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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 31Mar-6 Apr 2016

Yes, the Easter hols are in full swing – you’ve seen our newly-updated Survival Guide, right? – but there’s plenty of grown-up stuff out there, too.  And not a fluffy chick in sight…

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Frogmore Paper Mill, Apsley, 5-9 Apr, 7:30pm

sweeney todd

This sounds like a corker – and something you won’t see every day.  A promenade production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, in the Victorian setting of Frogmore Paper Mill.  A big cast, drawing on the talents of experienced performers alongside more recent graduates from some of the country’s leading performing arts colleges, tell the gruesome tale of Sweeney Todd – and the meat pies that Mrs Lovett, in the pie shop downstairs, makes from his, er, leftovers.  Sounds brilliant!

Dane Baptiste: Reasonable Doubts, Court Theatre, Tring, 2 Apr, 8pm

dane baptiste

Last year, the Independent (now no more…) named Dane Baptiste as their ‘Face to Watch in 2015.’  Since then, it’s been hard to keep up with him in order to watch his face.  He’s been sold out all over the place, written and starred in his own BBC sitcom, and been sharing the love down under too (he’s been to Australia – what were you thinking?).   And now, the pinnacle of his career so far – obvs – he’s performing at the Court Theatre in Tring.

Screaming Blue Murder, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 4 Apr, 9pm

screaming blue murder comedy night

There’s also a hearty helping of comedy (what? you’re full from all the chocolate? nah…) at the Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead.  Screaming Blue Murder (or SBM to its friends) is regularly kicking off down in the murky depths of The Cellar Club – and comedy on a Monday seems like a fine way to kick off the week.

Giselle at the Royal Opera House: Live Screening, Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, 6 Apr, 7.15pm


Ah, Giselle.  A proper Romantic classic with luuurve surviving even death (sigh) – as Giselle transforms from an innocent peasant girl to a forgiving spirit who saves her lover from death.  Sounds absolutely lovely.  And I’m a total convert to the whole live screening thing – what a great way to access productions from amazing companies.

Macbeth, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 6 Apr, 7.30pm


I’ve been keen to see this version of The Scottish Play since it came out – but not managed it yet.  The bits I’ve seen of Michael FAssbender’s performance look stunning (although I could pretty much watch him painting the back gate and be happy), and Marion Cotillard as Lady M looks grimly brilliant.  Lucky for me, it’s back on the screen this week!  Not so lucky, I’ll be away.  Hey ho.

John Cooper Clarke, Luton Library Theatre, 2 Apr, 8pm


I just love John Cooper Clarke – or, should I say, Dr John Cooper Clarke – and he’s touring this show across the UK and the USA (like they’ll appreciate him…), so catch him quick in Luton this weekend.   He’s the kind of performer who gets called things like ‘living legend’ and there’s really no one else like him.  A whole load of new material, as well as some well-loved works.  Genius.

The Chairs, Harlow Playhouse, 3 Apr, 3pm

the chairs

This isn’t a play you’ll see performed often – an absurdist drama from avant-garde biggie Eugene Ionesco.  And this production has, uniquely, audio description worked into the performance itself, rather than as its usual add-on.  An elderly couple frantically prepare chairs to welcome a procession of invisible guests to their isolated home – but who are they waiting for?  And there’s a collection box at the end of the performance for you to pay what you can.

Order and Chaos, Rhodes Gallery, Bishop’s Stortford, 2-29 Apr

order and chaos - Heidi Lichterman

Order and Chaos?  Sounds like my house.  But now, it’s an exhibition of textile Art curated by internationally acclaimed weaver and experienced curator, Heidi Lichterman.  Combinations of contemporary and traditional textile techniques tangle with the concepts of Order and Chaos in surprising ways.

Film screenings, Hertford Theatre, 31 Mar, 2pm & 7.45pm

lady in the van

Hertford Theatre’s film screenings are a great way to catch up with all those films you’ve missed at the multiplex (which, if you’re me, is a long list).  The Lady in the Van (2pm), Alan Bennet’s story of the woman who parks her van in his driveway and lives there, stars the inimitable and redoubtable Maggie Smith (national treasure).  And then there’s Youth (7.45pm), featuring Jane Fonda and telling the story of a retired orchestra conductor who receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday.

Trumbo, Watford Palace Theatre, 3 Apr, 2 & 7pm


Or you can catch Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle), the story of Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he was caught up in the McCarthyite blacklists.  And he knew everyone – Hedda Hopper, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and so on.  Almost won an Oscar…

Puccini’s Tosca, Watford Colosseum, 3 Apr, 7.30pm

puccini's tosca

Ooo, I love a bit of opera. And Tosca is a brilliant one, too – true love and treachery, in Italian, with some stonking arias and a properly blood-curdling villain.  Bravo!

Hoddesdon Loves Food and Drink, 31 Mar-3 Apr


Well, what a coincidence – so do I!  Brand new event coming to Hoddesden this weekend (if your weekend starts on a Thursday, that is), with all sorts of stall selling food and drink from around the world.  Sounds like a delicious sort of a mooch.

Laila: The Musical, Watford Palace Theatre, 2-17 Apr


Forget Romeo and Juliet – Romeo’s such a wally, anyway (I know, I know…).  Here are some proper star-crossed lovers – Laila and Manju.  This is an ancient love story – complete with young lovers and feuding families long before old Will came up with that idea – re-told in a spanking new musical production from the people that created the award-winning Britain’s Got Bhangra.  How gorgeous is this? “In every heart there is an inclination to love her. Her tresses are like the night, and her name is Layli” (Nizami Ganjavi, 1192).  *sigh*

Chas & Dave: On The Road, Alban Arena, 2 Apr, 7.30pm

chas and dave

It’s well-known that Mr C is more than partial to a spot of Chas and Dave – the fact that both our children know the words to lots of their songs is testament to that – and that infamous ‘rockney’ duo are back again, despite various farewell tours, and this weekend they’re in St Albans.  They’ve *ahem* got more rabbit than Sainsburys, clearly.  There’ll definitely be singing along.  And beer.  Gertcha.

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century, V&A Museum, London, until 3 Jul


I’d not heard of Paul Strand until recently (shame on me), but I’m loving getting to know his work a bit – and this exhibition at the V&A looks like the perfect opportunity.  It’s the first UK retrospective since his death in 1976, and includes some of the images that have helped define documentary photography for the generations that followed.  It’s a touring exhibition, but the V&A is adding in a significant number of his prints from their archive while it’s there.  I’m definitely putting this one on my ‘days in London’ list.

People, Places and Things, Wyndham’s Theatre, Covent Garden, until 18 June, 7.30pm (2.30pm Sat/Thu matinee)

people, places and things

People, Places and Things has just moved to Wyndham’s Theatre for a 14-week run after a sell-out run at the Dorfman Theatre.  It’s directed by Jeremy Herrin – who directed Wolf Hall (one of my favourite recent watches).  It’s all about intoxication, rehab, the truth, and surviving the modern world.  And it’s been a massive hit so for with critics and audiences.  Don’t think these tickets will stick around for long.

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