Everything SL’s Managing Lifestyle Editor Is Booking This Year

The beginning of the year is always a good time to fill your diary with exciting events. In case you’re in need of a couple of ideas, we asked Heather to share the festivals, exhibitions, plays and immersive events she’s looking forward to in 2023.
By Heather Steele

Barbara Hepworth Life & Art

Towner Gallery, Eastbourne

I love Barbara Hepworth’s work but have never quite managed to make it to one of her dedicated galleries at the Hepworth Wakefield or Tate St Ives. Thankfully, this critically acclaimed exhibition dedicated to her life’s work is set to stop at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, displaying some of the late sculptor’s most celebrated pieces, including the modern abstract carving that launched her career in the 1920s and 30s, her iconic strung sculptures of the 40s and 50s, and large-scale bronze and carved sculptures from her later life. Key loans from national public collections will be shown alongside works from private collections that have not been on public display since the 70s, as well as rarely seen drawings, paintings and fabric designs. I can’t wait – and am using the exhibition as a great excuse to stay at the lovely Port Hotel.

27th May-3rd September

Visit TownerEastbourne.org.uk


Playhouse Theatre

The Playhouse Theatre has been home to an intimate and electrifying production of Cabaret since 2021. Updating one of the most successful musicals of all time, this West End production features the songs Wilkommen, Don’t Tell Mama, Mein Herr, Maybe This Time, Money and the title number Cabaret – with Kit Kat Club brought to life through the transformation of the Playhouse Theatre into a Berlin nightclub. While A-listers Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley played the leads when the show opened, I’m booking tickets now as I’m excited to see Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood and John McCrae (who I absolutely loved in the original West End cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) take on the roles of Sally Bowles and Emcee from 13th February.

Visit KitKat.Club

A Little Life

Harold Pinter Theatre

When I first started reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, SL editor Charlotte told me: “It’s the best book I’ve ever read, and I never want to read it again.” Closing the book at the end, I could see her point. A devastating read, the million-copy bestseller had me crying for three weekends straight, but is hands-down one of the most life-changing reading experiences I’ve had – so I had to book tickets when it was announced that famed stage director Ivo van Hove had created a show for the West End. Van Hove will direct James Norton (Jude), Luke Thompson (Willem), Omari Douglas (JB) and Zach Wyatt (Malcolm), the novel’s unforgettable central unit. As ambition, addiction and pride threaten to pull the group apart, they find themselves bound by their love for Jude and the mysteries of his past. But when those secrets come to light, they finally learn that to know Jude is to understand the limitless potential of love. I’m gearing myself up to relive the intense sense of loss all over again.

25th March-18th June

Visit ALittleLifePlay.com

Gardner Conducts Rachmaninov

Southbank Centre

I grew up listening to and performing classical music, but it’s something that’s faded into the background as I’ve got older. At the start of the year, I decided to make an effort to see more classical concerts. First on my list is Edward Gardner’s night at the atmospheric Southbank Centre on 4th March. The conductor will lead the London Philharmonic Orchestra through Sergey Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, alongside Grieg’s Piano Concerto, performed by Leif Ove Andsnes, and George Benjamin’s Sudden Time.

4th March

Visit SouthbankCentre.co.uk

Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian

Tate Modern

Like the acclaimed Swedish interior designer Beata Heuman (who’s used the painter’s work in many of her clients’ homes) I’m a big fan of Hilma Af Klint – and have a print of one of her paintings in my own home. This forthcoming exhibition at the Tate Modern, which also focuses on Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, is one I’m delighted to have in the calendar for this year. Although they never met, Af Klint and Mondrian invented their own languages of abstract art rooted in nature. Best known for his abstract work, Mondrian began his career – like Af Klint – as a landscape painter. Alongside Mondrian’s iconic grids, the exhibition will show the rarely exhibited paintings of flowers he continued to create throughout his life. Intriguingly, Af Klint was also a medium, and this exhibition showcases the large-scale, otherworldly masterpieces she believed were commissioned by higher powers.

20th April-3rd September

Visit Tate.org.uk

Grayson Perry

National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

This summer sees newly knighted Sir Grayson Perry’s biggest ever exhibition arrive in Edinburgh. Perry has gone from taking pottery evening classes to winning the Turner Prize, presenting TV shows and writing acclaimed books. Today he is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists and cultural figures. Popular and provocative, Perry makes art that deals with difficult and complex ideas in an accessible and often funny way, and he loves taking on big issues that are universally human: masculinity, sexuality, class, religion, politics and more. Covering his 40-year career, this exhibition will show subversive pots, brilliantly intricate prints, elaborate sculptures and huge, captivating tapestries – all imbued with Perry’s sharp wit and social commentary.

