Things to do
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.
The Harry Potter studio tours get a festive makeover once more this Winter, with Christmas trees and a seasonal feast in the Great Hall, decorations in Gryffindor common room and snow drifts in Diagon Alley. The beautiful scale model of Hogwarts that was used for sweeping shots over the school will also be looking wintry, with snow and ice effects carefully applied by hand.Visitors will also be able to get up close with the different types of snow used during production. Remember to wrap up warm. Personalised knitted jumpers optional. Hogwarts in the Snow is included in the standard ticket price. Book your tickets here.
The ice rink at Canary Wharf is back once again, filling the business district with frosty fun. The 1,200sqm rink is open for three magical months of ice skaring beneath the twinkling lights. Open seven days a week, it's the perfect place to enjoy one of London's most loved winter traditions. The Grandstand Bar returns for this year, but is joined by some new features, including a huge LED screen where skaters can upload photos to a rolling Instagram feed. Finally, a chance to shine and get your 15 seconds of fame. Find more places to go ice skating in London
Looking for a new year pick me up? The Flat Iron Square site, including the outdoor courtyard, multiple in and outdoor bars, wine bar and the music venue Omeara, are hosting a whole programme of wellness activities and pop-ups. And the best thing? They're all free. Join fitnesses classes, yoga and martial arts workshops, health talks, snack on vegan food and slurp down mocktails over seven days.
Do you have what it takes to be a Marvel S.T.A.T.I.O.N agent? Get ready to be put through your paces. Whether you're testing your worthiness by attempting to lift Thor’s hammer or want to snoop through Bruce Banner's Lab, be part of the action and join the action-packed Marvel Cinematic universe in this interactive exhibition. Book your tickets www.avengersstation.co.uk
Get ready for one wild Burns Night. The Rhythm and Booze Project are pulling out all the stops, including putting on an open whisky bar to pay tribute to Scotland's national poet. Along with copious amounts of the strong stuff, there'll also helpings of vegetarian haggis, live folk music and some reading of Rabbie Burn's finest work. Och aye! Find more Burns Night events in London
The picturesque-surroundings of Cody Dock will be the backdrop to this community ceilidh honouring Scotland's national poet. Dance to live music from the Brixton Tatterjacks, snack on meat and veggie haggis, neeps and tatties and hot smoked salmon canapés and watch the haggis get piped in. Hit up the bar serving whisky, mulled wine, hot cider and local ales, before hitting up the after-party on board trusty boat, the River Princess. Find more Burns Night events in London
You'll have to haul yourself out of bed at an ungodly hour for the London Smoke and Cure Guided Tour, but it'll be well worth it for this guided sneak-peek at meaty Smithfield Market and fresh fish-filled Billingsgate Market as trading reaches its peak. Just think about all the juicy bacon butties and envy-inducing fish dishes you'll be able to make from your haul at these iconic London institutions.
Craft London and Compass Box are once again offering up a four-course menu to celebrate Burns Night. Stevie Parle will be serving up Craft London’s take on the traditional haggis feast and each course will be accompanied by a carefully chosen Scotch whisky. You’ll also be treated to poetry readings and a traditional addressing of the haggis. We’ll raise a glass to that! Find more Burns Night events in London
Celebrate the life of Scotland’s National Poet, Robert Burns, in a way he would have wanted: with eating, drinking, dancing, piping and poetry. Get stuck into three hours of Ceilidh dancing, chow down on some traditional Haggis at halftime which will be piped in by a group of Bagpipe players and greeted with a recital of Burns’ poem ‘Address to the Haggis’. There'll be a true Scottish buffet on offer with Neeps and Tatties and plenty of veggie options available too. Come for a jolly good time and stay for traditional closing sing-song of Auld Lang Syne. Find more Burns Night events in London
The swanky department store is honouring the Scottish bard with an indulgent dinner in its Gallery Restaurant. The evening will begin with the traditional Selkirk Grace – the triumphant procession of the centrepiece haggis - before you gorge on sheep's stomach, neeps and tatties and Scottish smoked salmon, accompanied by fine wine and whisky and the sound of live bagpipes. Find more Burns Night events in London
Celebrate Burns Night while bobbing upon the River Lee at Barge East's big 'ol Scottish knees up. Raise a dram to the haggis, before tucking into a three-course meal any Highlander would be proud of, dancing to a live band and listening to some readings of Rabbie's greatest hits. Find more Burns Night events in London
