MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH
COMEDY: Sandi Toksvig, New Theatre, Oxford, 20 Jan
Headline comedy this month comes from brilliant Danish comic and Great British Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig. She’s coming to New Theatre (20 Jan) and Milton Keynes Theatre (3 Feb) with her new show National Trevor which is promising funny facts, quizzing, tall stories and absolutely no tap-dancing. Awww shucks.
London Festival Opera returns to Wycombe Swan to sing in the new year – expect Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Puccini, Offenbach, Gilbert & Sullivan – with singers from internationally renowned opera groups such as Royal Opera, English National Opera and Glyndebourne (9 Jan). Or, over at The Regal in Henley-on-Thames, there’s a screening of The Sleeping Beauty (above) by the Royal Opera House who’ve been performing the show since 1946 (16 Jan).
ART & EXHIBITIONS
New to the exhibition scene this month is Operation Hillside, an exploration of Hughenden Manor’s secret World War II map-making history. The exhibition will be held in rooms that have never previously been open to the public (6 – 24 Jan).
Over in Oxford, there’s an exhibition on the development of 3D over the last 500 years in fields of anatomy, architecture, astrology and art. The exhibition, which coincides with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, explores the artist’s depiction of realistic 3D forms and how photography and modelling has developed into the present day. Thinking 3D: Leonardo to the present (above) is showing at the Bodleain Library (until 9 Feb).
Lots of exhibitions are ending this month too, so get a shift on if you fancy taking a look at the following: a solo exhibition of up-and-coming East London artist Tommy Fiendish – expect mythology, street art, ’50s tattoos and the Gothic – at cool Dantzig gallery in Woodstock (until 27 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); George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ at MK Gallery, the first overview of the British artist’s work in the UK for over 30 years (until 26 Jan); Kiki Smith’s ‘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 major display, Last Supper in Pompeii (above), with 400+ exhibits from the ancient Roman site buried by the enormous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (until 12 Jan).
And finally, it’s your last chance to see Henley-based River & Rowing Museum‘s The Snowman exhibition with over 40 original illustrations from the charming film, plus behind-the-scenes drawings, preparatory sketches, artwork and screenings (19 Jan).
The biggie for classical buffs this month is the beginning of Oxford Beethoven Festival, a year-long venture that celebrates the famous composer’s work with 38 performances from top notch musicians. (Is it weird that I used to fancy Beethoven as a young teen? Hey, he was very broody in some of those illustrations!). This month you can see pianist Johnathan Bliss at St John the Evangelist Church (23 Jan) and a performance conducted by Marios Papadopoulos at the Sheldonian Theatre (25 Jan). Meanwhile the Explosive Light Orchestra rocks up at The Theatre, in Chippy, to perform their own interpretation of classic hits Wild West Hero, Don’t Bring Me Down, Sweet Talkin’ Woman and more (25 Jan).
NATIONAL TRUSTS & STATELY HOMES
Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Bucks, 1 Jan
It’s last call to see the manor decked out in traditional splendour, inspired by the make-do-and-mend world of wartime Britain.
Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Bucks, until 5 Jan (Wed – Sun)
The National Trust’s jewel in the crown, Waddesdon’s gorgeous grounds, have a light trail running until 5 Jan, with thousands of twinklers in the Aviary and light show on the facade of the manor house. There’ll also be a guided walk on New Year’s Day.
Stowe, nr Buckingham, Bucks, until 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.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon
Get yourself over to Blenheim pronto if you want to catch the last day of the Illuminated Light Trail (1 Jan), plus the Palace will be decorated in the theme of Alice in Wonderland until (5 Jan). If you visit the Palace between 10 Jan – 9 Feb you’ll also be able to see the conservation team in action as they conduct the annual deep clean of the Palace’s collections and State rooms.
Over in Oxford, mental health charity Oxfordshire Mind is taking over the Oxford Playhouse for an afternoon and evening fundraising comedy gala. The 2.30pm performance includes gags from Hal Cruttenden, Ahir Shah, Nigel Ng and more, whilst the 7.30pm line up has TBC special guest (18 Jan). Also in central Oxford there’s a stand-up performance by Josie Long (below). The comedian won her first BBC Comedy Award aged 17 and has been doing the comedy rounds ever since (Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central, Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit) whilst writing for The Guardian (30 – 31 Jan).
In Banbury at The Mill Arts Centre you can listen to 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee and So You Think You’re Funny? winner Maisie Adam as she heads out on her debut UK tour (30 Jan).
