We’re fans of bright, blossom-filled March. Big fans. There are loads of great activities in London to get stuck into ready for spring. There’s International Women’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Mother’s Day, too – which you can start planning in advance now you’ve remembered. For more fun in the city, check out our guide to the best events, free stuff, art and music. This lot should keep you busy in London for the whole of March 2018. Your social life is welcome!
RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar
Our March 2018 highlights
Fancy a bit of feminist porn? Or a spot of creative nudity? Independent feminist magazine Ladybeard is putting on a series of events celebrating 'women causing trouble', and the programme looks quite racy. Events include an erotic film night, reclaiming porn for the female gaze; collaborative life-drawing, where participants are actually invited to get naked themselves.
Carnaby Street's iconic arch is getting taken over by turtles, polar bears, puffins, elephants and whole host of other exotic critters to mark WWF's Earth Hour - the annual initiative inviting people to turn off their lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm GMT to raise awareness of climate change and the natural world.
Free events this March
An evening of themed talks, performances, music, food and special installations at the grand museum. You can treat yourself to drinks from the on-site bars as you explore the current exhibitions and take part in special events. Click on 'dates and times' to see upcoming events.
Catch a slice of midweek culture at these late night openings. Every Thursday and Friday the gallery stays open until 9pm meaning you can take part in drawing classes, talks and discussions after work. Guests can also enjoy live music, DJs, films, performances and drinks from the Late Shift bar. Check the website for the weekly lineup.
Whoever said the Square Mile is purely the domain of bankers and stockbrokers? The seventh edition of this urban sculpture trail will bring a dose of high culture to the City from June 27. It's quite a blokey line-up this year; look out for work by shark-pickling troublemaker Damien Hirst and American schlock merchant Paul McCarthy. You'll find a handy map of the trail here.
Carnaby Street's iconic arch is getting taken over by turtles, polar bears, puffins, elephants and whole host of other exotic critters to mark WWF's Earth Hour - the annual initiative inviting people to turn off their lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm GMT to raise awareness of climate change and the natural world. Penguins, puffins, cheetahs, red coral and rainforest foliage will cover the arch to highlight the fact that one in six animal species are threatened due to climate change, pollution and overconsumption. Carnaby will be switching off their lights for the hour for the first time this year, with restaurants along the street, including Dehesa, Claw Carnaby and Whyte & Brown, will be throwing candlelit dinners.
If everything in Sturtevant’s show looks familiar, there’s a reason for that: you’ve seen it all before. Elaine Sturtevant (1924-2014) was a conceptual American artist who spent her career reproducing famous works of art, but always making them somehow off and imprecise. Walking through this show you’ll see works you know and love by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Paul McCarthy, Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp – but their hands came nowhere near these canvases. If you’re sat there shaking your head and saying ‘how is this even art?’ – good. That means it’s working. Because you know that sense of cynicism you get when you see someone taking art way too seriously? That sneer you feel rising up through you when faced with the pomposity and pretentiousness of the art world? Well condense every one of those snarky emotions down into one artist and you get Sturtevant. Through reproducing the art of others, Sturtevant poses countless questions: who, how, why and why not. She’s asking why it’s less valid as art when she copies Warhol than when Warhol steals a photo and reprints it? Why is it only art if Jasper Johns did it first? What happens to the art – as a concept – when it’s being reproduced? At what point does it stop being art? When does it become art again? It’s every question you’ve ever had about modern art – about its purpose, needs and authenticity – turned into action. It’s brilliant and terrible, reassuring but terrifying. @eddyfrankel
You’re taught never to touch the art, but in this little one-room installation by British artist Anthony McCall, you couldn’t touch it even if you wanted to. McCall’s light sculpture looks solid: in a pitch black room filled with smoke, the lines he creates in the space look like grey marble walls. But reach out and your hand drops right though. Duh, it’s light, bozo. But that’s all part of his trick, as you stand in the middle of the lines, you feel trapped in solid matter. His work dissects and bisects the space. It's eerily disconcerting to stand there, pushing your hand through what feels like real, actual, physical matter. It’s solidity out of nothing, or at least the illusion of it. It's not new, McCall has been creating variations on the same light-sculpture theme for years, and maybe it's not that even that clever – but it is affecting. It leaves you trapped and yet somehow liberated, stuck inside something but free to move, like a sort of low-security art prison. Lock me up. @eddyfrankel
One hundred years on from the year (some) women in the UK were given the right to vote for the first time, this Friday late at the V&A examines what work is still needed today in the fight for equality and enfranchisement. Head to the museum after hours to explore contemporary practises of activism, what democracy looks like now and to listen to stories of narratives still yet to have their place in the spotlight. Find out more here.