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready for a night of jigs and jollies at this Burns Night Ceilidh. The Worn Out Shoes, who describe themselves as ‘London's laziest Ceilidh band’, will be providing the tunes with live fiddles, violins, flutes, guitars, singing, wassailing and warbling. They're also expertly trained ceilidh callers, so no worries if you have two left feet, you'll have the Gay Gordon down before you know it. Find more Burns Night events in London
Skylight’s winter rooftop goes out with a bang as Glenfiddich whisky takeover the high-rise playground for a huge Burn’s Night celebration. Get piped in live bagpipers, swig a free whisky cocktail on arrival before necking back more signature tipples from the Glenfiddich distillery. Watch highland dancing performances, take part in a whisky tasting session, and watch the traditional blessing of the sheep’s guts with a performance of Rabbie Burns ‘Ode to Haggis’, before getting down at the rooftop ceilidh. Find more Burns Night events in London
Get down in the bowls of the Cutty Sark in honour of Scotland's national poet. Explore the historic tea clipper before downing a complimentary dram of whisky, dancing to live ceilidh band and watching a performance of Rabbie Burns' famous poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ all beneath the gleaming copper hull of the iconic ship. Find more Burns Night events in London
Gobble down a ‘cheese’ board with all the trimmings, exclusively of the plant-based, meat-free variety, at this vegan bash. Look out for sides of fish free ‘smoked salmon’ and wash it all down with some tasty animal-free wine.
Supercool gym, Frame, is turning 10 this year. To celebrate their big birthday, they’re taking over east London party warehouse Oval Space with mini-trampolines and big tunes for a ‘Rebounding Rave’. There'll also be glitter and braiding stations and Facegym workshops to get involved in, 20 percent off Sweaty Betty clothes and goodie bags to get your mitts on.
Get ready for some first-degree burns from ex Harwood Arms chef Gemma Ellis and her team's four-course Burns Night menu. Filled with Scottish delights such as haggis potsticker dumplings, Cock-a-leekie soup, roast venison haunch and deep fried Mars Bars. It's going to be a pure dead brilliant night to remember the life of the iconic Scots poet.
Take a look at Europe through the eyes of its migrant workers. Dash Arts host this evening of music and conversation with German-Turkish novelist Imran Ayata and artist, director and composer Bülent Kullukçu, co-curators of ‘Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1’, which pays tribute to the cultural contribution made by the first wave of migrants to Germany. They’ll also delve into the legacy of the Windrush Generation with poet Hannah Lowe and Artistic Director of ‘WINDRUSH70 – Brent’s Pioneering Windrush Generation’ Zerritha Brown, and explore its impact on contemporary UK culture.
Tuck into some fresh produce, British grains kombucha cocktails, vegan cheese and plant-based fodder at this zero waste supper club from Plant Based News and chef Soph Gordon. The four-course meal will feature seasonal fruit and veg, whole grains and will involve no wasteful packaging what-so-ever. If you want to supercharge your veganuary, or you’re just veggie-curious, pencil this in your diary.
It might have been knocked from its heady heights as the world’s tallest ferris wheel – you’ll have to head to Las Vegas for that – but the London Eye remains an iconic part of the London skyline. Snap-happy tourists arrive here in their droves, so be prepared to queue for one of the spacious 25-person pods. Once you’re airborne, take in those far-reaching views of the Thames and beyond. On a clear day, you might even see if the Queen’s opened the curtains at Buck House.
What was once a prosaic council building on the South Bank is now full to the brim with sharks, penguins and other water-loving wildlife, thanks to this world-class, world-famous aquarium. The finned predators prowling the Shark Walk are a definite highlight, as are the billowing jellyfish in the fairly recent Ocean Invaders addition. This is the perfect place to keep the sprogs entertained on a morning or afternoon.
The Warner Brothers studio may be way out west, but it’s worth the trip to see the magic of the Boy Who Lived come alive – and to try a flagon of butterbeer, too.
You know how Instagram makes everything look prettier in photos than IRL? Well, you don’t need to worry about that with the Queen’s pad, which is a stunner in the flesh as well as all those postcards. All year round, you can take a gander at pieces from the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery, while from February to November you can check out the Queen’s horses in the Royal Mews.
