewer people, strobe lighting turned off and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
Christmas at Legoland, Windsor, through Dec
Legoland is all twinkly lights and snow-dusted Christmas magic. Entry price for the Christmas season includes a visit to LEGO Santa in his magic grotto for kids who’ll receive a LEGO gift to take home. Grown ups aren’t forgotten – they’ll receive a free hot drink and cookie and a large double shot of whisky to anaesthesise a day looking after children.
Legoland Windsor Resort, Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berks, legoland.co.uk
G4 – Christmas by Candlelight, Sheldonian, Oxford, Fri 15 Dec
Remember this bunch and their ‘Nessun Dorma’ on the X-Factor back in 2004? In true ‘boy band’ tradition, they then split up, then reunited but – hoorah! – they came back and they’ve carved a bit of a niche with their Christmas by Candlelight concerts. Raising funds for the ‘Missing People’ charity, it’s a really good cause too.
The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford, venues.ox.ac.uk
PANTOS STARTING THIS WEEK…
Robin Hood, Kenton Theatre, Henley, Fri 15 – Thurs 28 Dec
We’re promised a madcap, medieval romp in this Immersion Theatre Company production of Robin Hood. Will our hero win the heart of Maid Marion? Will the dastardly sheriff of Nottingham get his comeuppance? No spoilers, please, or I’ll shoot you with my bow and arrow.
The Kenton Theatre, New Street, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, kentontheatre.co.uk
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, Fri 15 – Sat 30 Dec
Cornerstone Arts tackles the lesser-known Nutcracker and the Mouse King in their festive musical show, performed by actors. In case you can’t remember this story (I couldn’t): Maria and family arrive at a shonky old toyshop one Christmas Eve, and after dark all the toys come to life, sing, dance and try to find a way to defeat the miserly Mouse King.
Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Rd, Didcot, cornerstone-arts.org
& FURTHER AFIELD…
North – Fashioning Identity, Somerset House, now to Feb 4 2018
Forget the north/south divide, London doffs its hat to Manchester, Newcastle et al in this new exhibition. Social documentary film and photography detailing life in the north of England in the mid-20th century sits alongside works by photographers, designers and artists inspired by the parts of our green and pleasant land beyond the Watford Gap. Contributors include Nottingham’s finest Paul Smith and Manchester’s Factory Records designer Peter Saville. If you visit after 15 Nov, you can also take a twirl on Somerset House’s gorgeous outdoor ice rink.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Sadler’s Wells, London, Sat 9 Dec – Sat 27 Jan
Matthew Bourne’s productions are always stunning and this is no exception. He transposes the story of Cinderella to London during the Blitz, rebooting it as a wartime romance between our heroine and an RAF pilot. The reviews have been of the rave variety, with Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets winning Olivier Award.
Sadlers Wells, Rosebery Av, London EC1, sadlerswells.com
Dick Whittington, London Palladium, Sun 10 Dec – Fri 12 Jan
Filed under ‘go big or go home’, we have London Palladium’s offering, starring Julian Clary and Elaine Paige. Oh yeah! And you thought Su Pollard was camp. Fans of ’80s cheesiness will be thrilled to hear that Gary Wilmot co-stars alongside Nigel ‘The Charmer’ Havers.
London Palladium, Argyll St, London, dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
Twelfth Night, RST, Stratford, Thurs Nov 2- Feb 24 2018
Winterville, Clapham Common, now – 1 Jan 2018
If you’re in Sarf London over Christmas, Winterville on Clapham Common’s is well worth a look. There’s everything from an outdoor Ice Rink to a fairground, roller disco and free kids’ entertainment, but there’s lots more unusual stuff than at your standard Christmas Fair. We’re particularly loving the sound of the Spiegeltent, where you’ll find cabaret, bingo, kids raves and, er, Mexican wrestling. What next, ‘Yoga On Ice’? Oh, I see, they have that too.