Former director of the Rambert Dance Company, Richard Alston, is celebrating 50 years in the bizz with a four date tour of his trademark lyrical choreography performed by talented young dancers. The show’s first date is at New Theatre Oxford so expect bags of energy (22 Jan). Meanwhile in Aylesbury at Waterside Theatre, there’s Sleeping Beauty by Moscow City Ballet with Tchaikovsky’s classic score performed by a live orchestra (31 Jan – 1 Feb).
Over at MK Theatre in Milton Keynes there’s Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed stage adaptation of The Red Shoes, set to romantic music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. The story follows a girl’s dream of becoming the greatest dancer in the world, and it’s Matthew Bourne, so there’s no doubt the moves will be excellent (28 Jan – 1 Feb).
There’s more Bourne action over at Aylesbury Waterside, with a screening of the dance maestro’s brand new and hotly anticipated Romeo and Juliet (above), recorded from a live show at Sadler’s Wells in London especially for cinemas (4 Jan). Or, over in Wantage at The Beacon, there’s a screening of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of Cinderella where there’ll be a kid-friendly story introduction. FYI tickets include a free glass of vino (11 Jan).
Kicking off 2020’s theatre offering is Peter Pan at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre with music by award-winning musical writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (9 – 11 Jan), followed by Bill Kenwright’s production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with all the classic songs, funky costumes and family fun (14 – 18 Jan).
Meanwhile, in Oxford, ongoing shows include West End hit Motown The Musical, at New theatre, which follows the journey of Berry Gordy who founded Motown Records and launched the careers of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and more (until 4 Jan). There are also a few days left to catch a performance of The Snow Queen at North Wall Theatre – it’s produced by the always brilliant Creation Theatre, with a quirky sunken stage (until 5 Jan).
There’s also a stage adaptation of Raymond Brigg’s festive family book The Snowman featuring Howard Blake’s classic song Walking In The Air (15 – 19 Jan) at MK Theatre. And then, at the same venue there’s Stephen Daldry’s multi-award winning production of An Inspector Calls for the National Theatre, which comes to MK following a sell-out London season and US tour. It’s Based on JB Priestley’s classic thriller so expect all the usual intrigue, murder and suspense (21 – 25 Jan).
Christmas madness made you miss the panto? No fear, there are loads rolling over into Jan for you to get your fix of stripy tights and double entendres including Dick Whittington at Wycombe Swan starring heart-throb Love Island contestant and younger brother of Strictly’s AJ Pritchard, Curtis Pritchard (until 5 Jan); Beauty and the Beast at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre with local celeb Andy Collins, the divalicious La Voix and Eastenders’ regular Danny Walters in full furry gear as the Beast (until 5 Jan); Lea Mead and squeaky comic Joe Pasquale star alongside a live orchestra in Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre (until 12 Jan).
There’s also Puss in Boots with a 1950s twist at The Theatre in Chippy (unti 12 Jan); Sleeping Beauty at The Venue, in Milton Keynes, by longtime producers of traditional pantos Dreams n Wishes (until 5 Jan); Cinderella at The Elgiva by panto specialists New Pantomime Productions who’ve been putting on shows for 35 years (5 Jan). And finally, if you like your panto sans the soap star brigade, head to Beauty and the Beast at Oxford Playhouse (until 12 Jan).
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 & 2016) comes to Ally Pally, promising a riotous spin on JM Berries’s classic tale. From the creators of award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. alexandrapalace.com
A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, Sat 23 Nov – Sat 18 Jan
This production of festive classic A Christmas Carol staged by The Old Vic’s artistic director Matthew Warchus had such great reviews that it’s returning for round three. It’s adapted by Jack Thorne, co-writer of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. oldvictheatre.com
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, London Palladium, Sat 7 Dec – Sun 12 Jan
This is like fantasy panto casting. I mean, seriously, does it get better than this? Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Gary Wilmot and – well who cares about the rest, I’m sold. lwtheatres.co.uk
Cinderella, The Hexagon, Sat 7 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Just over the Berks border in Reading, CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher, aka Mr Tumble, returns to The Hexagon stage (he received raving reviews for Aladdin last year btw) to star in Cinderella. readingarts.com
Dick Whittington and his Cat, Hackney Empire, Sat 23 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
The unashamed home of Panto has chosen Dick Whittington and his Cat for this year’s festive offering. Olivier award-winner and panto dame extraordinaire Clive Rowe stars in his 13th panto for the theatre alongside Hamilton’s Tarinn Callender in the leading role. hackneyempire.co.uk
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 (until 3 May).
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 (until 21 Aug 2020).
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 (until 19 Jan).