As long as you leave plenty of ticket-collecting time, your trip to the Tower of London should be a blast. It starts with a 50-minute tour led by a Beefeater where you’ll learn about the 900-year history of this imposing fortress (in short: torture, prisoners, weapons and exotic animals). Feast your eyes on the crown jewels and prisoner graffiti – you’ll even meet the raven keeper. If you want to get eyeballs-deep in London’s bloody history, then put the Tower of London on your bucket list.
If you’re interested in UK politics or just want a better understanding of it, the Houses of Parliament isn’t to be missed. Seriously – this is where laws get passed, y’know! Book an audio tour and soak up the history of this grand old nineteenth-century building and if you’re feeling flush, stay for afternoon tea overlooking the Thames.
The zoological gardens that reside in Regent’s Park have been entertaining the crowds since Victorian times – but it’s in the last 15 years that the Zoological Society London has really given it an overhaul. The 36-acre park has been refashioned to support conservation, with the welfare of its inhabitants a high priority, and visitor’s encounters more informative than just point-and-stare.
There are more than eight million artifacts within the British Museum’s walls and every single one of them has a story to tell. You could easily spend hours here losing yourself in thousands of years of culture and history from the world over. Its big hitter is the Egyptian mummy, which pulls in gawping kids and adults alike. If you’d rather dodge the crowds, head to the newly re-opened Sir Joseph Hutong Gallery: a treasure trove of objects from China and South Asia.
The Dungeon spent four decades under the railway arches on Tooley Street at London Bridge. Then, in 2013, it upped sticks to a new home on the South Bank. It may lack the mucky, subterranean charm of the former site – but believe us, all the frights and gross-out moments inside are still just as icky.
Not just one for nerdy trainspotting types – TfL’s transport museum offers a genuinely compelling and enjoyable journey trhough the history of getting around in London.
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town. Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels. Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager. Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers. This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song. He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting. While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. ‘Hamilton’ is stupendously good. Yes, it’s kind of a drag that there’s so much hype around it. But there was a lot of hype around penicillin. And that worked out pretty well. If anything – and I’m truly sorry to say this – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury, is actually better than the hype suggests. That’s because lost in some of the more waffly discourse around its diverse casting and sociological import is the fact that ‘Hamilton’ is, first and foremost, a ferociously enjoyable show. You probably already know that it’s a hip hop musical, something that’s been tried before with limited success. Here it works brilliantly, because Miranda – who wrote everything – understands what mainstream audiences like about hip hop, what mainstream audiences like about musical theatre, and how to craft a brilliant hybrid. Put simply, it’s big emotions and big melodies from the former, and thrilling, funny, technically virtuosic storytelling from the latter. ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening tune, exemplifies everything that’s great about the show. It’s got a relentlessly catchy build and momentum, a crackling, edge-of-seat sense of drama, and is absolutely chockablock with information, as the key players stride on to bring us up to speed with the eventful life that Hamilton – the ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman’ – led before he emigrated to America in 1772 as a teenager
I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as romantic should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the a
Three theatres, three casts, one major disaster and seven Olivier Awards on, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel about Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder. The occasion for this re-review is the end of the enforced layoff inflicted upon ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. The show figuratively blew the roof off when it transferred from the NT to the Apollo Theatre, but unfortunately the ageing ceiling responded by literally collapsing, necessitating a change of venue and months off. Hopefully, that episode will provide a footnote. The most important thing is that Simon Stephens’s adaptation remains high tech and high quality. The first Christopher, Luke Treadaway, will always cast a huge shadow, and incumbent Graham Butler can’t match his coiled spring energy and manic otherness. But if Butler offers a gentler, more ‘normal’ hero, his superficial lack of strangeness means that it’s all the more heartbreaking when his nameless condition – presumably Asperger’s – leaves him suddenly, unexpectedly broken, unable to cope with something as simple as a human touch. Ultimately ‘Curious Incident’ is a tragedy about a family torn apart by the pressures of looking after their son. Nicolas Tennant and Emily Joyce are excellent as Christopher’s bumblingly selfless dad Ed and agonised mum Judy, driven to put her own wellbeing before that of the child who will never lov
