MUDDY’S PICK OF THE MONTH
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, 8 Jul – 7 Sept
Tis the season to dodge the rain and enjoy some outdoor thespian action so grab your rug, brolly and, of course, a sneaky hipflask as Europe’s first pop-up Shakespearean theatre is pitching up at Blenheim Palace with Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo & Juliet– the 13-sided scaffolding theatre, with three tiers of covered seating and open courtyard for ‘groundlings’, will be accompanied by a Shakespearean Village selling local ales, ice cream and side shows (8 Jul – 7 Sept).
Didn’t make it to Glasto? No worries, there are loads of festivals lined up in our neck of the woods starting with Cornbury Music Festival, The Great Tew Park, Oxon (5 – 7 Jul), The Beach Boys and The Specials head the bill at this civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English- think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Next up there’s genteel shebang Henley Festival, Oxon (10 – 14 Jul), Boy George, Jessie J and Tom Odell headline; Pennfest, Penn, Bucks (19 – 20 Jul) with an impressive line-up of rebel-rousers- it’s big on ’90s indie favourites and this year sees Suede headlining, plus turns from Happy Mondays (always hilariously shambolic live) and New Order’s Peter Hook.
Full marks to Truck Festival, Steventon, Oxon (26 – 28 Jul), for nabbing indie favourites and local lads Foals for their first Oxon show in five years. They’ll be joined by Wolf Alice and Kate Nash (side note: have you seen her acting chops brilliant in Netflix series Glow?). This veteran South Oxon festival in a farmer’s field hits all the right notes too with its family-friendly feel and decent food.
Oxford Arts Festival, Oxford, continues this month, the cultural event has grown massively and now packs a punch around Oxford with two weeks of full-on cultural immersion. Performances, workshops, outdoor screenings and talks around theatre, literature, art, film and music, as well as dance and sport have the theme of Connections this year (until 7 Jul). Over in Aylesbury, at Waddesdon Manor, there’s the National Trust site’s first Summer Fest below, a relaunch of the popular summer Feast event, there’ll be street performers, food, music, shopping village in the Aviary Glade and bunting for miles (6 – 7 Jul). Or, for a red trousers and champers-type affair there’s the 30th anniversary of The Cotswold Show and Food Festival, just over the Glos border, with stalls, trade stands, falconry, dog show and Bathurst Arena with equestrian antics (13 – 14 Jul).
There are a couple of free music festivals happening in the ‘hood too: in Faringdon there’s FollyFest, a community arts festival with music, fringe events, arts and crafts, local businesses and lots of family fun. Whatever your taste in music, the whole spectrum is covered with soft rock, blues, folk, jazz, dance bands plus DJs doing their thang (12 – 14 Jul). And over in Charlbury there’s Riverside Festival, with over 30 acts playing across three stages, children’s entertainment, pop-up shopping stalls and music workshops (20 – 21 Jul).
And finally, the biggie this month is Henley Royal Regatta, Henley– straw boaters on, eyes on the lunch box (sarnies or Lycra bulges… they’re not mutually exclusive) and watch the rowing brawn from the riverbank. There’s over 200 races to watch the smoking–hot rowers and enjoy your Champagne picnic (3 – 7 Jul).
There are a few opportunities this month to get your side-splitting fix of comedy. The Oxford Festival Fringe Preview Comedy Festival, Oxford, (try saying that after a few G&Ts) kicks off at the beginning of July with over 50 shows from the best comedians who’re heading to Edinburgh Fringe and other large arts festivals in several venues across Oxford (Mon 1). Or, later in the month, there’s FanAtic Festival, Botley Park, Oxford, a one day outdoor event with more Fringe preview shows, local street food and a wellbeing area (Sat 27). Cornerstone Arts, Didcot, is also showing an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Preview (Tues 23) with up-and-coming comedian and regular on BBC2’s The Mash Report Pierre Novellie and BBC New Comedy Award winner Steve Bugeja.
Solo comedy shows this month include Jimmy Carr, with his new show Terribly Funny, which promises to throw PC comedy out the window (you’ve been warned), showing at Wycombe Swan, Wycombe (Thurs 4) and Aylesbury Waterside, Aylesbury (Wed 10); James Acaster with Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, showing at Wycombe Swan, Wycombe (Wed 10) and New Theatre Oxford, Oxford (Wed 24).
Al fresco shows this July include Oxford Castle’s annual Shakespeare festival in the fabulous setting of the old castle yard with Macbeth (1 – 27 Jul) and Twelfth Night (29 Jul – 10 Aug); Chapterhouse Theatre Company perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Claydon House, one of my favourite National Trust buildings in Bucks (6 July); Stowe’s Lawn plays host to the world’s first cycling theatre company, The Handlebards, who’ll perform their seriously silly all-female production of The Tempest (18 Jul).
Muddy favourite Creation Theatre always do things a little bit differently and this summer, for The Tempest, the Oxford-based production company is taking the audience on a trip around Oxford with the play’s characters popping up across the city and interacting with the audience (19 Jul – 15 Aug); Waddesdon’s stunning gardens and stately country manor house are the backdrop for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s 15th summer of performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An all male cast with music, dance and wackily improvised Elizabethan costumes above (20 Jul); West Wycombe Park’s outdoor theatre on the East Lawn returns for another year with Jane Austen’s bonnet-fest Sense and Sensibility, amongst the gorgeous Palladian backdrop of the house and grounds (Thurs 27).
