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This week



THEATRE: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sun 8 Mar


This exuberant, beautifully directed and moving new musical, based on the best-selling children’s novel by David Walliams, features 16 original songs by pop star Robbie Williams and his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers. It’s directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and adapted by former RSC writer-in-residence Mark Ravenhill. Tickets are half price for children – up to four can go with one adult. Also check out the newly launched discounted Rush tickets on sale every Friday from midday to 4pm only, for shows the following week. There’s a limited number of tickets from £10 or £20, for selected performances in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre.

Box Office: 01789 331111, RSC


CLASSICAL: Rise up! National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain winter tour, Warwick Arts Centre, Sat Jan 4

From protests to revolutions, the 20th Century saw momentous social change driven by passionate young people. So, come and join a movement; a mass action by a community of teenage musicians – the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers – brought together by their passion for music conducted by Spanish conductor Jaime Martín. It features Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, left-wing Berlin 1920s composer Hans Eisler and ends with Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony, written about the failed Russian revolution of 1905.

Warwick Arts Centre


FAMILY: Meet the Mini-Beast handling sessions, Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, until 5 Jan

Christmas Butterfly

Fancying hanging out somewhere tropical to escape the cold and rain? With constant temperatures of over 25°C, this popular attraction is a good place  to take family or friends with small children during the festive holidays. Discover the stunningly beautiful Christmas Butterfly, also known as Papilio Demodocus and take part in twice daily Meet the Mini-Beast’ handling sessions – where intrepid kids can hold creatures such as a Madagascan Hissing Cockroach, giant African Millipede, African Land Snail and a variety of stick insects.


GARDENS: Hill Close Gardens, weekdays from Fri 3 Jan

Re-opening on Fri 3 Jan, Warwick’s hidden haven has a flourishing programme of events for 2020. The programme kicks off properly in February, with Snowdrop Weekend on Sat 1-Sun 2 Feb, but in Jan you can still seek solace in the 16 different garden plots during winter opening hours (Mon-Fri 11am-4m). If you have pre-school children, pop along to the monthly Family Drop-In from 09.30-11.30am on the second Thursday of each month, for a wholesome morning of digging, planting and puddle-jumping!

Hill Close Gardens


OUTDOOR ICE RINK: Warwick Castle, until Jan 5 2020


Step into Christmas at the Castle for the last time this week complete with super exciting new addition of an ice rink. Put your skates on for a 45-minute session against a stunning backdrop in front of the castle’s iconic East Front, and there’s hot food and drink vendors for afterwards too.



King John, The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon now until Fri 20 Mar

King John production photo by Steve Tanner with Rosie Sheehy

Catch one of Shakespeare’s rarely-performed works as director Eleanor Rhode makes an “engrossing” debut in the Swan Theatre. Stirring an uneasy semblance to the present day, King John tells of a nation in turmoil and a preening king, played by Rosie Sheehy, who will stop at nothing to keep the crown. The Guardian says the production “tingles with a tangible sense of spontaneity”.


 A Museum in Baghdad, The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, now until Sat 25 Jan

Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC

An original compelling tale of two women, living decades apart; Gertrude Bell is founding a museum in Iraq’s capital in 1926 and Ghalia Hussein is attempting to reopen the establishment following looting during the war. They share a goal: to create a fresh sense of unity and nationhood. But in such unstable times, questions remain. Who is the museum for? Whose culture are we preserving? And why does it matter when people are dying? It’s written by Hannah Khalil, a playwright with Middle Eastern heritage.



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.

Credit: Robert Day

The Belgrade’s Puss in Boots runs until January 11. Written and directed by Iain Lauchlan, who stars as Dame Matilda Pudding, this year’s show marks the former children’s TV presenter’s 25th year in panto at the Coventry theatre. His long-term comedy partner-in-crime Craig Hollingsworth plays Matilda’s son, Simon aka Baggie B, who wants to be an ‘Instafamous’ rapper.

There will be a special relaxed panto performance at 10.30am on Thursday 9 January for anyone who may enjoy or benefit from a more laid-back performance style, including those with Autism Spectrum Conditions, sensory and communication disorders, learning disabilities or dementia with £3,000 of new equipment donated by staff at the nearby Town Wall Tavern – following a sponsored 26-mile walk, raffle and auction.

Members of the cast with some of the new equipment which includes three sensory dens, which can be blacked out to help combat the effects of sensory overload, as well as a number of bean bags, lap pads, weighted blankets and shoulder wraps.

Snow White at Leamington’s Royal Spa Centre ends on January 5. You can catch Liam Steele’s critically acclaimed reimagined 21st Century version of  Peter Pan at Birmingham Rep until January 19.

Peter Pan

And Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Birmingham Hippodrome runs on until Feb 2.

The all-star line up features Lesley Joseph, Matt Slack, Joe McElderry, Faye Brookes, Flawless, Doreen Tipton and Andrew Ryan. Tickets here.



Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery, London, is 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).

A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is now open at The O2, London  – ABBA: Super Troupers, 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 Bridget Riley, a momentous lifetime retrospective, at the Hayward Gallery, SE1, (until January 26); 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).



 Thinking 3D: Leonardo to the presentthe Bodleian Library, Oxford, until 9 Feb

Timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition shows how Leonardo and his contemporaries made great strides in the realistic depiction of 3D forms. Thinking 3D explores technological advances up to the present day including 3D modelling, photography and stereoscopy; and also highlights the works of modern practitioners and researchers in Oxford.


Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Bucks, until 5 Jan 

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.


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?


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.


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.


Aladdin, Milton Keynes Theatre, 7 Dec – 12 Jan

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.

Find more ideas here

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