If the second longest running show in the West End was looking a little tired, a rejuvenating orchestral facelift was just what the doctor ordered. Cameron Mackintosh's 'little girl' has shaken off that 1980s synth vibe and finally woken up to the organic noughties. This is a new, richer sound with strong operatic undertones and even the faint echoes of chamber music. Led by compelling ex-'Phantom…' Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, this dynamic cast blows a whirlwind through the Queen's Theatre, hurtling along Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's famous melodrama. Aided by a swirling revolve and John Napier's stunning constructivist set, we follow Jean Valjean's journey across France as he attempts to escape his criminal past and make amends. Hadley Fraser as Javert, Valjean's fated pursuer, matches Karimloo's booming vocals and moody stares step for step (at one point rather sweetly causing a premature ovation). Craig Mather and Lisa-Anne Wood do very prettily as lovelorn young leads Marius and Cosette. But it is Alexia Khadime's soaring 'On My Own' that storms the barricades; her plucky and faithful Eponine genuinely pulls at the heartstrings. For all its legions of fans, there are many who would sniff at this revived 'Les Miserables', branding it 'opera lite'. In a sense they would be right: all this histrionic bombast is only really making soap opera respectable. But so what. This updated and improved production is a real rabble-rouser and while it may be tosh, i
In the unlikely event you were worried a leap to the stage for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series would result in it becoming aggressively highbrow, self-consciously arty or grindingly bereft of magical high jinks, just chill the hell out, muggle. ‘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; if the two-part, five-hour-plus show is clearly a bit on the long side, it’s forgivable. ‘The Cursed Child’ emphatically exists for fans of Harry Potter, and much of its power derives from the visceral, often highly emotional impact of feeling that you’re in the same room as Rowling’s iconic characters. There’s also a sense that this story of wizards and witches is being treated with the respect its now substantially grown-up fanbase craves. No disrespect to D-Rad and chums, but the leads here are in a different acting league to their film counterparts’: Jamie Parker and Alex Price are superb as battered, damaged, middle-aged versions of old enemies Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle are a fine, puppyish, sympathetic engine to the play as their awkward sons Albus and Scorpius, trying to escape their parents’ shadows. It is a bit of a sausage (wand?) fest in terms of the lead parts, although in the mos
Marianne Elliott’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical comedy ‘Company’ was announced at what felt like some point in the late Cretaceous Period. And we knew from the get-go that the lead role of terminally single 35-year-old New Yorker Bobby (a man) would be gender switched to Bobbie (a woman), played by Rosalie Craig. The potential for this to be a novelty hung over it… but now that it’s here I’m going to cheerily declare that Elliott has found hidden depths in what was already a stone-cold classic. In 2018, when the borderline geriatric likes of Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig still regularly play sexy bachelors, the notion of a 35-year-old man being under any great pressure to settle down seems kind of quaint. But there is, of course, intense pressure for women to do so, before society deems them wanting for letting their youth and fertility run out. The nagging concerns heaped upon Bobbie for her singledom make total, crystal clear, perfectly realised sense. (NB Bobbie is straight, with the hopeless trio of lovers now men – a move that takes a certain misogynist sting out of the writing). ‘One is lonely and two is boring’ runs Sondheim’s most pithy summation of Bobbie’s dilemma, and it’s intentionally never resolved. Craig is immaculate as a hazy woman trapped in an existential funk. Her coupled-up friends have committed to things, and it hasn’t made them happy. So Bobbie remains an outsider in her own life, committed to nothing, a permanent glass of bourbon her
Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but most of it is deployed ironically; beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the sounds and spirit of Broadway’s golden age. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breath
The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. After its 2006 opening at Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a spectacle that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet, this is all about the women and, even by previous lead Idina Menzel's standards, they are in soaring form here. T
'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like the curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loat
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
The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis
It's been decades since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion. Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience. As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom. Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece. Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty
