The Muddy guide: Thurs 3 March – Weds 9 March
The Witches, Corn Exchange, Newbury, Tues 8 March – Sat 12 March
Rather timely with World Book Day upon us (ohhhh, I see why they did that now). Roald Dahl’s scariest book, The Witches, is brought to life in this tremendously terrifying treat (as the great man would say) for the whole family. The book is bad enough but I also remember watching the film version with Angelica Houston and being properly petrified! In case you didn’t know, witches absolutely detest children. They find them revolting and are planning to wipe them out like weasels. They want to squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear. But one brave young boy and his grandmother have a plan to get rid of the witches for good… if only they can avoid being turned into mice. This new stage version was given five stars by The Stage magazine who described it as ‘outstanding children’s theatre’ so we’re in for a rip-roaring show. I’m definitely taking my two little revolting rascals. Tickets £15, age guide 7+.
Corn Exchange Newbury, Market Place, Newbury, Berks RG14 5BD. Box office: 0845 5218 218. cornexchangenew.com
Sue Palmer at Waterstones, Reading, Sat 5 March, from 11am
More celebrations for World Book Day and all things space (everyone wave at Tim!) as local author Sue Palmer will be at Waterstones in Reading’s Broad Street, reading from her debut children’s book May’s Moon, at 11am to 12 noon and 3pm to 4pm on Sat 5 March. May’s Moon is about a little boy called Michael May who is one of ten children from around the world accepted onto the ‘Children’s Moon Program (CMP)’ in Florida. If he can survive the g-force of a space shuttle launch, overcome his secret fear of water and pass the other battery of tests, he could win a place on the next mission to the moon (isn’t that the coolest book synopsis you’ve ever heard?! It’s aimed at 9-12 year olds but quite frankly they’ll have to fight me for their place in the queue). Sue will be chatting about what astronauts do, read from her new book and introduce her model spaceman Jim, along with colouring-in, a quiz and a chance to try your hand at how it might feel to perform simple tasks in space. All followed up by a bumper book signing. All the details are here.
Michael Rosen’s The Big Write, The Discover Centre, London, Sat 5 – Fri 11 March
Obviously a bit of a schlep getting over to East London, but I thought this was well worth a mention if you fancied a day out because there are just so many stars from the world of children’s literature turning up for this nine day event. Michael Rosen has curated an extraordinary line up for The Big Write which kicks off on World Book Day, Thurs 3 March and runs until Fri 11 March at Discover Children’s Story Centre and venues around Stratford. He’ll be joined by some of our most exciting children’s authors, illustrators, poets, musicians and artists in a packed programme of events, performances and workshops. Authors taking part include Chris Riddell (A Great Big Cuddle) A.F. Harrold (Fizzlebert Stump) and Sam Lloyd (Calm Down Boris) plus loads more. There’s lots of things for the littlies too, including meet the picture book characters Maisy and Kipper.
The Big Write is based at the Discover Children’s Story Centre, 383-387 High Street, Stratford, E15 4QZ. For tickets and more information, visit the Discover Centre’s website.
The Noise Next Door! South Street Arts, Reading, Thurs 3 March at 8pm
The unstoppable comedy juggernaut that is The Noise Next Door are turning up the volume for their third national tour. Nominated for best music or variety act in the 2014 Chortle Awards, this improvised comedy troupe who have been performing together since 2005 leave audiences in awe of their lighting-quick wit and totally original comedic talents. Always polished and genuinely funny (phew!) their strength lies in their ability to turn shouted audience suggestions into improv comedy gold. Expect a night of mind-blowing songs, jaw-dropping characters and side-splitting punchlines from the undisputed masters of off-the-cuff comedy. Still unsure? Well, they’ve just completed their 8th consecutive sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and had appearances on BBC One and ITV, so I think they’re a safe bet if you fancy an evening of funny.
South Street Arts Centre, 21 South Street, Reading, RG1 4QU. Box Office: 0118 960 6060. www.readingarts.com/southstreet
Atom Trampoline Park opens in Reading, Fri 4 March
Can’t tell you loads about this I’m afraid because it’s not due to open until this Friday and I haven’t had a sneaky peek yet. I’m visiting soon with the mudlets though so I’ll report back with a full review on my uplifting experience (thank you, I’m here all week). Love that it’s opening at the beginning of Spring though (seriously, they don’t pay me enough to write this stuff). Expect all the usual brightly coloured bouncy gubbins. The website is up and running and full of booking info and answers to all your FAQs so take a look at I’ll see you at the park for a bounce. BOINGGGGGG! Tickets are £12.50 for an hour-long bounce.