22nd July-12th November

Visit NationalGalleries.org

My Son’s A Queer (But What Can You Do?)

Ambassadors Theatre

I was first alerted to comedian and performer Rob Madge when they posted a (now viral) home video of a panto they performed in their living room back in the 90s. After sold-out runs at the Turbine Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe and the Garrick Theatre (and following a break while Rob played a cow at this Christmas’s Palladium Jack & The Beanstalk panto alongside Dawn French and Julian Clary), Rob has landed at the Ambassadors Theatre for a triumphant celebration of the ups and downs of raising a queer child. When Rob was 12, they attempted a full-blown Disney parade in their house for their grandma. As Rob donned wigs and played Mary Poppins, Ariel, Mickey Mouse and Belle, their dad doubled as stage manager, sound technician and Goofy. Unfortunately, Dad missed all his cues and pushed all the floats in the wrong direction, Mum mistook Aladdin for Ursula, and the costumes went awry. My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) is a joyous autobiographical show that sets out to recreate that infamous parade. I’m excited.

Until 18th March

Visit TheAmbassadorsTheatre.co.uk

The Unfriend

Criterion Theatre

Following a sold-out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, The Unfriend has arrived in the West End for a run at the Criterion. This is a dark comedy from writer Steven Moffat and director Mark Gatiss, the award-winning team behind BBC’s Sherlock, and stars an uproarious cast including one of my favourite actors Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9), Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) and Frances Barber (Silk). While on holiday, Peter and Debbie befriend Elsa, a lusty, Trump-loving widow from Denver. She’s less than woke but kind of wonderful. They agree to stay in touch – because no one ever really does, do they? When Elsa invites herself to stay a few months later, they decide to look her up online. Too late, they learn the truth about Elsa Jean Krakowski. What began as a casual holiday friendship is now a threat to the lives of their children, and Peter and Debbie must face the ultimate challenge in the modern world – how do you protect all that you love without seeming a bit impolite?

Until 16th April

Visit TheUnfriend.com


Wide Awake Festival

Brockwell Park

This fresh festival arrived in London in 2021 following its cancelled 2020 debut. I’ve been to both festivals since its launch and think it’s one of the best in the capital, so was pleased to see it plans to return to Brockwell Park for round three. The line-up dives deep into the underground scene to create a festival that’s all about music fans. Artists span a host of sub-cultures across left-field indie, post punk, electronica, techno and jazz, and this year’s highlights include awesome American singer Caroline Polachek plus Alex G, Warmduscher, Los Bitchos and Osees.

27th May

Visit WideAwakeLondon.co.uk

The Lehman Trilogy

National Theatre

I didn’t see this the first time around, so have booked tickets to this Tony award-winning play as it makes a return to London, following acclaimed seasons in LA and Broadway. Michael Balogun (Death of England, Delroy, Macbeth), Hadley Fraser (The Antipodes, Coriolanus) and Nigel Lindsay (The Pillowman, A Small Family Business) play the Lehman brothers, their sons and grandsons in an extraordinary feat of storytelling told in three parts on a single evening. Written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power and directed by Oscar, Tony and Golden Globe winner Sam Mendes, the three-and-a-half-hour epic begins on a cold September morning in 1844, as a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside dreaming of a new life in the New World. He is joined by his two brothers and an American epic begins. Over 160 years later, the firm they establish – Lehman Brothers – spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, triggering the largest financial crisis in history.

Until 20th May

Visit NationalTheatre.org.uk

Yayoi Kusama: You, Me & The Balloons

Factory International, Manchester

I’m a huge fan of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, so am planning a trip to Manchester’s Factory International’s opening programme, where Kusama is bringing her largest-ever immersive environment this summer. Conceived especially for the soaring spaces of Factory International, Yayoi Kusama: You, Me & The Balloons celebrates three decades of the pioneering artist's inflatable artworks, which are brought together for the first time in this major exhibition. Visitors will journey through Kusama's psychedelic creations – many over 10m tall – including giant dolls, spectacular tendrilled landscapes and a vast constellation of polka-dot spheres. Kusama’s hallucinatory paintings, sculptures, and immersive environments, such as her Infinity Mirror Rooms at Tate Modern, take viewers beyond themselves and make us feel part of something greater – there’s a reason millions of people have queued for hours to spend just a minute in Kusama’s cosmos. I imagine this huge installation will be no less wonderful.

30th June-28th August

Visit FactoryInternational.org

For more cultural ideas, follow Heather at @SteeleHeatherrr.

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