Sharon D Clarke, eh? What force. And what a voice. In Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical – which started at Chichester last year before moving to Hampstead Theatre and now the West End – Clarke plays Caroline, a black maid for a white Jewish Louisiana family in 1963, stuck in a life of drudgery for $30 a week. As a single mother of four kids, it’s not enough. This domestic set-up is an unlikely one for a musical, and the character of Caroline is an unlikely lead. This is the brilliance of the show: Kushner burrows down into just two households, at a moment of huge global political change, to explore the realities of how change really comes about. Caroline’s life has ‘buried her alive’: you can feel the weariness in Clarke’s bones. Caroline is sore, and sorely tested when Rose (Lauren Ward), her well-intentioned but hideously patronising boss, tells Caroline to start keeping any – yes – change she finds in Rose’s stepson Noah’s laundry, to teach him the value of money. Caroline is affronted, but those quarters make all the difference. Indeed, it is this complete inability of the white folks to see this difference in need, accepting rank inequality as ‘the way things are’, that hits home so uncomfortably today. Kushner, drawing on his own childhood memories, continues to refuse the easy, obvious beats: there’s no tie-it-up-neatly moment of empowerment. At the end, Caroline’s struggle is still small – but it’s also huge. When Clarke, eyeballing us from the front of the
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
The unstoppable 'Showstopper!' is back in 2018 for more improv-based musical theatre larks, this time at The Other Palace Theatre until February, in a run that includes the troupe's 1000th performance. The cast dream up a brand new show each night, based on audience suggestions, and throwing up giggle-worthy riffs on musical theatre traditions and surreal narrative twists. Read our review of the 2015 run of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
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
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
It is the ultimate musical about male privilege, a show about an under-qualified, over-entitled white guy who shambles his way to public adoration by blithely inflicting bankrupt baby boomer values upon a bunch of impressionable people who don’t know any better. ‘School of Rock – The Musical’ is also quite good fun. I dunno if it’s the state of the world today, the fact I haven’t seen the Jack Black-starring film, the fact that so much has changed – musically and politically – since the film came out in 2003, or simply the knowledge that it’s written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes, a couple of Tory lords in their late ’60s, but I felt a bit politically uneasy about ‘School of Rock’, which follows schlubby charlatan Dewey (David Fynn) as he masquerades as a teacher and proves a hit by tearing up his sensitive young charges’ syllabus and making them play old person music. Its big, catchy number is called ‘Stick It to the Man’. Yet there’s something both problematic and ironic about the fact that in Laurence Connor’s production The Man is represented by two women – Florence Andrews’s hard-working, professional headmistress Rosalie and Preeya Kalidas’s Patty, a hard-working, professional wife-to-Dewey’s best friend Ned – while in the blue corner we have... Dewey, a self-absorbed bum who everything turns out brilliantly for. Despite apparently being somewhere in his thirties – so presumably born around 1980 – Dewey exclusively loves classic rock bands, and mocks
We’re all so familiar with that photo of Charles Darwin – you know the one, it’s two-thirds beard – that we forget that the august father of the theory of evolution was ever a young, bright-eyed, idealistic man. In fact, when Darwin boarded the HMS Beagle for the five-year-voyage to South America, the Galápagos islands, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa that laid the foundations for his theory, he was only 22 years old. Performed in a pop-up theatre in the actual Natural History Museum, ‘The Wider Earth’ follows the Beagle on its epic half-decade journey across the world. Young Darwin, played with declarative boyish earnestness by Bradley Foster, is a well-intentioned renegade with a lot of heart and rather less tact. The Beagle’s captain, a robust man of God named Robert FitzRoy (Jack Parry-Jones), has brought him aboard as the ship’s naturalist. Darwin gets his credentials straight for the audience early on. He quarrels with his captain about slavery, thinking it the most horrible thing he was ever seen. He reacts with innocent wonder to nature’s riches around him. He’s loveable, if a bit predictably nice. These gold standards of character have to be set up in order for the play to tackle the thorny problems of empire, colonialism, and the sheer bloody terror of discovering that Christian scripture might have the whole creation thing wrong. David Morton’s script is replete with leitmotifs and call-backs, and in those there is a glimpse of deep feeling, but it's a
The distinctive terracotta façade with its dark-green awnings never fails to stirs up some excitement for every visitor to Harrods. The legendary food halls and 27 restaurants are worth a trip alone.
Liberty was founded in 1875, but the present Marlborough Street site, with its ships’ timbers and leaded windows, was built in the 1920s. The interconnecting jumble of rooms, with the odd fireplace and cushioned window seat, makes for a unique shopping experience.
There's a reason why Selfridges is one of our favourite London stores. It's a veritable maze of goodies. From contemporary art installations to swoon-worthy stationery and a floor devoted to finding you your perfect pair of jeans. And it's all available to take home – for a price. While most of us can't afford the high-end stuff, there's definitely a little something in here for everyone. And even if you just go to browse or sip a coffee in the cafe, Selfridges is well worth the trip.
A thoroughly British shop with a traditional French attitude to cheese retailing in that, like an affineur, Neal’s Yard buys from small farms and creameries in Britain and Ireland, and matures the cheeses in its own cellars until they’re ready to sell in peak condition.
