Fri 28 - Sun 30 Dec 2018:
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEKEND
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Wycombe Swan, until Sun 30 Dec
Brendan Cole as the comely Huntsman? Yes indeedy, Strictly’s nemesis to Craig Revel Horwood makes his panto debut alongside Britain’s Got Talent’s comedian Mandy Muden as the evil Queen and panto dame veteran Jason Sutton. It’s a 10 from us for inspired casting, darling! Read our review here.
Peter Pan, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, until Mon 31 Dec
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre will see Holby City and Corrie star John Mitchie don a wig and tights as Captain Hook, drag act La Voixas the dame, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinkerbell and the always awesome Andy Collins. Read our review here.
Robin Hood, Milton Keynes Theatre, until Sun 13 Jan
EastEnders’ happy chappy Shane Ritchie will be all tights and double entrendres as he becomes Robin Hood at MK’s Theatre alongside a live orchestra.
The Sword in the Stone, Limelight Theatre, Queens Park Arts Centre, Aylesbury, until Sun 30 Dec
This plucky arts and crafts centre hosts workshops, courses, events and theatre. They’ve chosen the Arthurian legend of The Sword in the Stone as their Xmas Panto and it’s bound to get you feeling all warm and fuzzy and festive.
Dick Whittington and his Cat, Oxford Playhouse, until Sun 6 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. Clearly they’re expecting a good turn out as it’s one of the longest running pantos in town!
Peter Pan, North Wall Theatre, until Sat 5 Jan
Sword-fights? Check. Songs? Check? Cool venue? You betcha. Muddy favourites North Wall and Creation Theatre combine for their eighth Christmas collaboration and we’re betting it’ll fly.
Dick Whittington, Kenton Theatre, until Sat 29 Dec
Here puss puss! Immersion Theatre returns to Henley’s Kenton Theatre for Dick Whittington – always a sell out, this year sees the return of James Clifford in the title role. Until Sat 29 Dec.
Read our guide to the best pantos in Bucks/Oxon and beyond here.
EXHIBTION & SHOPPING: Oxfordshire Craft Guild Christmas Exhibition, Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, Thurs 27 – Sun 30 Dec
View and buy from local makers and designers in ceramics, wood, jewellery, glass, textiles and leather at this family friendly museum with its dinosaur gallery, Victorian Oxfordshire and Roman Oxfordshire displays.
CHRISTMAS: Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates throughout Dec
Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. Explore the code-breakers huts, marvel at the Bombe machines which broke the Enigma code and visit the Veterans’ Exhibition.
THEATRE: Tabby McTat, the Stables, Milton Keynes, now until Sun 30 Dec
A new stage adaptation of the book by Julia Donaldson (with illustrations by Axel Scheffler) lands at the Stables on its UK Tour. The story of a cat and his busking owner who get separated, the show is brought to life with puppets and original songs that should make for an ideal Christmas show for littlies.
ART: Pop Art in Print, Banbury Museum, Banbury, now until Sun 3 Mar
Having extended their galleries so they can hold bigger exhibitions, Banbury Museum has reopened with a humdinger – Pop Art in Print – featuring work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst and more. Organised by London’s V&A, the exhibition displays works of these famous artists of the 60s and 70s alongside contemporary artists so their influence can be seen. There are over 60 works by more than 30 artists so it gives a pretty comprehensive view of the pop art movement from the 1960s to the early 2000s.
CHRISTMAS AT THE NATIONAL TRUSTS:
Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Bucks
Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The decorations in the house are inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, plus there’s a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture, as well as neon-lit trees and tunnels in the grounds. Until Wed 2 Jan (reopens after Christmas on 27 Dec). Read my review here.
Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Bucks
A Very Royal Christmas: a visit from the Faery is the theme for Christmas at Hughenden. The manor will be decorated in traditional Victorian splendour to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria and her daughter Princess Beatrice who came to lunch with Benjamin Disraeli in 1877. There’s a treasure hunt round the house for little ones – they have to find 10 gold crowns – plus miniature scenes to discover in the gardens. Closed Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
Stowe, Nr Buckingham, Bucks
One of my favourite places to meander in the UK (and I’ve meandered a lot!). So much to recommend in these stunning Capability Brown grounds from the classical architecture, glistening lakes and beautiful trees. Dog friendly and also great for elderly legs . you can hire buggies meaning multi-generational days out are possible for those less able to walk. Open daily, except Christmas Day.
Grey’s Court, Henley, Oxon
The house will be decorated for a Swiss Christmas, exploring the links the Brunner family had to Switzerland, and they’ll be different Christmas recipes baked in the kitchen with tasters available. Until Sun 6 Jan (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
Ashridge Estate, nr Berkhamsted, Herts
There’s a festive trail for kids round the estate with specially decorated dens as they explore the homes of forest animals with a Christmas gift for every child. It runs every Saturday and Sunday in December, as well as Wed 26, Thurs 27 and Fri 28 Dec, from 10am to 3pm. There’s also a 1.5 mile long self-led seasonal walk – just follow the Christmas puds. And on Sun 9 Dec, you can bring your dog (Christmas decos and costumes encouraged) and follow Santa on a festive ramble. They round off the season with their annual post-Christmas stroll on 27 Dec where you’ll follow a scenic route and try to burn off the bulge.
