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It’s April! So what’s on in Essex this month?

The social calendar's full and celebrating spring! From immersive theatre and fascinating exhibitions to fiery circus displays and the Maldon Mud Race (stilettos not recommended!), here's what's on.

FOOD & DRINK: Easter Afternoon Tea, Down Hall, near Bishop’s Stortford, 1-18 April

Feel a bit guilty scoffing your weight in chocolate as a grown-up? Try a more refined Easter indulgence with this oh-so-elegant, seasonally-themed afternoon tea at Down Hall hotel. You can enjoy a special menu of spring cakes, dainty sandwiches, warm scones, and a glass of Champagne for £40 pp / £20 per child.

EXHIBITION: The Princely Burial, Central Museum, Southend-on-Sea, ongoing

Did you know that in 2003, the earliest dated Anglo-Saxon princely burial in England was discovered in Southend? No? Well, you can find out all about it at this really interesting exhibition. The display shows off a selection of some of the staggeringly historic items that were pulled out of the ground: we’re talking coins, drinking horns, bits of jewellery… all the good stuff.

EASTER: Giant Easter Egg Hunt, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, 2-18 April

Everyone knows that when it comes to edible things and seasonal decor, bigger means better — even more so when it’s both at the same time! Enter Hyde Hall’s super-sized egg hunt around its stunning grounds, an absolute homerun of a day-out. You can also enjoy family-friendly crafts, storytelling, and Easter characters. See our full round-up of what’s on for kids this Easter here.

EXHIBITION: Wunderkammer, Central Museum, Southend-on-Sea, ongoing

Have you had a gander through this lovely local display yet? A veritable treasure trove of trinkets — Ariel, eat your heart out — this ‘cabinet of curiosities’ exhibition explores the history of collecting. Whilst assessing the uncomfortable, inherent elements of colonialism and exoticism, it displays a fascinating clutch of historic objects, from the glitzy to the downright strange, and questions the enduring appeal of museums today.

STAYCATION: Easter Countryside Escape, Down Hall, near Bishop’s Stortford, until 18 April

Can there be any better indulgence than booking yourself into a luxury hotel that’s only a stone’s throw from home? Honey, it’s time to live that dream! As a special Easter offer, Down Hall (the picturesque home of Bake Off, don’tcha know) is doing a two-night stay with bed, breakfast, dinner, AND afternoon tea included for £640. Go, go, go!

KIDS: Harwich Holiday Fun, Firstsite, Colchester, 4-5 April

You know Firstsite’s got your back when it comes to entertaining the kids during the holidays. At the beginning of this month, you can drop in for free Spring Crafts, Multisports, and Street Dance at the centre.

THEATRE: Singin’ In The Rain, The Palace Theatre, Southend-on-Sea, 5-9 April

Buckle in for a rip-roaringly fun evening of high energy choreography with the West-End-favourite Singin’ In The Rain. An all-singing, all-dancing celebration of 20s Hollywood glamour, the show gets through over 14,000 litres of water on stage every night. That’s mad!

CINEMA: Various titles, Firstsite, Colchester, throughout the month

Support a local venue and enjoy some indie cinema. There’s always a packed schedule at Firstsite, but highlights on this month include acclaimed Norwegian black romantic comedy The Worst Person In The World (pictured, 1 April); new animated comedy The Bad Guys (8 April); a mesmerising look at post-war Germany called Great Freedom (10 April); a live stream of The Royal Opera House’s La Traviata (13 April); the gratuitously fun new slasher X (22 April); and the enchanting combo of animation and live dance Coppelia (23 April).

KIDS: The Hug, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, 7-8 April

Based on the illustrated book The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar, this is an unbelievably cute puppet show about a tortoise and a hedgehog both on the hunt for a cuddle. Aimed at children aged 2-7, the kids will eat it up and, honestly, the puppets are charming enough to woo parents too.