Rough Trade's rock 'n' roll legacy continues to live on in both sides of London, wth the original shop in Ladbroke Grove and this East End addition, which opened in 2007. This is a real music lover's paradise, with a cafe and cushions to perch upon to read books or listen to records. They also have regular free live performances from major acts, although good luck getting tickets for those shows.
Both a tourist attraction, with regular school-holiday events for children, and a ginormous toy shop, Hamleys has all the must-have toys for kids both little and large. The hands-on demonstrations will easily keep you in this five-floored cornucopia for hours.
Kingly Court has helped London’s Carnaby Street to reclaim its 1960s reputation as the heart of swinging London. The three-tiered complex boasts a funky mix of established chains, independents, vintage and gift shops, plus a café-filled courtyard.
Best known for antiques and collectibles, this is actually several markets rolled into one: antiques start at the Notting Hill end; further up are food stalls; under the Westway and along the walkway to Ladbroke Grove are emerging designer and vintage clothes on Fridays and Saturdays.
Food and Drink
Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka bartender Mr Lyan, is a London cocktail dignitary – he's worked in some of the city’s most pioneering bars and now has his own range of mixed spirits in Selfridges. He opened his first bar in Hoxton in 2013, and hot on its heels is this second one. Number two couldn’t be more different. Dandelyan has a prime spot off the lobby of the new multimillion-pound Mondrian hotel in the former Sea Containers House. Dandelyan is run by a team of super-slick international-hotel ‘servers’. White Lyan set out to shake up the cocktail scene by dispensing with ice and all perishables, and Dandelyan’s menu is just as groundbreaking – ingredients include 'chalk bitters', 'crystal peach nectar’ and the archaic-sounding 'dandelion capillaire'. The bar might be glamorous, luxurious and even a bit formal, but the drinks show Chetiyawardana’s invention and attention to detail. Ford & Warner (£12.50) was a fruitily fearsome blend of gin, 'bittered blackcurrant', dandelion flower and lemon, garnished with a little frozen cube of blackcurrant sorbet. An Evil Manhattan (£12.50) didn’t live up to its name but did contain a house-made beer 'vermouth', rye whiskey and bitters. Everything here has a hint of the garden about it, and everything is surprising without being show-off, and most of all, inherently drinkable. Dress up before you drink up; it’s that sort of place. VIDEO: Check out Dandelyan's awesome new mousetrap trolley
I love a rebel. Temper gallops up to the ‘cooking on charcoal’ bandwagon, then sets it on fire. Imagine smoked meat and fish served over tacos and flatbreads, with pow-pow Asian and Latin spices. It’s one of those rare, holy-shit-I’ve-not-eaten-like-this-before places. This Soho joint, from Scottish chef Neil Rankin (Smokehouse, Bad Egg) sources top-notch whole carcasses, which are grilled or smoked in slabs – a cow’s entire ribcage, a legless goat (no jokes, please) – ahead of slicing or dicing. The most straightforward dishes are those served over a ‘flatbread’ (more of a basic roti, made with rendered animal fat and puffed up on the grill) in small, affordable portions. Try the impossibly juicy pork, or the full-flavoured smoked goat. To this bread-and-meat-combo, you add up to eight exotic sprinkles and salsas (all homemade). I loved the simplicity of their ‘green sauce’: just lime juice, coriander and garlic. But it’s with the tacos where things really get interesting. They grind the corn on site (of course they do), and because these rough, rustic little discs are hand-pressed, they’re thicker than usual, so you can really taste – and feel – the corn. But the fillings, oh, the fillings. I adored the soy-cured beef. This is a twist on a yukhoe (a Korean ‘steak tartare’), which they make by stripping off the outside of a half-smoked joint of beef to expose the uncooked bit underneath (sort of like using the inside of a medium rare steak), then hand-chopping and mixing w
Venue says Join us every Sunday for Family Style Sharing Roasts
