Yep, it's February already. Which means that January is finally out the way and London begins brightening up – just a little – thanks to a batch of events and celebrations. Get loved-up or celebrate being single on Valentine's Day, flip-out during Pancake Day and treat the kids (and maybe yourself too) during half-term.
Here are our February 2018 highlights, which should give you plenty of inspiration to fill any day or night of the month – or all of them, if you're up for a challenge.
RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar.
Our February 2018 highlights
The tough childhood of a poor Miami kid is the subject of Barry Jenkins's powerful and moving indie portrait of African-American life. Quiet, sullen Chiron – initially played by Alex Hibbert – is a bullied ten-year-old, scared and uncertain about the world. The film follows Chiron's life, and the character is subsequently played by two more actors as he grows up. It makes for a haunting, incredible film.
Frying pans at the ready! Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before Lent, traditionally a period of abstinence, associated with clearing your cupboards of things like sugar, fat and eggs. Check out our favourite pancake-based celebrations in London – easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Eccentrically but handsomely decorated, this stylish Ladbroke Grove spot serves up ultra-contemporary cooking with flair. Just how contemporary are we talking? Try sweet potato ice cream on a bed of popcorn and sheep's yoghurt, or perhaps the roast octopus with turnip, tahini and radicchio – then there's the chocolate cremeux with artichoke ice cream and toasted wild rice. Elegant stuff, and well worth treating yourself to.
Have we reached peak Hockney? The Royal Academy has granted him two shows in the last four years, focusing on his eye-poppingly colourful, hit-and-miss recent works. Fortunately, this big Tate retrospective – scheduled ahead of Hockney's 80th birthday – will go all the way back to his student work of the early '60s, and trace what's frankly a stupendous journey of ceaseless innovation.
This anarchic-yet-tender German comedy is a moving, often hilarious portrait of a father-daughter relationship. Ageing father Winfried, who loves practical jokes, visits his daughter Inès while she's on secondment in Bucharest. It's not long before Winfried is appearing everywhere that Inès goes, showcasing his usual quirky gags. It all makes for a hugely original, hilarious and completely surprising film.
Fear not, Potter fans: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is an absolute hoot, a joyous, big-hearted, ludicrously incident-packed and magic-heavy romp that has to stand as one of the most unrelentingly entertaining things to hit the West End. Writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and a world-class team have played a blinder.
The silent disco phenomenon reaches new heights at these exclusive Time Out events. Pick your channel and choose your side as three DJs battle it out over separate wireless channels, playing the best in pop, rock and party classics, while you dance the night away at 1,000ft. The View from The Shard is the visitor attraction at the top of Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard. With unparalleled, panoramic views, it offers visitors a unique perspective on the capital.
Improv gets a bad rap in this country, but anyone who dismisses the genre clearly hasn't seen Austentatious. This highly impressive troupe perform a completely improvised Jane Austen novel, complete with period dress and cello accompaniment, with marvellous results. Made up of Andrew Murray, Amy Cooke-Hodgson, Joseph Morpurgo, Cariad Lloyd, Graham Dickson and Rachel Parris, they're all hugely talented performers, able to keep the gag rate high and the made-up story rolicking along. Tremendous fun.
Not just a cool something-for-everyone market, West Norwood Feast is also a worthwhile local enterprise. Space-makers – the regeneration group behind Brixton Village – came up with the idea to give a boost to a forgotten borough. There’s Retro Village, serving up vintage fashion and homewares; Artisan’s Hub, with live craft sessions and workshops; Fresh ‘n’Green, the food and garden produce bit; and Food Fair – bulging with street nosh. It’s a cracking operation.
Proof that Moriarty was always cooler than Sherlock: where Benedict Cumberbatch 'gave' his Hamlet in the summer of 2015 at the vast Barbican, his screen nemesis Andrew Scott will take on the part of Shakespeare's doomed Danish prince in the tiny, hip Almeida. If it's become de rigeur for every major male actor – and a few women too – to take on Hamlet, then the same is true for every great director.
At first glance, Wolfgang Tillmans's photographs look almost throwaway. His subjects are so varied – friends, foliage, oceans, genitals – that you'd be forgiven for thinking he doesn't give them any thought. But take a step back, and you realise you're looking at one of the most distinct bodies of photographic work of contemporary times. Tillmans asks fundamental questions about how we perceive and deal with the world – and recently, with the pro-Remain posters he created ahead of the EU referendum, the political urgency in his work has come to the fore. This Tate blockbuster is one you won't want to miss.
With timing both serendipitous and sad, this revival of Edward Albee's most famous play was announced the week the 88-year-old titan of American theatre died. Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill will star as Martha and George, a warring WASP couple who suck new college professor Nick and his wife Honey into their horrible personal war.
