Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Something for every taste...

What to do on dark, cold February nights? Well, I suppose you could always go to the pub, or a cosy restaurant, or just stay in and curl up on the sofa in front of the telly. But it's easy to forget the array of culture on your doorstep in this part of London.

High on the list has to be the Royal Albert Hall. This South Kensington landmark isn't to everyone's taste - the biscuit-tin shape and high Victorian decoration is pretty uncompromising - but there's no denying just what a fantastic venue it is for all sorts of events, from the Proms to boxing. And February's line-up is extraordinarily varied, offering something for virtually every musical taste.

It kicks off with the Cirque du Soleil production of Varekai - 'an explosive fusion of drama and acrobatics'. If you haven't seen this spectacular troupe before, then I would strongly recommend it. This is not just acrobatics (gravity-defying though these are), it's about theatre in the true sense of the word, with stunning, vividly-coloured costumes and visual effects. The programme runs until 17 February.

Striking a very different note - literally - is the Hush performance on 12 February in the intimate Elgar Room. This is part of the venue's efforts to promote new talent, and will feature Liverpool indie-popsters Hot Club de Paris and, hailing from Sheffield, the boy/girl 'anti-folk' duo Slow Club.

For those wanting to sit back and bask in something completely traditional, (and safe enough to take my Dad to) there's the Mountbatten Festival of Music, beginning on 21 February for three days. Expect military overtures, marches and fanfares, as well as popular favourites from films, shows and the odd classical favourite. All these are played by the Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines.

For those who like their entertainment for free, the Friday lunchtime ignite programme in the Cafe Consort allows you enjoy a wide variety of musical styles. On 29 February it features the Buenos Aires duo of Ianina Pietrantonio (flute) and Cecilia Zabala (guitar), otherwise known as Las Morochas perform in a unique style drawing on tango, jazz and modern classical influences.

Finally, the month finishes with a classical flourish, with Tosca. This is the acclaimed 1999 production, sung in English, directed by David Freeman, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Robinson. With prices from £21 to £58, this is affordable, accessible opera and has proved extremely popular in previous years.

With all that choice, there's no excuse for staying on the sofa...

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