Fri 13 - Sun 15 Dec
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEKEND
Breaking the Ice, Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, Wed 11 – Tue 24 Dec
Awww! Fliskit Theatre comes to Muddy fave Pegasus with its new show Breaking the Ice, about an unlikely friendship between a husky and a polar bear. Fliskit specialises in creating theatre for younger audiences, using a mix of physical theatre, puppetry and interactive projection, plus it’s only 40 mins long so perfect for little fidgeters with short attention spans. pegasustheatre.org.uk
Razorlight, O2 Academy, Oxford, 13 Dec
Coming to the O2 are indie rock band Razorlight on their first big tour in 10 years. Oxford is the first show, so they should be full of beans.
John Barrowman, New Theatre, Oxford, 14 Dec
For Christmas hits (and a giant helping of jazz hands), John Barrowman is celebrating 30 years in stage and screen with a festive album, A Fabulous Christmas, which he will be performing at New Theatre, Oxford. Fabulouuuuus!
Beauty and the Beast, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, 6 Dec – 5 Jan
Who’s the biggest pull – Eastenders’ regular Danny Walters who stars as the Prince or Britain’s Got Talent’s drag act La Voix and local celeb Andy Collins who have made your correspondent snort with laughter for the last few years? It’s too tough to call – maybe we’ll have to ask the talking furniture to decide. atgtickets.com
Aladdin, Milton Keynes Theatre, 7 Dec – 12 Jan
Lee Mead! Did you hear me randy women of Bucks & Oxon, flipping LEE MEAD! And, er, squeaky comedian Joe Pasquale, but there, you can’t have it all. Want to see them messing about on a magic carpet? Your wish is my command! They’re both performing in MK Theatre’s Aladdin panto this year alongside a live orchestra.
Puss in Boots, Theatre Chipping Norton, 13 Nov – 12 Jan
The Theatre in Chippy always punches above its weight and this year’s Puss in Boots, set in 1950s London, offers a cool twist on the usual routine. For those not encumbered by little people, there are adult-only evenings on offer – the mind fair boggles, doesn’t it Puss? chippingnortontheatre.com
Beauty and the Beast, Oxford Playhouse, 29 Nov – 12 Jan
Can’t stand Z-list pantos? The Oxford Playhouse continues its policy of not bothering with the soap star brigade, with its in-house panto. If you enjoyed last year’s Dick Whittington and his Cat then it’s a dead cert as it’s the same team behind the production. oxfordplayhouse.com
Cinderella, The Elgiva, Tue 10 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
A great local venue for Cinderella, promising a ‘traditional family pantomime’ by panto specialists New Pantomime Productions (they’ve been putting on shows for 35 years, so must be pretty good at it by now). A few local celeb-types in the cast including Aylesbury-based Mix96’s Ben Moseby and Last of the Summer Wine‘s Tom Owen. elgiva.com
Dick Whittington, Wycombe Swan, 13 Dec – 5 Jan
Heart-throb Love Island contestant (and younger brother of Strictly’s AJ Pritchard) Curtis Pritchard makes his panto debut in Wycombe Swan’s Dick Whittington. Will there be an influx of millennials at the panto this year? Will Curtis be able to fill Brendan Cole’s (tap) shoes after the New Zealander’s performance in Snow White last year? Will Curtis be breaking hearts all across High Wycombe? We’ll have to wait and see. wycombeswan.co.uk
Sleeping Beauty, Kenton Theatre, 13 – 28 Dec
This year the Henley-based theatre will be pricking fingers and hacking through briars in Sleeping Beauty. Always a sell out and I love this local funky space, gratifyingly close to the river for a walk after the matinee. kentontheatre.co.uk
The Snow Queen, North Wall Theatre, Sat 30 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
The ever quirky Creation Theatre is turning down the thermostat at North Wall Theatre to transform the space into Lapland for its new production of The Snow Queen. If you’ve enjoyed Creation’s previous festive offerings (Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol, Snow White) it’s a dead cert as it’s the same team behind the production. creationtheatre.co.uk
The Adventures of Pinocchio, Cornerstone, Sat 7 – Sun 29 Dec
The creative team behind Cornerstone’s last Xmas offering, The Pied Piper, return to the venue with a vibrant new version of The Adventures of Pinocchio promising humour and original songs performed live on stage by musicians supported by local talent. cornerstone-arts.org.uk
The Last Noël, Old Fire Station, Wed 4 – Mon 23 Dec
Old Fire Station do things a little differently at Christmas and put on a more grown up show every year (12+). This year it’s The Last Noël, a funny and moving tale about family dynamics at Christmastime. Last year’s show, Snowflake, received top marks so it should be a goodie. oldfirestation.org.uk
Morgan and West: a (Sort of) Christmas Carol, The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, Fri 13 – Tue 24 Dec
Magic, time-travel, and a Dickens classic…what could possibly go wrong? Morgan & West present their family friendly, two-man, slapstick take on the Christmas classic. themillartscentre.co.uk
Stories with Santa, Oxford’s New Theatre, Sun 8 – Tue 24 Dec
Suitable for kids up to eight, Santa will be coming to the New Theatre’s Piano Bar to deliver stories, songs and gifts. The show is interactive and kids get a personal meeting with the big guy himself. atgtickets.com
December is here so it’s now officially acceptable to go full throttle on festivities and there are loads of Christmas markets popping up over Bucks and Oxon to get you in the Christmas mood.