From the pale pink Emanuel blouse she wore for her engagement portrait to the blue velvet gown she wore at the White House to dance with John Travolta, this new exhibition about Princess Diana's wardrobe charts the image-crafting and sartorial choices throughout her life in the limelight.
Free events this February
Putting a spotlight on the health of the River Thames, artist Jason Bruges’ light installation will shine one of three patterns on to the Sea Containers at Mondrian London based on whether the water quality is good, average or poor according to that day’s Thames data reading. The lights will be a permanent fixture every evening from dusk until midnight, letting us know if the river’s health is improving or declining. The data will also be tweeted on via the @ThamesPulse account and a billboard will show readings on real time. The lights will be switched on for the first on March 16 at 6.30pm.The project was devised by MEC UK to help raise awareness about the condition of the Thames and to support charity Thames21 in its mission to protect London’s rivers.
Art exhibitions this February
He's never captured public imagination quite like his contemporaries Gauguin and van Gogh – but Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was the real daddy of post-impressionism. His innovative way of modelling form with colour and geometric shapes lay out the path for cubism, fauvism and all of the modern art that was to follow. He's best known for his landscapes of the Provençal countryside, but this show brings together his portraits, including paintings of his wife, uncle and himself.
Twenty-three years down the line, it's easy to forget how Rachel Whiteread shocked audiences with her Turner Prize entry 'House': the concrete cast of the interior of a Victorian house in Mile End. But it won her the prize – she was the first woman to do so – and since then, Whiteread has risen to become one of the most influential figures of the art establishment. She'll always be chiefly for making casts of negative spaces, but her work stretches beyond that – this long-overdue retrospective should flesh out a highly accomplished career.
Fifteenth-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck was as much a technical pioneer as he was an artistic genius, mastering illusionistic space in his exquisitely constructed paintings. Five centuries later, his masterwork 'The Arnolfini Portrait' inspired a new wave of artists: the Pre-Raphaelites, a circle of Victorian bad boys who championed his draughtsmanship and symbolism.
This show looks at an often overlooked chapter in the impressionist story: when the Franco-Prussion war broke out in 1870, many French artists fled across the Channel to London. Here, they met a wave of enthusiastic contemporaries and patrons, and a new era of symbiosis between English and French art began.
Amadeo Modigliani's star burned bright and fast. The Italian artist died from tubercular meningitis at the tragic age of 35, but in the years leading up to that he was a well-known – if not financially successful – player in the vibrant Parisian art scene. The elongated figures of his paintings and sculptures are unmistakeable: sensual, elegant, and now gathered together for his largest UK retrospective to date.
Black-and-white painting has a long history, but rarely gets looked at as a tradition in its own right. The NG should put paid to that, with an exhibition that traces monochrome painting from grisaille works of the Middle Ages to pieces by contemporary artists like Gerhard Richter.
Oh, Hayward: we have missed you these past two years. Luckily, when the Southbank institution finally reopens in early 2018 after an extensive refurb, it will kick things off with a bang in the form of the first ever UK retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky. His sweeping, large-format images of modernity – Parisian apartment blocks, landfills, factory floors – continue to astound and dazzle.
Aside from being the only English monarch to ever suffer the indignity of having their head chopped off, Charles I (1600-49) was also an avid art collector. He bought and commissioned work by some of his age's greatest artists, including Rubens, Titian and van Dyck. Although it's long been scattered across the globe, this exhibition will bring together over 90 pieces from Charlie Boy's illustrious collection.
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Tapas Brindisa Shoreditch
The original Brindisa, on the outskirts of Borough Market, might remain a bustling (aka chaotically over-popular) beacon for small-plate scoffing, but the tapas micro-chain’s refurbed Shoreditch outpost is a nicer place to be. It’s a lofty space, cod-industrial but warmly tiled, with a busy bar-kitchen, crammed wine racks and hams hung aloft. A rear dining room is clattery and tightly packed but atmospheric. And the food? Reliable. Brindisa, once groundbreaking, isn’t really competing with Spanish titans like Barrafina and José these days. But the things it does well, it does very well indeed. This is most evident in the menu’s simpler fare. Ham and cheese croquettes – a litmus test for any self-respecting tapas joint – were perfect little béchamel bombs. Chorizo de Léon was essentially an open version of the Brindisa market stall’s chorizo sandwich, a simple layering of good ingredients – just oily, piquant sausage, piquillo peppers, rocket and chewy bread. A larger dish of baked eggs, sobrasada and potatoes, mushed up table-side, was equally warming. Less successful were the winking riffs on increasingly tired food trends: a slider-size burger of sausage, morcilla and mushroom mayonnaise was a one-note whack of salt and little else. Cutting-edge it ain’t, but stick to the classics – from boquerones to padron peppers – and you won’t go far wrong.
Venue says: “Weekend rice brunch. We’ve created a menu featuring five speciality rice dishes and pairing cocktails, served with pan con tomate and salad.”