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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 19-25 Feb 2015

Fancy a spot of culture?  There’s opera this weekend.  A good meal out?  Try one of the county’s best gastro pubs.  Ice skating?  The rink’s re-opening.  Bit of a laugh?  Yes, got that too.  Welcome to your full-to-the-brim Muddy Guide to this week’s goings-on.

Plant Ice, Hemel Hempstead, 20 Feb, 7pm

planet ice

It’s back!  After being closed for ages as part of the whole Jarman Park refurbishment, the Planet Ice skating rink in Hemel Hempstead is back!  It’s reopening on Friday, with an evening of skating – with local nightclub DJ Dave Grooms on the decks for an hour – followed by family sessions from 11am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday, and an open session from 7.30-10.30pm on Saturday.  There are even free taster lessons that you can book on Saturday and Sunday morning.  A lot of people (including local author Julie Mayhew) have been waiting a long time for the rink to return – and it’s nearly here!  Get your skates on!

Planet Ice, Jarmans Park, Hemel Hempstead, Hp2 4JS,

The Only Way is Downton, Rhodes Centre, Bishops Stortford, Fri 20 Feb, 8pm

mg 19 02 downton
Ok, I realise that I’m probably the only person left in England (apart from Mr C) who has – get this – never watched Downton Abbey.  Doesn’t mean I can’t imagine that the impressions comedy ‘The Only Way is Downton’ wouldn’t be a hoot.  Luke Kempner, who wrote and performs the show, had a huge YouTube hit with ‘Downstairs at Downton’ and is touring this new show nationally after a stint in the West End.  Celebrities from other eras start arriving at the Abbey, and you’re sure to recognise familiar voices from telly and beyond.  Sounds like a laugh – although not if you take your Downton too seriously!

Rhodes Centre, 1-3 South Road, Bishops Stortford, CM23 3JG, 

Kew’s Heritage Trees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, opens 21 Feb

 mg 19 02 kew

A new exhibition called ‘Kew’s Heritage Trees’ opens this weekend at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew .  Kew artist Masumi Yamanaka has produced what looks like a stunning series of paintings of some of the rarest and most distinctive trees in the Gardens, some more than 250 years old.  Also on show in the gallery is ‘The Joy of Spring,’ featuring images from the gallery’s collection that celebrate those flowers that let us know (thank gawd) that Spring is on its way.  Sounds like a perfectly lovely day out.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB,

Cambridge Glass Fair, Knebworth House, Stevenage, 22 Feb, 10.30am-4pm

 mg 19 02 glass

Knebworth House isn’t open for the season yet, but they’re hosting the Cambridge Glass Fair for the first time in the Knebworth Barns.  There’ll be plenty of contemporary glass from designers and engravers – whether you’re looking to buy a piece or commission something unique.  If antique glass is more your thing, there’ll be everything from Georgian drinking glasses to modernist collectables via Art Deco and Art Nouveau and everything in between.  Admission is £5, and you can access the Garden Tea Room (which sounds jolly) through the fair.

Knebworth House, Knebworth, SG3 6PY,

Mortdecai, Watford Palace Theatre, 22 Feb, 11am

 mg 19 02 mortdecai

I cannot wait to see ‘Mortdecai.’  Johnny Depp is a debonair but disreputable art dealer (sounds delish!) who is chasing across Europe to recover a stolen painting – armed with nothing but his good looks and charm – all the while juggling grumpy Russians, a leggy wife, and an international terrorist.  And then there’s the promise of stolen gold to liven things up as well.  Sounds like a blast.  And I can’t help thinking that a late-morning film at the Watford Palace would be even better if fuelled by an early morning coffee from Ocean Bells Coffee House, just a hop and a skip down the High Street, because it really does serve the best coffee in Watford and whopper cake, too.  What a way to spend a Sunday morning.

Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Road, WD17 1JZ,

Rigoletto, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage, 22 Feb, 7.30pm

 mg 19 02 rigoletto

If you like a spot of opera – and I do – then this looks like a great local night out.  The Russian State Ballet and Opera House is performing ‘Rigoletto’ with a live 30-piece orchestra and all the trimmings at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage.  It’s a tragic tale of self-sacrifice, misunderstanding and revenge – as opera should be – as well as lots of exquisitely unrequited love and the gorgeous aria ‘La donna e mobile.’  Sigh…

Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, Lytton Way, SG1 1LZ,

Berko Speakeasy, Kings Arms, Berkhamsted, 25 Feb, 7 for 7.45pm

mg 19 02 speakeasy

If you’ve not been to one of the Berko Speakeasy short story cabarets, you’re missing a trick.  They’re brilliant evenings that bring short fiction to life through fabulous performances – dramatized readings – all in a very relaxed, cabaret-style setting.  The bar’s open in the Kings Arms’ Greene Room – and the stories flow along with the wine.  This time, look forward to ‘Tales of Curtain-Twitching and Tongue-Wagging.’  Tickets go fast, though, and space is limited.  It’s always a great literary night out – beats book club hands down.

Kings Arms, 147 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 3HL,

Pig Out on Pork, The Fox at Willian, 26 Feb

mg 19 02 fox

The Fox at Willian just placed in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs in the UK – and that’s just one of its many awards.  I’m dying for an excuse to get over there (dinner for 2, Mr C?) and their special event nights might just get me over there yet.  The menu for next week’s ‘Pig Out on Pork’ night looks utterly delish – with all the meat supplied by Priors Hall Farm in Essex.  Start off on a scotch egg with mushroom veloute and crackling popcorn, then enjoy a seared scallop with black pudding puree.  Main course?  A selection of three pork dishes, all together, with cider and apple jus.  Oh, and some veg.  Then top it all off with a chocolate and peanut brownie, with salted caramel (my current favourite food), white chocolate ice cream, and sticky blackberries.  I’m having to loosen my belt just thinking about that lot.  It’s £35 for the four courses, or add another £15 and the drinks are included.

The Fox at Willian, Willian, Herts, SG6 2AH,

‘Great IDEA,’ Museum of St Albans, until 22 Mar 

mg 19 02 hafsass

The Museum of St Albans is currently featuring ‘Great IDEA,’ a two-person exhibition, bringing together the negative photographs (as is, photographic negatives — not just really down on everything) of Tobias Hofsass and the incredible life-size wire sculptures of Thomas Raschke.  The two styles seem to complement each other well, and it looks like an interesting way to wile away an hour or so.  Admission is free – hoorah! – and it’s at the museum until 22 March.

Museum of St Albans, 9a Hatfield Road, St Albans, AL1 3RR,

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