The Art Scope Gallery at CircleReading Hospital
A recent survey of patients in three London hospitals showed 9 out of 10 people believed that art improved the hospital environment. 75% believed that art made them feel more relaxed. Based on that, this is quite simply a brilliant idea. The Art Scope gallery sits in the stunning atrium at CircleReading Hospital and aims to improve the therapeutic experience for patients at the hospital. The atrium provides the ideal space for the display of contemporary art and there are over 100 pieces of art on show. In fact, it’s the largest collection of affordable art on permanent display in Reading. All the art is for sale and all profits go to the charity – Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service. Definitely worth a visit.
Romeo and Juliet, The Watermill Theatre, Newbury, until 2 April
I went to see this with Mr P on Monday night and absolutely LOVED. IT. Can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a modern take (think Baz Luhrmann’s film version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) set in Capulet’s Bar, but sticking to the original text. There is an amazing cast of young talented actors (for some it’s their professional debut – you would never know) and very cool costumes and set. The Watermill is a stunning venue and all in all it was a magical evening. I would seriously book now because it’s going to be a sell-out. You can read my review here.
Romeo and Juliet is at The Watermill until Sat 2 April. Tickets £15.50 to £26.50; £10 tickets for 18-25 year-olds for performances from Tues to Thurs. The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury RG20 8AE. Box Office: 01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk
Orchids 2016, Kew Gardens, until 6 March
There’s just time to catch this annual orchid display at Kew Gardens this weekend (did someone say Mother’s Day excursion?). Isn’t it gorgeous? An enchanted forest of Brazilian beauties, before you pass through a tunnel of tropical plants. Look out two enormous Rainforest Tree sculptures covered in orchids and bromeliads, plus this pond display with an explosion of Brazilian colour. Part of the regular ticket price into Kew.
Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey, kew.org
Magical Lantern Festival, Chiswick House and Gardens, until 6 March
Just a few days left to catch The Magical Lantern Festival (it finishes on Sunday) making its UK Premiere at Chiswick House & Gardens. An outdoor event (so be warned!) it’s festival of light and illumination celebrating Chinese New Year 2016 and the Year of the Monkey with a 66n long dragon centerpiece and a 10m tall lantern recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. You’re given 75 minutes to explore the picturesque garden trail through Corridors of Light leading to vividly themed zones in the stunning grounds of Chiswick House.
Chiswick House Gardens, Chiswick, London W4 2QN, magicallantern.co.uk
Room, Reading Film Theatre, Tues 8 March, 7.45pm
So you saw The Oscars (or the highlights at least) last weekend, and now you’re desperate to see the award winning Best Actress performance by totally unknown but amazing actress Brie Larson, right? Yup. I hear ya barking. So best we find a cosy intimate and very cool venue to watch it, yes? Voila! I’m slightly biased as this cool little indie cinema resides in my old university but it really is a great space. Based on Emma Donoghue’s book (which was inspired by the Josef Fritzl case), Room is the moving story of 5 year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and the relationship with his mother (Brie Larson) who live as captives in one small sealed room. I’ve read the book but not seen the film yet – apparently it’s a very *very* tough, emotional watch – so stock up on tissues and wear waterproof mascara.
Tickets £5 members; £8 non-members. Reading Film Theatre, Palmer Building, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 2AH. Tel: 0118 378 7151. readingfilmtheatre.co.uk
Calamity Jane, South Hill Park, Bracknell, 8 – 12 March
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the 1960s Warner Brothers film of Calamity Jane with Doris Day and Howard Keel. Well, actually I can, 27 times. That is a lot of ‘Ohh the Deadwood stage is coming on over the PLAAAAAIIIINNNN’ for my long-suffering family to endure I can tell you. So I will be front and centre for this stage show at the South Hill Park theatre. In case you don’t know the story (seriously? It’s classic Doris Day?!) ‘Calam’ dresses like a man, totes a gun and rides shotgun on the Deadwood City stagecoach. Well-meaning but disaster-prone, she tries to help the local saloon proprietor out of a jam by promising to fetch a music-hall star from Chicago. A very sweet, gentle comedy, it has lots of tender moments and some very famous numbers, including Secret Love, Black Hills of Dakota, Deadwood Stage and Windy City. I will be right there slapping my thigh and cracking my whip along with you. Tickets from £12 to £16.
Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Ringmead, RG12 7PA. Booking Office: 01344 484 123. www.southhillpark.org.uk
Mother’s Day, best afternoon teas in Berkshire, Sun 6 March
And finally, you still have time (just!) to get it right for Mother’s Day with our curated guide to the best afternoon teas in and around Berkshire. Jam first or cream first? Uh, I don’t really care – I tend to just stuff it in. Here’s my guide, get booking!