Who needs stuffy old museums? The dining room of the Gallery at Sketch is one of the most playful – and most pink – places to be enveloped by art. The walls have around 200 original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning David Shrigley, their cartoonish quality adding to the sense of fun. He’s even designed some of the crockery: ‘ghosts’, say the teapots, ‘forget about it’, quips the inside of your cup. You can come here for dinner, but afternoon tea is what The Gallery has become famous for, so much so that you can get it before noon (it starts, specifically, at 11.30am). Service is outstanding. Once your charming host has talked you through how it works, you’re looked after by a dedicated ‘tea master’: glam gals in slinky cocktail dresses and baseballs shoes. Who happen to really know their brews. After you’ve decided on drinks and a menu (standard, children’s or – if notice is given – a special dietary needs option), the fun begins. First, there’s the caviar man, in a panama hat and pale blazer. You get a spoonful of caviar (Russian Sturgeon, cultivated in France) alongside Egg and Soldiers: two slim, cheesy toast strips and a fake egg in a very real egg cup (the white is an exceptionally good Comté cheese mornay, the yolk is from a quail and cooked to an ultra-soft 63 degrees). There’s a similar level of creativity throughout the sandwiches and cakes. Star of the sarnies was a black bread Croque d’York, or the salmon and soured cream on rye, while a perfect pear t
Since this review was published, Rumpus Room has undergone refurbishment. Time Out Eating & Drinking editors, March 2017. Hotel bars used to be the straight-laced kind of place you’d take your ’rents. Not so at the Mondrian, where Dandelyan has been winning awards on the ground floor while level 12’s Rumpus Room has stayed a bit of an inside secret. Now this chic bar is ready to welcome the world, with a terrace overlooking St Paul’s and DJs to lure sophisticated after-workers and Friday night socialites. I say socialites, since the venue claims to take its cue from the Bright Young Things, a group of hedonists followed by the tabloids in the 1920s. Think England’s non-fiction ‘Great Gatsby’ (or the ’20s version of the sidebar of shame). In truth, the theme’s not obvious, but the setting is pure style. Waitresses work the room in floaty, floral numbers you’d expect to see on Kate Moss in the French Riviera. And she’d probably approve of their way (a million miles from ‘basic bitch’ service). There are mauve banquettes, glittering chandeliers, and a shiny gold bar, but it’s the view that really wins the crowd. Stick around for sunset, when the room gets more blingy. Don’t expect such an atmosphere without paying a pretty penny; solid classic cocktails cost £14. My paloma was faultless, but my bank card withered when I promptly reached the bottom of the glass. Stick with champagne cocktails to feel more at peace; after all, Rumpus Room is an occasion bar. We can’t vouch for
Hipsters: prepare to be outraged. There’s a new kid in town, with dishes as retro as a Rubik’s Cube, but without the side of irony. That’s because it’s the latest gaff from Corbin & King, the chaps behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel. Like those, it’s named in connection with classic cars (backstory: The Wolseley site was originally built as the showroom of the Wolseley Car Company). Bellanger is a nod to the Société des Automobiles Bellanger Frères, a French car manufacturer from 1912 to ’25 (fun fact: Monsieur Bellanger sold Delaunay cars). And once again, it pays homage to the golden era of all-day ‘grand cafés’. Formerly home to a popular-but-uninspiring branch of Brown’s, the site’s potential has at last been realised. The layout’s much the same (airy front section, intimate rear space, bustling middle to connect the two), but the refit by David Collins’s protégé Shayne Brady is all new. If you can call interiors straight from the Alsatian brasseries of turn-of-the-century Paris ‘new’, that is. (Bit of history: these were set up by refugees fleeing the Alsace after the region was annexed by Germany). It’s gorgeously art nouveau, all polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering golden lighting. An abundance of booths encourages group dining and café chatter. You can’t buy this kind of buzz. The food – a Venn diagram of French, German and Alsatian – is simple, yet flawless. If Angela Merkel and François Hollande embarked upon an illicit affair
Venue says Visit Bellanger on a Tuesday & Wednesday evening for their new steak frites & wine and sausage, sauerkraut & beer specials from £14.50
Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern: three of London’s most enjoyable new-style tapas bars, and they’re all run by the same young company. Ember Yard is the fourth in this growing chain, and builds on the strengths of its forebears, using Italian as well as Spanish dishes and techniques as their inspiration. What sets Ember Yard apart from its siblings is an even greater emphasis on the grill. If you’ve eaten in a charcoal grill restaurant in the Basque country – or even in a Turkish grill in Dalston – Ember Yard should feel oddly familiar, especially if you’re sitting near the glowing coals. There’s a mixture of bar stools, high counters, dining tables and banquettes on the ground floor; the basement has more of the same but with even more emphasis on the list of house cocktails, and a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass, or even bigger selection by the bottle. The bar snacks are among the best in Soho. Smoked chorizo oozed flavour, and was served hot with a smooth saffron alioli. Chips are cooked in pork fat, and arrived perfectly crisp. Cheese and charcuterie platters are divided into Spanish or Italian. Every tapas flavour combination was a winner. Tender octopus was coated in a peperonata sauce, served with a green squirt of the garlic and coriander mayonnaise called mojo verde alioli. Ibérico pork ribs were grilled to melting softness, the flavours of the quince glaze and smear of celeriac purée melding into the warm fat. If we have any caveats at all about the m