For wow-factor settings there’s Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, with a 20ft Christmas tree, 80 exhibitors standing to attention in charming wooden chalets. Don’t forget to check out the amazing light show whilst you’re there (until 22 Dec). Or over in Woodstock there are more lights (we’re talking a 100k Light Tunnel and laser show) at Blenheim Palace alongside twinkling wooden chalets lining the Great Court selling a curated range of ceramics, textiles, gifts, homewares, fashion and foodie items (until 15 Dec). And then there’s Oxford Christmas Market, on Broad Street, which runs right up to the big day and is a lifesaver for those last minute Christmas gifts – it’s rescued me a couple of times! (5 – 21 Dec)
CHRISTMAS AT NATIONAL TRUSTS & STATELY HOMES
Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Bucks, until 5 Jan (Wed – Sun)
The decorations at the house this year are influenced by the National Trust site’s connection to music, from traditional carols to Christmas hits. There’s also a stunning light trail (see the Muddy review here) around the Aviary and light shows on the facade of the manor house. Head to the stables to snap a picture inside one of the two huge LED baubles.
Stonor, Henley, Oxon, until 15 Dec
Stonor opens its doors to the public at Christmas for the fourth time, with this year’s theme being A Candlelit Christmas. The house will be decorated with holly, mistletoe, sweet scented pine and greenery grown by the Head Gardener, plus a 20ft Victorian decorated Christmas Tree in the Gothic Hall.
Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Bucks (8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 Dec and 1 Jan)
The manor will be decorated in traditional splendour, inspired by the make-do-and-mend world of wartime Britain, and there’ll also be a children’s trail following Sergeant Hadfield’s little Scottie dog around the winter gardens (7 – 29 Dec).
Chastleton House, Moreton-in-Marsh, Oxon (7, 8 Dec)
Built by a prosperous wool merchant in the 17th Century, Chastleton House remained in the same family for 400 years until the National Trust renovated it in the 1990s. The beautiful house will be decorated for a Victorian Christmas and open to the public for select dates.
Stowe, nr Buckingham, Bucks, 1 Dec – 5 Jan
There’s a landscape advent calendar in the stunning Stowe gardens with 12 displays dotted around the frosty garden to celebrate the Georgian tradition of the Twelfth Night.
Cliveden, Taplow, Berks, until 23 Dec (Sat, Sun & school holidays)
Just over the Berks border, expect a charming Christmas trail round the stunning grounds inspired by stories of Astor family Christmases on the estate.Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon
Blenheim always goes the whole hog with its Illuminated Light Trail and this year there’ll be over 100,000 for the Tunnel of Light, a Laser Garden, scented Fire Garden and light finale on the Water Terrace and front of the Palace set to music. For kids there’ll be a Victorian-style fairground and Santa, plus the Palace will be decorated in the theme of Alice in Wonderland.CHRISTMAS CAROLS
There’s nothing quite like a carol concert to get you properly in the mood for Christmas, right? The utterly fabulous Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton is hosting a series of concerts for the festive period, each including a five course dinner and Champagne Laurent-Perrier. The concerts are on the pricey side, but no surprises there as you’re getting double Michelin star quality (2 – 31 Dec).
