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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 25 Feb-2 Mar 2016

Feeling very lucky this week to be living in a county that not only has a whole heap of good stuff going on every single week but is also near enough to the big smoke for the occasional sneaky jaunt into London.  Oh, Home Counties, I’m yours forever….

Lewis Schaffer: Free Until Famous, Harpenden Public Halls, 26 Feb, 8pm

lewis schaffer

This tour has had some brilliant reviews, and was in Hertford a while ago.  Now, it’s in Harpenden (perhaps he only goes to H-towns?), and there’s a chance to have what Time Out describes as “a bloody good laugh.”  The whole schtick is that that it’s free – and you pay what you like at the end, so I’m surprised to see there’s a ticket price but hey ho….

Dance Springs, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, 29 Feb-4 Mar

There’s a week-long dance festival going on – with the very best in contemporary British dance rocking up for performances, workshops and exhibitions.  On the Friday night, there’s Dance Springs: The Show – a showcase of emerging British talent and choreography.  And you can buy tickets here.

Phoenix Dance Theatre Presents Triple Bill 2016, Watford Palace, 1-2 Mar

pheonix dance at watford palace

More dance, if that’s your bag.  With some Shakespeare thrown in for good measure (or should that be good measure-for-measure…?) as well.  In Undivided Loves, some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are set against a percussive score.  Then there’s Until.With/Out.Enough, which is all about the spaces within our minds.  And finally, Melt – with dancers swooping all over the place in an aerial dance.  Sounds spectacular.

Hiraeth, 1 Mar, 8pm, and Standby for Tape Back-Up, 4 Mar, 8pm, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead


Great deal at the Old Town Hall this week.  Book Hiraeth and Standby for Tape Back-Up at the same time and you’ll get 20% off the price of your tickets.  Hoorah!  Hiraeth (very appropriate for St David’s Day) won ‘Best Production in the English Language’ at the Wales Theatre Awards last year – and has been touring round since.  Sounds very appealing – Bud is leaving the family farm, knowing that it can’t go on without her, and setting off to the big smoke.  It’s funny, it’s sweet, and there’s live music.  Oh, and Welsh cakes (oh, the deliciousness).  And what does ‘hiraeth’ mean, I hear you cry?  Well, it’s a Welsh word (obvs) that is a sort of mixture of homesickness, longing and nostalgia.  *sigh*

Standby for Tape Back-Up features Ross Sutherland (who actually used to work at the Old Town Hall and now does all kinds of clever things for the BBC and the like), in a show about a hard-drive crash, a near-death experience, and an old video that belonged to his grandad.

Both shows were featured in the Guardian‘s top theatre picks for this week, so what a great way to see them both (almost) together.  Brilliant.

Hidden, Nude Tin Can Gallery, St Albans, 24 Feb-20 Mar

hidden nude tin can

Another neat-looking exhibition at Nude Tin Can in St Albans.  This one is all about the hidden meanings and stories behind the art works – you’ll left wondering what you’re seeing and what you’re not…

Suffragette, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 2 Mar, 7.30pm


Not seen it yet?  It’s good – it really is – and here’s a chance to see it for next to nothing.  Three quid?  I mean, I ask you. (Take that, multiplexes!)  And the Old Town in Hemel is really worth going back to if you’ve not been for a while.  Loving the restaurants and cafés opening up there, and neat little shops to snoop around.  Make an evening of it, why don’t you?

Art & Crafts Exhibition, Returned to Glory, Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted, 27 Feb, 10am-5pm & 28 Feb, 10.30am-4.30pm

ret to glory

Returned to Glory is always a great place to nab something lovely for your home, and now it’s hosting a new event showcasing the work of local artists and their paintings, prints, ceramics and glassware.  It’s free – but bear in mind that Returned to Glory supports The Hospice of St Francis, so maybe make a donation if you don’t buy anything?  Or even if you do.

Wildlife Explorer’s Club, Rye Meads Nature Reserve, Stansted Abbots, 27 Feb, 11am-1pm


Got a budding wildlife photographer to entertain?  This sounds like just the ticket.  Tom Mason, wildlife photographer, is running a workshop for 6-12 years olds on to take great pictures of wildlife – including camera traps and how they work.  Bring your own camera, and then enter your best shots in their junior photography competition.  You’ll have to book in advance, though – spaces are limited.

