Power through the April showers with my definitive ‘best of’ for the month.
Chipping Norton Lit Fest, Thurs 26 – Sun 29 April
Loving the sound of this eclectic festival. Reggie Yates and Gorky Paul rub shoulders with Terry Waite and Lionel Shriver in various venues throughout this elegant Cotswolds town in North Oxfordshire.
The Little Mermaid, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, Weds 25 April
I’ve seen Swan Lake a trillion times, but The Little Mermaid as a ballet is new to me. Not for long though – the brilliant Leicestershire-based Ballet Theatre UK comes to the Wycombe Swan for one night only in this dramatic interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy story. Tissues at the ready for the mermaid who gives up everything to win the love of a human Prince, making a tragic bargain with an evil Sea Witch in the process.
Dara O’Briain, The Voice of Reason, New Theatre, Oxford, Sat 28 – Sun 29 April 2018
He’s been a clever comic, Dara O’Briain, diversifying his appeal with Robot Wars, The Apprentice – You’re Fired! and Stargazing Live. But his bread and butter is still stand-up (and now wonder with tickets £27.15 each), and he’s back in Oxford with his brand new touring show.
Heather Small, O2 Academy Oxford, Fri 27 April
I love the fact that this gig starts at 6.30pm – just in time for the M People front woman to get home into her onesie for the 10 o’clock news (have to ‘fess up, that’s my kind of night too). She’s on a UK-wide tour to remind people of her greatest hits including Moving On Up, How Can I Love You More? and One Night In Heaven – and at a steep £68 a ticket she’d better make a good show of it!
Tractor Ted Live, Stonor Park, Sun 29 April
The UK’s favourite little green tractor will be making a star appearance at Stonor Park. There’s also a mobile farm for kids 1-7 years (are you kidding me, I LOVE a mobile farm), and a giant Tractor Ted Bouncy Castle. You can book online for a 10% reduction.
Turn End Trust House and Garden Open Weekend, Haddenham, Sat 28 – 29 April
Discover the 1960s home of architect Peter Aldington and his passion for inside/outside living during this special Turn End Trust event. To celebrate the opening of the stunning house and gardens, local artists have displayed over 30 sculptures in the listed outdoor space which you can view and buy on the day. The studio of printmaker Heather Hunter, and acclaimed photographer Paul Wilkinson, long time Muddy fave (he took the photo of me on the homepage) will also be open for your leisure. Entrance £15, 2pm-5pm.
It’s Always Tea Time, Story Museum, Oxford, until July 7
Journey down the rabbit hole and discover It’s Always Tea Time, a fab new Alice-themed exhibit at Oxford’s Story Museum. Visiting the UK for the first time ever, this award-winning collection celebrates the world’s most famous tea party from Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 72 Artists from 19 countries including Iran, Russia, Spain, Hungary and the Baltic States explore the theme with interactive picture trails, dress-up stations and artwork displays which appeal to the whole family.
BOOK NOW FOR:
Fragment, North Wall Theatre, Mon 16 – Thurs 19 May
Double Fringe First winner Iron Shoes bring gig theatre to Oxford with this musical voyage about love, loss and heartache. Set in Redcar, against the backdrop of the collapse of the steel industry, Fragment follows Lester Fall, a painter and decorator returning home to face his demons, and attempting to put back together the pieces of a broken heart.
An Officer & A Gentleman, Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, Mon 7 – Sat 12 May
This is a movie etched forever on my brain – anyone else have happy teenage memories of Richard Gere in full navals (or maybe, er, half navals)? Like all films pre 1990 An Office & A Gentleman has now been judged ripe for a musical makeover, and this is its premiere season, having started last month in Leicester’s Curve theatre. The soundtrack includes the hit song from the movie Up Where We Belong along with Eighties anthems including Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Livin’ On A Prayer, Heart of Glass, Material Girl, and ‘The Final Countdown’. The Muddy fromage-ometer is riper than a blue cheese in the midday sun but pass those goddam crackers and fill up my wine glass, I’m grabbing my girl posse and GOING!
The Shed at Pub in the Park, Marlow, Sun 20 May
Tom Kerridge has Marlow residents eating out of the palm of his hand (not literally, that would be disgusting). His latest grand plan for the town is a special Sunday lunch at The Shed, followed by VIP Sunday night tickets to Pub in the Park – think bubbles in the private bar and the best view of the stage – and then a stay at The Hand and Flowers for the night. The privilege will cost you £450 per person (*gulp*) but what price 24 hours of gastro happiness? Call 01628 401530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supercar Sunday, Stonor Park, Sun 20 May
Calling all Penelope Pitstops! Get yourselves down to Stonor Park, the idyllic backdrop of this annual supercar event, featuring a parade of pioneering race cars, classic sportscars, and modern hypercars. It’s set to be a fantastic family day out where you can enjoy a picnic – once the cars have left the lawn of course, health and safety fans – try some exciting street food or let loose in the Wonder Woods. Book now and save £3 per ticket. stonor.com
UNIQLO Tate Lates, Tate Modern, London, Fri 27 April 2018
Totally groovacious after hours event at Tate Modern on the last Friday of every month, with a mix of art, music, film and workshops. Yours from 6-10pm and absolutely free.
ALREADY GONE THIS MONTH…
Easter Family Festival, The Cornerstone Theatre, Didcot, Sun 8 – Sun 15 April
The Cornerstone manages to combine a strong community feel with some excellent family programming. This month they’re running a special Easter Family Festival (Sun 8 April – Sun 15 April) for all ages from 3+, including The Nose That Nobody Picked (surely the best title for a kids play ever) for ages 5-11 years, the Pantaloons The War of the Worlds on Thursday 12 April for 12+ with musical instruments and puppetry and Innocence, a beautiful piece of interactive dance performance theatre for children 3 years over and their adults.