This exhibition asks three contemporary artists to consider the idea of the landscape. But just how do the British Jessica Warboys, the French Isabelle Cornaro and the Italian Giulia Piscitelli conceive of this geographical concept in their art? For Warboys, landscape is 'reclusive and visionary'; for Cornaro it’s an 'abstraction of reality', and for Giulia Piscitelli it’s a 'journey through space and time defined by nimbuses.' Guess its all going to remain rather, well, cloudy.
If you’re a plucky producer hoping to get your new show into the Criterion Theatre, you’re flat out of luck once again. Because less than nine months after 'The 39 Steps' shuttered after almost a decade glowering over Piccadilly Circus, it’s now home to the brand new comedy by Mischief Theatre, which, if there’s any justice in the theatre world, will run for even longer. 'The Comedy About A Bank Robbery' is the latest play by the bogglingly prolific and talented team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (or more accurately the 'Play That Goes Wrong' franchise) and it’s their best and funniest work yet. A genre pastiche, screwball comedy and classic farce that’s as clean and clear as its brassy branding, it spins with a manic energy from Two Ronnies-esque wordplay through surreal set-pieces to slapstick stunts prepped to bring the house down. The story of a bungled jewel heist in a sleepy Minneapolis bank branch, it features a host of hilarious but well-drawn characters who roar across the stage and tumble into disaster after disaster, each one more elegantly drawn than the last. The writers’ ability to snatch a laugh out of every line, and to intricately prime each scenario with zinging punchlines and pay-offs is stunning, as call-backs and running gags pile up into teetering edifices of absurdity. The entire cast is bang on the money, but Mischief Theatre’s own Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer are the standouts as booming bank manager Robin Freeboys and hapless loser (and eter
It wasn’t all about Poirot’s little grey cells or Miss Marple solving murders at the vicarage. In her lifetime, crime writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie wrote 16 plays and a massive 73 novels. Apart from the immortal ‘Mousetrap’, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ – which Christie adapted in 1953 from an earlier short story – is one of the most famous. Like most of Christie’s work, you can’t say much for fear of ruining the ending. Leonard Vole (a butter-wouldn’t-melt Jack McMullen) is on trial for murdering an older woman who has left everything to him in her will. He insists he’s innocent, but it all rests on the testimony of his wife, Romaine. What will she say on the stand? When Christie adapted her original story, she shifted the focus almost exclusively to the Old Bailey courtroom. Here, Lucy Bailey’s production has the gift of being in the main chamber of London County Hall. Big, austere and grand, it’s the perfect setting for the legal theatrics of Christie’s forensically precise plotting. Some audience members are even addressed as the jury. If the courtroom is a stage, this play is all about performance. Few are as good as Christie at leading us down the garden path, expectations-wise. She constructs her plot like Vole’s barrister, Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC (a charismatic David Yelland), builds his case, before knocking over apparent ‘revelations’ like dominoes. Bailey plays up the melodrama beautifully, in some scenes lighting the judge’s bench like something fro
José Riviera and Allan Baker’s new adaptation of Manuel Puig’s iconic 1976 novel ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ is a solid but faintly perplexing piece of programming. Yes, Puig’s story about Molina and Valentin, two prisoners in an Argentinian jail who find a transgressive intimacy in the dark is timeless, moving and still somewhat bracing. But it’s already been adapted into a play, a film, and Kander & Ebb’s iconic musical, and it’s questionable what this new version is really bringing to the table. Both text and Laurie Samson’s production feel adrift from the 2018 gender conversation – Molina is one of literature’s most famous trans women, but I’m not sure this feels explored here: it essentially comes across as a piece about two men. Still, Samuel Barnett is excellent in the role of Molina: fraying, lonely, desperate and guilt-stricken, spewing feelings like vomit as he nervously befriends taciturn political prisoner Valentin with the intent of betraying him to secure early release. At first his only other escape from this place is in his lavishly embellished accounts of the plots of lurid old films with doomed female protagonists. But something blossoms between the pair in the gloom, a pure physical love that has its root in intimacy, trust and shared humanity. Less good is Declan Bennett. Brilliant in ‘Once’ and the Open Air Theatre’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, he’s great in this sort of role in a musical, but just not a nuanced enough dramatic actor to carry off a virtu