Andy Panayi Trio, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 25 Feb, 8pm

andy panayi - jazz

You might not recognise Andy Panayi’s name – but the names of people he’s played with might ring a few bells.  Paul McCartney (who?), Elvis Costello (love ‘im), Helen Shapiro, Madeline Bell and so on.  He’s a saxophonist, and he’ll be there playing a variety of saxophones and his flute, with Dave Green on bass and Matt Home on drums.  Great choice if you’re a jazz sort of person.

The Real Thing, Abbey Theatre, 26 Feb-5 Mar, 8pm (Sun, 2.30pm)

tom stoppard the real thing

I do love Tom Stoppard’s plays.  I know he’s a bit wordy and all that, but he’s just so clever.  In this one, all that wordiness is mashed up with pop songs as a screenwriter tells the story of a failing marriage – while his own keels over in the background.  It’s all about love and finding‘the real thing.’

Chris Ramsey: All Growed Up, Radlett Centre, 28 Feb, 8pm


Chris Ramsey is back in Herts, this time at the Radlett Centre, with his ‘All Growed Up’ tour –- which has had great reviews, and which he’s released on DVD in case you prefer it that way.  He’ll be exploring getting older, taking responsibility, and all of the other terrifying realisations that come with modern adulthood.  Still looks pretty young to me…

The Great Gatsby, Harlow Playhouse, 29 Feb-2 Mar, 7.30pm

the great gatsby

Love those Jazz Age dresses – and the sparkly bits that go with them.  And the music.  The cocktails!  The lot.  Immerse yourself in all that with a new adaptation of The Great Gatsby by Blackeyed Theatre. It’s even got live music, this one.  Sounds glorious.

Sitting Pretty, Pump House Theatre & Arts Centre, Watford, 24-27 Feb, 7.45pm (+2.45pm Sunday)


A pair of single sisters are sharing a London Flat.  Nina has got it all sussed, Nancy not so much.  Then Nancy starts – by accident – life-modelling for an eccentric group of art students.  It’s written by Amy Rosenthal, who just happens to be Maureen Lipman’s daughter, and it sounds funny and a bit sad – and probably a bit close to the bone for women of a certain age who don’t quite know what they’re going to do with themselves.  Sounds brilliant.

Chinese New Year Extravaganza, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, 25-26 Feb, 7.30pm

ChineseNewYear gordon craig

Thought you’d missed the Chinese New Year?  Fear not – it’s here!  Well, it’s in Stevenage.  There’s an extravaganza making its way to the Gordon Craig – with acrobatics, magic ‘changing faces,’ contortionists, juggling, martial arts, the lot.  All with a bit of a monkey theme, given the year.

Andy Kirkpatrick – Cold Mountain, Radlett Centre, 25 Feb, 8pm


Andy Kirkpatrick is a climber and a comedian.  And he doesn’t just climb nice easy mountains – he climbs whacking great terrifying ones including (oh, why would you?) the ‘hardest mountain in the world’ in (heaven help me) Antarctica.  He’ll be telling you all about it at the Radlett Centre this week.  Can’t help thinking Mr C would enjoy this one, being a bit of an armchair mountaineer…

Jay Rayner: A Night Of Food & Agony, Alban Arena, St Albans, 3 March, 7.30pm

jay rayner

This one is more for me – Jay Rayner, who I mostly love for being such a grumpy old gourmand, is in St Albans (hoorah!) and, so thoughtfully, on my birthday.  He’ll be sharing his experience as a restaurant critic – and his realisation that most people really love reviews of lousy  restaurants.  So, we’ll be hearing about some of his most excruciating nights out and then – because he’s such a good egg, we’ll be hearing from some of the worst reviews his own work has ever received.   Then, after the break, it gets all musical – he’s a jazz pianist, did you know that? (I didn’t) – and autobiographical.  I also didn’t know that his mother is Claire Rayner.  Well, I never.

Table Top Shakespeare, Barbican, 1-6 Mar

table top shakespeare

Ok, I have no idea what this will be like – but I’m so curious to find out.  It’s the complete works of Shakespeare – but condensed (phew) into performances over 6 days and recreated on a table top using ordinary household objects instead of actors.  So…  salt and pepper pots become a king and queen.  A spoon is a servant, and Macbeth is a cheese grater.  (Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever write…)  Hamlet, you’ll be interested to hear, is a bottle of ink.

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