In Bucks, Stowe’s New Inn courtyard will be hosting local musicians throughout the Yuletide period (7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 Dec). For another beautiful and atmospheric setting, there are two concerts at Dorchester Abbey in south Oxon performed by the Orchestra of St John’s – a traditional Christmas carol concert (14 Dec) and a performance of Handel’s Messiah (21 Dec). The orchestra will also be performing at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford (15 Dec).
Also in central Oxford, there are also a concert at the Sheldonian Theatre – Traditional Christmas Carol Concert (15 Dec) and Carols for All – Oxford Bach Choir (21 Dec). It’s a stunner of a setting and bound to be a sell out so snap up tickets quickly.
Rhod Gilbert, New Theatre, Oxford, 13 Dec
Supplying the LOLs this week is multi award-winning Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert, who returns to the stand-up scene after a six year hiatus, with his new show The Book of John, a raw, personal and brutally honest look at Rhod’s life since he last took to the stage (13 Dec).
Andrew Bird, The Bullingdon, Cowley Road, Oxford, 14 Dec
At The Bullingdon in Cowley, there’s a special Christmas stand-up from Andrew Bird – he’s previously supported Michael McIntyre and Lee Hurst, with rave reviews so it should be a goodie (14 Dec).
ART & EXHIBITIONS
New on the art scene this month is a solo exhibition of up-and-coming East London artist Tommy Fiendish (below) at the brilliant Dantzig gallery in Woodstock. Each of Tommy’s pieces begin as a 2D image of an abandoned property with layers of colour, mythological animals, ’50s tattoos, swans and a touch of Gothic. Very cool (until 27 Dec).
Another must-see before it concludes at the end of the month is ICON at Old Fire Station, in Oxford, which involves recreations of iconic photographs by Rory Carnegie and artists who have experienced homelessness (until 23 Dec). I’m absolutely loving this idea!
Elsewhere, there’s Wildsong by Jane Duff at The North Wall with work inspired by the artist’s upbringing on the edge of Snowdonia and experience working as a guide in the Himalayas (until 7 Jan); The Young Turner: Ambitions in Architecture and the Art of Perspective, on display at Banbury Museum which is a collection of JMW Turner’s work from the 1780s to the 1810s, on loan from The Ashmolean, The Tate and private collections (until 12 Jan) and George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ , (below) at MK Gallery, the first overview of the British artist’s work in the UK for over 30 years (until 26 Jan).
In central Oxford you catch Kiki Smith show ‘I Am Wanderer’ (until 19 Jan), at Modern Art Oxford, which promises to take visitors on a mythological journey via her huge tapestries to exquisitely fashioned gold shells; the Ashmolean’s current display, Last Supper in Pompeii, with 400+ exhibits from the ancient Roman site buried by the enormous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (until 12 Jan) and First Animals, an exploration of the first life on earth at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (until 24 Feb).
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Alexandra Palace, Fri 13 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Assuredly NOT a panto, this West End production (it showed at the Apollo Theatre in 2015 and 2016) comes to Ally Pally, promising a riotous spin on JM Barrie’s classic tale. From the creators of award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. alexandrapalace.com
Nativity! The Musical, The Eventim Apollo, London, 11 – 29 Dec
This made the leap from film to Christmas show in a touring production in 2017 – now it’s back again for the third round. Great cast for this one including the return of father and daughter duo Dani and Danny Dyer, plus Rylan Clarke-Neal and Sharon Osbourne. West End star Simon Lipkin will also reprise his role as Mr Poppy. I saw a version in Oxford last year and it was hilarious and heartwarming (even without the star cast), so this is bound to be brilliant. Proper feel-good family theatre. Tickets here.
Mama Mia! A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is coming to The O2, London this month – ABBA: Super Troupers is a journey through the Swedish band’s career and will feature personal items and artefacts never seen before in the UK (6 Dec – 21 Aug 2020).
Another newbie is Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery. One of the biggest cultural events in the winter calendar, the exhibit features 150+ original artefacts found in the Pharaoh’s tomb that was unearthed in 1922.
Other exhibitions worth a snoop are Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane collection of work at the V&A (until 8 March); William Blake at Tate Britain, with the visionary painter and poets work blown up to enormous scale using digital technology (until 2 Feb 2020); Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s (4 Oct – 19 Jan).