Cliveden, Taplow, Berks
A gorgeous walk down by the river and up to Cliveden is an absolute must – prepare for the climb at the end! There are over 300 acres of natural woodlands with dog-friendly paths and great views over the Berks/Oxon countryside. The Cliveden rangers have also created an oversized den called Clive’s Den with picnic tables should you want to eat outside at this time of year (I’ll be heading to the café – it’s open!). Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
ART: Penny Woolcock, Fantastic Cities, Modern Art Oxford, until Sun 3 Mar
This super-cool exhibition celebrating the work of contemporary artist and director, Penny Woolcock, whose work unpicks social inequality, is a defo on the to-do-list. Argentine-born but Oxford-based for many years, she’s won many awards for her diverse range of work from film, opera, documentaries and art projects. This exhibition includes three brand new moving-image commissions exploring how dramatically different peoples’ lives can be within the same city. A real thought-provoker but don’t take the kids as there’s a bit of what my mother primly calls “language”.
EXHIBITION: Christmas Toy Box, Bucks County Museum, now until Sat 19 Jan
Take a trip down memory lane and show your kids what you used to get for Christmas with displays of toys from the 70s, 80s and 90s, including Thunderbirds, Daleks, string puppets, Sony Walkman, jack in the boxes and teddy bears. They’ll also be games for everyone to play with like Giant Jenga, Brio Trains and Duplo.
THEATRE: The Pied Piper, Cornerstone, Didcot, now until Sun 30 Dec
Is that the sound of the Pied Piper I hear? This Christmas reimagining of the German tale has live music, new songs and no real rats!
CHRISTMAS: Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, Blenheim Palace, now until Tues 1 Jan
Blenheim’s Christmas light shows are pretty spectacular and this year’s trail has even more lasers, projections and thousands of pea-lights. There’s a new Field of Light, the scented Fire Garden, a Canopy of Light and Singing Trees. Santa and his elves will also be popping up along the way too.
EXHIBITION: Spellbound, the Ashmolean, Oxford, now until Sun 6 Jan
Showcasing the history of magic, mysticism and superstition over eight centuries, the Ashmo’s quirky major autumn exhibition draws to a close in the next couple of weeks. It has everything from a unicorn’s horn to a human heart encased in lead (sounds like my ex) so if you haven’t yet gone, it’s well worth a visit. Read our review here.
FILM Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, until Mon 7 Jan
See live screenings of great operas and ballets with memorable casts at the Linbury Theatre (within the ROH). ROH staff and well-known artists will introduce the screenings and on selected weekend matinees, children 5 -15 go free. Closed in Christmas week but reopens on Fri 28th with a screening of Manon.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London, Wed 5 Dec – 19 Jan
The smash hit of Dickens’ classic adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Matthew Warchus returns to the Old Vic and this time Stephen Tompkinson stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. This big-hearted and warm production’s unique staging immerses the audience in the story and there’s music, mince pies and much merriment for a fab festive night out.
FAMILY: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, now until Sun 27 Jan
Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas! The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.
CHRISTMAS: Kew Gardens, London, now until 5 Jan
Photo: RBG Kew
A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.
CHRISTMAS: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, now until Sun 6 Jan
Go big or go home when it comes to festive fun, London’s Winter Wonderland is huuuuge. Free to enter but once inside, prepare to sell a kidney. The costs can get out of control – particularly if you hit the glühwein a little too hard. What to expect? Winter markets, fairground rides and ice skating. Major attractions this year include the Magical Ice Kingdom Secret Forest, an immersive showcase of woodland animals and mythical creatures created from ice and snow; a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, immersive screenings of The Snowman and plus Peter Pan on Ice.
THEATRE: The Cat In The Hat, Aylesbury Waterside, Thurs 31 Jan – Sun 3 Feb 2019
Calling all Dr Suess fans! This Curve (of The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine fame) production of The Cat In The Hat will have kids wetting themselves in excitement. The classic picture book will be retold with original songs, circus skills and lots of mischief so don’t forget to pack spare undies.
ART: Jeff Koons, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Thurs 7 Feb – Sun 9 Jun
Behemoth of the contemporary art world, Jeff Koons will curate his own exhibition in collaboration with Norman Rosenthal. It will span Koons’ entire career and showcase seventeen works, most of which have never been shown in the UK before. It will include his popular series Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.
COMEDY: The Guilty Feminist Live, Oxford New Theatre, Sun 19 May
Who knows what state the country will be in by next May but chances are you’ll need a laugh and Deborah Frances-White, AKA The Guilty Feminist, is bound to deliver. Host of the fabulous comedy feminist podcast and author of a book of the same name, she tackles the state of 21st century feminism in the face of the patriarchy in an hilarious and intelligent fashion. Tickets are bound to sell out so get snaffling now.
EXHIBITION: Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Sat 2 Feb
This is going to be maaassive! The V&A is showing the largest House of Dior exhibition ever staged in the UK, tracing the history of Christian Dior and the six artistic directors who succeeded him. The exhibition is based on the major exhibition Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve, organised by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and there will be a new section exploring Dior’s fascination with British culture. A highlight will be the Christian Dior dress worn by Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday celebrations, generously on loan from the Museum of London.
Ian, you’re one of my all-time favourite thesps but could you not have run the iron over that jacket, old chap?! To celebrate his 80th birthday he’ll be touring 80 theatres, rocking up in Stratford next July. Expect oodles of witty anecdotes about his career, and in particular his experience of being a regular in the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than 40 years. He’ll even be performing some of his favourite speeches. Reckon these’ll go like hot cakes so chop chop.