Looking, erm, good Craig?! Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood dons a wig and tights to play tyrannical Miss Hannigan in Tony Award winning Annie The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre (Mon 1 – Sat 6 Jul), or later in the month you can catch the 50th anniversary tour of award-winning HAIR the Musical below– a psychedelic, hippy, sexy, rock song fandango set in the late ’60s in New York’s East Village just after the Vietnam War. Dancing on Ice winner Jake Quickenden, Daisy Wood-Davis (Hollyoaks) and Marcus Collins (X-Factor finalist) star- it looks like a goodie (15 – 20 Jul).
If your heading into central Oxford this July Creation Theatre are performing Oscar Wilde’s Pictures of Dorian Grey in the quirky setting of Blackwell’s bookshop on Broad Street with the cast swapping roles for each performance (9 – 27 Jul, excl Sun). Or there’s Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train at Oxford Playhouse– I loved the book but was less enamoured with the film (Emily Blunt was its only saving grace), so I’m excited to see how the thriller plays out on stage with Samantha Womack (Eastenders) in the starring role (Mon 15 – Sat 20 Jul).
There’s also Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at New Theatre, Oxford, with Union J’s Jaymi Hensley playing Joseph for his first ever starring role in a major musical, all the iconic belters and new choreography from Gary Lloyd (Thriller Live, Heathers), Tue 16 – Sat 20 Jul.
Pass the popcorn! Outdoor cinema season is in full swing, here’s what’s on this July: Steven Spielberg’s epic dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park at The Paddock Picturehouse, Watlington (Sat 27); last year’s big hitters Bohemian Rhapsody, Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again at Ascot Racecourse along with a fully stocked bar (Thurs 18 – Sat 20); Hugh Jackman’s musical fandango The Greatest Showman and Bohemian Rhapsody at The Woodland Lodge, found on the Culden Faw Estate, nr Henley (Fri 19 – Sat 20); at Wycombe Museum it’s ’90s nostalgia with Back to the Future (Fri 26 Jul); a summer of sequels at Peterley Manor Farm in Great Missenden with Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (Fri 26) and Mary Poppins Returns (Sat 27) plus loads of local producers are pitching up too; a stunning backdrop of Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford, for, you guessed it, Bohemian Rhapsody (Wed 31).
Bring out the bunting, wave your flags and get territorial with your picnic blankets! It’s the 16th annual Blenheim Palace Battle Proms Picnic Concert, Woodstock, this month where you can expect an evening of classic music, carefully choreographed Spitfire, cavalry and aerial freefall displays and dramatic cannon fire (Sat 6). Or check out Oxford‘s 21st Oxford Philharmonic Piano Festival with concerts hosted in venues across the city including Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford Town Hall and Hollywell Music Room. The festival showcases a range of music spanning two centuries played by artists from all over the world (27 Jul – 4 Aug).
Garsington Opera‘s mega summer season is still on the go at the stunning Wormsley Estate with The Turn of the Screw, Fantasio and Don Giovanni (until 26 Jul), or get a double dose of soprano with Stephen Storace’s lively comedy about two unhappy newlyweds Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), under the title Bride & Gloom, at Bampton Classical Opera, nr Witney (Fri 19 – Sat 20).
Britain’s oldest botanic garden, Oxford Botanic Garden, is celebrating all things green in the city this July with Urban Oasis Week (Mon 15 – Sat 20 Jul); arty drop in sessions, guided tours, activities for littlies, poetry readings and and Urban Oasis Picnic Afternoon on the Sat with Pif Paf street theatre, live music and family activities. You can bring a picnic or buy food from pop-up local producers. Or, if you’re the sporty type (nope, me neither) there’s Wallingford Cycling Festival, Wallingford. Set up in 2015, the non-profit festival has thousands of people attend each year to see cycling races and activities across the town including fun rides and sportives and a giant air bag for daring 10+ year olds who want to practice flips and bike stunts (12 – 14 Jul). And for Bucks-based petrol heads, check out the annual classic vehicle show at Chiltern Open Air Museum, which will have a collection of classic cars, lorries, traditional fire engines, motorbikes, plus historic tractors and wagons that have appeared in Downton Abbey (27 – 28 Jul).
KIDS & FAMILY
Henry VIII had six wives (or was it seven?) – that’s about as far as my Tudor knowledge goes I’m afraid, but you and your brood are guaranteed to learn a whole lot more at family favourite Horrible Histories new show Terrible Tudors, showing at Milton Keynes Theatre (Wed 10). Other children’s theatre includes It’s A Small World, (be warned, it’s based on that Disney ride with the ear-splitting theme tune) at Kenton Theatre, Henley (Sat 13 – Sun 14); a brand new version of The Three Little Pigs set in France with Parisian piggies and a grumpy old chef/wolf who wants pigs’ tails for his soup, at Oxford Playhouse, Oxford (Sat 13); Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, based on the BAFA award-winning animated television show, it’s about a young fairy princess and her Elf best friend, showing at Wycombe Swan (Wed 17 – Thurs 18). It’s from the makers of Peppa Pig, so should be a big hit with the little people.
For more family fun this month, Millet’s Maize at Millets Farm, nr Abingdon, pops up for it’s 22nd year with the theme of ‘Fantasy Fun’, with games and challenges hidden throughout the massive maze. There’ll also be a medium and mini route for younger children (Wed 17 Jul – Tues 3 Sept). And finally, Giffords Circus moves onto Stonor, Henley, with its ’70s Summer of Love themed show- expect hippies, hipsters and rockstars alongside Nell Giffords brilliantly curated acts (Thurs 25 – Mon 29).