Step inside the Lyric foyer and you'll be greeted by a gleaming Michael Jackson memorial. Enter the auditorium and you'll find another in 'Thriller', a shining homage to The King of Pop. This is a sparkling, singing and shimmying conveyor belt of more than 30 of Jackson's greatest hits. It's a bit like watching an extended episode of 'The X Factor' – except the performers are actually very good and they've all picked Jacko. What really hits home in this jubilant jukebox show, which recently celebrated its thousandth performance, is the range of repertoire available. 'Thriller' is a reminder of Michael Jackson's versatility and the unique gloss he lent to pop, rock, dance and even the ballad. 'Heal the World' is crooned by a throng of suitably seraphic kids, 'Beat It' is blasted into the gods and a silver-gloved groover glides majestically through 'Smooth Criminal'. The show, held together by the loosest of narratives, begins with a selection of Jackson 5 numbers. These earlier songs are among the best of the night: pure, funky, relatively simple and uniformly upbeat. Salient facts are flashed furiously across the screens (750 million records sold worldwide!) and the show segues into Jackson's solo career. Some of these later songs are terrifyingly idiosyncratic – made and moulded for the man himself – and the lead vocalists struggle with the quirkier numbers, such as 'Jam' and 'Dirty Diana'. But it is the dancing that dazzles, no more so than Michael Duke's confident and w
'Miss Nightingale' transfers to London Hippodrome in March 2018. This review is from 2017. A bunker-like auditorium in The Vaults – the multi-performance space created out of the network of tunnels under Waterloo Station – is an atmospherically subterranean location for this Blitz-set new musical. It’s steeped in an almost reverent nostalgia for the music hall, with the cast playing instruments as well as characters. Writer and director Matthew Bugg’s production is awash with charm, as it dips into the culture of wartime musical revue. From ‘Let Me Play on Your Pipe’ to ‘The Sausage Song’, the tunes have an authentic sense of innocent cheek. Their playful innuendoes are what ‘saucy’ was coined for. The effect is completed by designer Carla Goodman’s lightbulb-ringed proscenium arch, through which the titular Miss Nightingale – the stage name of no-nonsense Northerner Maggie Brown – entertains, while her closeted manager, Frank, and her best friend, George, try to keep their relationship under wraps. Conor O’Kane relishes every eye-roll as Jewish-Polish immigrant, George, and Nicholas Coutu-Langmead stiffens his upper lip admirably as posh boy Frank. Tamar Broadbent, meanwhile, gives Maggie grit and vulnerability, while beautifully pitching her showstoppers. But the show’s wholesale buying into a bygone era also results in a soft-focus, old-fashioned feel, flattening out the dramatic stakes of George’s tragic backstory and the edginess of the first song, ‘Cruising’. Th
Last time Jennifer Saunders was involved in a West End theatre show, she was all but run out of town by a pitchfork-wielding mob, genuinely incensed at her diabolical Spice Girls musical ‘Viva Forever!’ She’s back on rather different terms in 2018, and if co-starring in Oscar Wilde’s timeless 1892 comedy ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ clearly constitutes the harvesting of low-hanging fruit for the beloved comedy actor, then that’s fine – she absolutely owns the stage. Gossipy old bat the Duchess of Berwick probably isn’t even in Wilde’s top three gossipy old bats, but Saunders is perfect in the role. Sewing chaos with that ironic detachment that she brings to bear on even Eddy’s most fraught moments, she nails Wilde’s immaculately sculpted quips, somehow both in the moment and standing wryly outside. This revival, part of Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long effort to stage all of Wilde’s plays, is directed by another comedy icon, Kathy Burke, who keeps things light and fast-paced – Wilde at his most frothily superficial. She’s assembled a fine cast, who generally hold their own against the totemic Saunders. Grace Molony is funny, winsome, and a little tragic as the good-hearted Lady Windermere, led by the Duchess’s gossip into thinking her husband Lord Windermere (a hangdog Joshua James) is having an affair with the reliably effervescent Samantha Spiro’s Mrs Erlynne. Kevin Bishop puts in an entertainingly unselfconscious turn as Lady Windermere’s handsy would-be paramour Lord Darling
‘DollyWould’ comes to Soho Theatre in March 2018. This review is from the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe. ‘This is our mainstream crossover hit,’ Sh!t Theatre solemnly inform us on several occasions during their deliriously daft Dolly Parton odyssey ‘DollyWould’. That’s not strictly speaking true: last year’s scabrously funny London housing crisis show ‘Letters to Windsor House’ was surely the one that put facepaint-loving performance duo Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit on the map. But you can see their – admittedly tongue-in-cheek – point. After years of making endearingly shambolic performances about social issues, this really genuinely is a show about the Queen of Country, made because the duo are fans and wanted to do a show about something nice for a change. It’s a pop single of a show, mostly content to bask in its own sunny silliness. This is not to say that Sh!t Theatre have sold out. If anything ‘DollyWould’ is at least as eccentric as its predecessors, perhaps more so, inasmuch as there isn’t really anything they particularly have to tell us beyond the fact that they really, really like Dolly Parton, meaning much of the show is given over to exhilaratingly daft riffing. So they wear wigs, play songs, sing along to old Dolly Parton interviews. They talk a lot about Dolly (the singer). They also talk a lot about Dolly (the sheep). They talk about clones of Dolly Parton. They talk about corpses. They talk about legacy. They don’t actually talk about boobs that much.