Other family theatricals worthy of your consideration include my modern clown crush Tweedy, of Gifford’s Circus fame, at Chipping Norton theatre (Sat 6 April) with a new family theatre show Symphony – he’s absolutely brilliant, and it’s bound to be very funny.
Hairspray The Musical, Milton Keynes Theatre, Mon 9 – Sat 14 April 2018
It’s Baltimore, 1962 where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV (er, it says here). I haven’t seen this musical before so if you’re like me, here’s your moment – it’s rocking up in MK this month. There’s also a Hairspray afternoon tea on Weds 11 April (1.15pm, £15) if you want to go for coiffure overkill.
Tickets £17.50 – £50.50
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Oxford Playhouse, Tues 17 – Sat 21 April
Awards aplenty for Daniel Jamieson’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk after selling out at London’s Globe Theatre and the Traverse in Edinburgh, where it won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award. Presented by Kneehigh and Bristol Old Vic, the play follows partners in life and on canvas, Marc and Bella Chagall, through some of the most devastating times in history, navigating the Pogroms, the Russian Revolution, and each other. It looks awesome.
Aged 10 plus and 90 minutes with no interval. Book tickets £10- £30
Spring show, Carina Haslam Gallery, Great Missenden, Thurs 19 April
Opened in 2011 in the lovely village of Great Missenden, this respected gallery exhibits life-sized bronzes, land and seascapes and semi-abstract work and has sold to the likes of Flemings bank, Fortnum and Mason and The House of Lords. Haslam exhibits her clients all around the country and internationally but her Spring show in Buckinghamshire is, let’s face it, waaaaay more convenient!
CADA Antique Fair, Blenheim Palace, 19-22 April
World-class art and antiques by over 30 dealers come together at at the seventh annual Blenheim Palace CADA Fair, featuring everything from furniture to clocks, textiles to garden ornaments. Prices go from a passable £100 to a choke-on-your-breakfast £100,000+. Still, it’s free to look.
My First Ballet: Swan Lake, New Theatre Oxford, Sat 21 – Sun 22 April
My First Ballet: Swan Lake is aimed at children aged 3+, and performed by students at the English national Ballet school in a simplified version of the fairytale. These performances are massively popular – the My First Ballet series has been running since 2012 – and they’re beautifully staged with a narrator to help the young audience follow the story, and a shortened version of Tchaikovsky’s score.
Ellie Taylor, Chipping Norton Theatre, Weds 11 April
Following a sell-out Edinburgh Festival season and autumn tour, Ellie Taylor of Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats fame, has added additional spring dates for her new stand-up show discussing whether or not she should breed (don’t do it Ellie, save yourself!). £15
Birds of Prey Family Fun Day, River & Rowing Museum, Henley, Thurs 5 April
Free with entry into the museum, here’s an awesome chance to meet the magnificent birds from Millets Farm Falconry with the Birds of Prey Family Fun Dayand get up close to hawks, eagles and owls. There’ll also be the chance for kids to get arts and crafty too. Also worth keeping an eye out for the Easter Egg Hunt (daily, 29 March – 15 April), and Easter afternoon tea (Mon 2 April 2-4 with Muddy favourite Time For Tea Vintage, £27.50 adults, £9.50 kids). Grown ups can escape for some peace in the small Barbara Hepworth or permanent John Piper exhibitions.
Victorian Passions and Pursuits, Blenheim Palace, until 16 April
The period of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 – 1901) saw five Dukes of Marlborough living at Blenheim Palace. Some of their Passions and Pursuits are represented in the Palace itself and highlights and include the Saloon restored to its Victorian heyday and costumes and sketches from The Young Victoria, from the personal archive of Academy award winning designer Sandy Powell. Particularly worthwhile are the Romance & Rebellion collection of paintings featuring 40 works by artists including Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, Richard Dadd and Aubrey Beardsley, plus vintage cars and and fire engines from the era.
‘Dracula’, Creation Theatre, Blackwells Bookshop, Oxford, 3 – 14 April
Well this is a bit different! A play for two, performed in the basement of Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, featuring some bloke from Transylvania and his hapless victim. It promises innovative audio-visuals to conjure up the phantoms, and at 12+ it’s clearly not for the faint-hearted. Bring your garlic and for heaven’s sake remember to wear a polo neck.
Book tickets £22- £27
Alchymy 2018, The North Wall, Summertown, Oxford 6-8 April 2018
The second year of the Alchymy Festival, designed to showcase the skills of early-career theatre-makers will see a programme of 12 new plays premiere alongside masterclasses and panel discussions. Most writers, directors and actors involved in the festival were trained at The North Wall on the organisation’s ArtsLab programme so it’s very much about supporting home-grown talent.
Coraline, The Barbican, 29 Mar – Sat 7 April 2018
Just a few days left to catch Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel Coraline turned operatic stage adaptation that London’s been buzzing about. Recommended for ages 8+. Tickets: £10–£40.
Now Play This, Somerset House, London, Fri 6 – Sun 8 Apr
I’m feeling a bit anti screen at the mo (anyone else struggling to get young people to look up and out rather than down?) but even I have to admit this three day games festival sounds intriguing. Players can experience dozens of diverse games – many of which premiere at the festival. The focus this year is on the idea of place, and visitors can explore different countries and cultures, and critical issues specific to these places ranging from international borders to identity. Drop-in workshops throughout the popular weekender will also enable players to explore the patterns, processes and particularities of game making.