The unstoppable uplift of the King’s Cross area brings a new bar/restaurant nearly every week, but the Booking Office remains the undisputed champion for cocktails. For one thing, it’s just a great place to sit, whether you’re in the lovely former booking hall, with its dark wood and soaring gothic arches, or outside overlooking the train tracks. There can be slightly longer waits outside, so don’t go there if you’re in a rush. Frequented by a lot of business people – and, naturally, by travellers – it’s not a place you go for a cool hangout vibe. But you make your own vibe at the comfortable, low-slung tables. The cocktail list starts at £9 for punches (a speciality) with most between £11 and £15. They play around with classic drinks adventurously but sensibly, and if nothing takes your fancy, ordering off-list is easy and rewarding. And take note (or be warned) – Office hours last until 3am from Thursday to Saturday.
Venue says Enjoy an unforgettable celebration with St Pancras Renaissance. Step inside our magnificent hotel and experience the New Year in style
With a twinkly, cosy, vine-clad terrace beckoning us into The Bloomsbury Club bar from the street, I was taken aback by the frosty manager who said there’d be no space – outside or in – for me and my friend for at least two hours. Perhaps we weren’t as preened as the average punter. But on a detour (okay, snoop) around the rest of the hotel we found the indoor section of the bar, where seats were offered up by more friendly waistcoated staff. I’m so glad we persevered. Wood-panelled and dressed to the nines, The Bloomsbury Club oozes plush appeal: English gent’s club meets library, the cabinets filled with booze rather than books. The analogy is apt, as the bar takes its inspiration from the group of writers and artists who hung out together in this area in the early twentieth century. There’s a drink named after each of the Bloomsbury Set’s ten core members, so you can sip on a Virginia Woolf or a Duncan Grant (a gorgeous whisky drink with a maraschino sweetness). The room is decked out with chesterfield armchairs, punctuated by modern, teal velvet stools. A semicircle of high-backed chairs rings the bar, a prime spot where I was able to soak up the expert mixology while peering at a jazz duo twanging at the foot of the room. So plan ahead if you want a seat in one of the leaf-covered alcoves on that alluring terrace. But don’t be disheartened if it’s full – the indoor bar is the real deal.
Venue says A secret haven for the approaching colder nights, open from 5pm everyday! Enjoy our Palm Terrace in partnership with Diplomático rum!
If Rick James and Jay Gatsby got together to throw a bash, I reckon it would look like Fitz’s Bar. Jazz Age plumage fluffs up from behind chairs while a giant glitter ball hangs from above; the back bar’s arches hint at art deco elegance while bright modern art punctuates the walls; and music drifts from up-tempo funk to mellow jazz. Fitz’s sits inside the Kimpton Fitzroy London, just on the corner of Russell Square. This hotel comes from a UK group with prestige, and you sense it from the marble-heavy lobby leading into this disco decadence. Staff in floral print were accommodating from the get-go, showing off their new home as we entered and offering suggestions on where to take our night when we came to settle up. They promptly poured water and served Twiglets on the side, a fittingly retro touch. Snacks from the menu are well worth your attention, too – from oozing bone-marrow croquettes dressed with capers to salty hasselback potatoes topped with sour cream and caviar. Gatsby would approve. The cocktail menu is filled with illustrations and word clouds to help you figure out flavours. A fizz-heavy Spy Princess (£17) was served in a coupe with a splay of pretty petals on its frothy top. Veer from champagne cocktails and you get a more affordable hotel bar experience – £14 will get you a quirky and sublime cucumber-flavoured daiquiri or a Vesca Negroni, the classic drink lifted with coconut and rosehip. The team hails from London bars Milk & Honey and Callooh Callay – an
Venue says A Bloomsbury bar with a touch of timeless glamour - the perfect spot to escape the everyday.