This review is from 'The Ferryman's run at the Royal Court. It has since transferred to the West End, and is on its third cast (pictured) There is a live goose in 'The Ferryman'. And a live rabbit. And a live baby. None of these things are particularly important in and of themselves, but I guess I have to start somewhere in describing this enormous, shattering eruption of a play from 'Jerusalem' playwright Jez Butterworth. 'The Ferryman' is vast, a play that's formally conventional but has an ambition that's out of this world, a sense that it wants to be about EVERYTHING. And insofar as is realistically possible, it succeeds. But despite the teeming cast and interwoven plot lines it remains intimate, set in the kitchen of a single Armagh farmhouse in 1981. Bond director Sam Mendes's recent theatrical record has largely involved bombastic West End fodder, but here he controls everything with a powerful restraint that keeps 'The Ferryman' in sharp focus through every shift of shape. INTERVIEW: Jez Butterworth on 'The Ferryman', Bond and the future of 'Jerusalem' 'The Ferryman' is a play about Ireland and about Northern Ireland (Butterworth's family is of Irish descent). It is a play set at the height of Bobby Sands's hunger strike. It is a play about an era modern enough to feel recognisable, but far enough away that its older generation experienced the Easter Rising firsthand. It is a play about a mystical idea of Ireland in which fairies and banshees and magic all exi
They don’t really have pantomimes in the US, which may explain why the creatives behind this hit Broadway adaptation of Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ made a pantomime, probably without realising. There’s no Widow Twankey or Wishee Washee, but Alan Menken’s musical gives you the same things as a decent British panto ‘Aladdin’: lavish set pieces (designer Bob Crowley has done some impressive things); campy, knowing, fourth wall-breaking humour; songs (obvs); a magic carpet sequence; a dull hero (Dean John-Wilson’s prominent man-cleavage is the most memorable bit of his performance); a ludicrously OTT villain (Don Gallagher’s Jafar laps up the boos at curtain call); and a scene-stealing dame (more later). It’s well done, but talk about selling coals to Newcastle: the humour hits the spot with Howard Ashman’s dry lyrics, but it lacks the inspired madness of, say, the Hackney Empire panto. Alongside the other big West End Disney musical, Julie Taymor’s ‘The Lion King’, it struggles to establish a distinct, theatrical identity. And my mind boggled at how the diverse, largely British cast has had bland American accents foisted upon them to play Middle Eastern characters. One decision producers won’t be regretting is importing star of the Broadway show Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie. The role could have been something of a poisoned, er, lamp, given Robin Williams’s iconic turn in the 1992 film. But glitter-doused Nicholas makes it his own with a kinetic mix of fabulousness and physicality. He
Motown’s girl groups sang about needing love, love. But behind all the sappy stuff there was cold hard cash. Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s 1981 musical is built on sharp insights into pop’s economic realities. And this slick belated UK première, fronted by ‘Glee’ star Amber Riley and dripping in more Swarovski than a banker’s chandelier, doesn’t let you forget it. The plot’s not-so-loosely inspired by the story of The Supremes. The Dreams are three African-American teenage girls who sing gorgeous close harmonies in talent contests, until a gig singing back-up for sex symbol Jimmy Early (a cartoonishly hip-rolling Adam J Bernard) brings them closer to the big time. But they’re not quite there. Their music is ghettoised on separate charts, and their hits are stolen by milk-white matinee idols. Director Casey Nicholaw’s fast-paced production plunges us right into these backstage frustrations. The Dreams’ machiavellian manager Curtis Taylor Jr (Joe Aaron Reid) is waiting in the wings with a plan to get the dough rolling in. It’s none-too-subtly implied that leader Effie, played by an astonishingly good Amber Riley, doesn’t have the face for stardom – she’s relegated to the background, in favour of picture-perfect Deena (Liisi LaFontaine). In ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, Riley proves what a mistake that is with a stupefying solo – her huge, wracked voice seems to swallow up the room (and blows away all memories of Jennifer Hudson’s version in the 2006 movie).