THEATRE: Spontaneous Potter, Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 8 April

There’s nothing like the slightly stressful thrill of watching a group of actors successfully (and hilariously) improvise on stage. This entirely improvised Harry Potter comedy play is an Edinburgh Fringe alumni that packs a punch.

DAY OUT: House Tour and Farmer’s Market, Hylands Estate, 10 April

Hylands House offers its monthly opening (for free — music to my ears!) on 10 April, with a guided tour of the house at 10.30am and carriage tours throughout the day. There will also be a Farmers & Craft Market out the front of the house, selling delicious artisan food as well as oodles of crafts, art, and gifts to peruse. The exhibition this month explores 20 years at Hylands, from 1966 to 1986. Sounds pleasingly retro.

DRAG: RuPaul’s Drag Race, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea, 12 April

Anyone even remotely interested in drag won’t want to miss the official tour of RuPaul’s Drag Race, from which you can expect more sashaying and slaying than you can shake a stick at. It’s set to be a wild night full of all your tremendously-named favourites (lookin’ at you Bimini Bon Boulash).

PERFORMANCE: Dinosaur World Live, Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 15-17 April

Want to be thrillingly aware of your own puny size? Watch these staggeringly large animatronic puppets stalk around roaring at things, and learn a lot about the Jurassic period while you do. It’s like War Horse, but prehistoric (which, according to many a small child, instantly means much cooler).

DANCE: The Dreamboys, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea, 15 April

Hey, some people are into soaring arias and some are into flocks of hulking, shirtless, gyrating men. Each to their own! Their tagline is ‘Too Hard to Resist’, which just got a genuine huff of laughter (through the nose, you know the type) from me.

KIDS: Mercury Young Company, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, from 19 April

Now’s the time to sign your children up for drama club at the Mercury Theatre, as the Spring Term starts 19 April. Weekly hour-long sessions on a Tuesday after school, the club teaches kids improvisation, character work, acting techniques, and much more. Plus, it keeps ’em busy! There are slots for 5-8 year olds, 8-11 year olds, and 11-13 year olds.

EXHIBITION: Rounded Perspectives, Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, from 22 April

Self portrait by Tim Severwright

We love the concept of this exhibition, which compares the work of two contemporary Southend-based artists, Stephen Jordan and Tim Severwright, who came across each other on Instagram and were struck by the similarities and complimentary differences of their work. In different styles and different mediums, both artists try to fit multiple perspectives into a single image.

RACE: Maldon Mud Race, Promenade Park, Maldon, 24 April

Encouraging our readers to go forth and get muddy feels like a delicious moment of brand identity. A squelching, oozing, hilarious day out, this charity race is world-famous, partly because it’s so funny to watch. Brightly-dressed do-gooders flail and flounder through unfathomably thick mud, all in the name of charity. Go on, sign yourself up.

PERFORMANCE: Circus Extreme, Lakeside Shopping Centre, Grays, 5-24 April

Roll up, roll up, it’s time for some thrillingly dramatic circus acts! And check out these creds: the Ayala Troupe from South America is performing a High Wire Act that’s never been seen before in the UK. Not only that, but acrobat Laura Miller will be showcasing her internationally-renowned aquatic aerial hoop. Aquatic AND aerial? Now this I gotta see.

COMEDY: Eric & Ern, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, 26 April

We’re intrigued by the sound of Eric & Ern, a comedy show by Olivier Award nominated duo Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens, which plays tribute to Morecambe and Wise. It’s had great write-ups and is sure to (sorry, can’t resist) bring lots of sunshine.

PERFORMANCE: John Barrowman, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea, 30 April

Sign yourself up for a joyous evening of good, camp, musical fun with West End / Broadway legend (and Torchwood and Doctor Who fan favourite) John Barrowman. I Am What I Am rattles through a high-punching set list of huge musical numbers, with plenty of pizzazz and surprises sprinkled throughout.

COMEDY: Various comedians, Southend’s Palace Theatre / Cliffs Pavilion, throughout the month

Fancy a laugh? Settle in, you’re among friends. The Palace Theatre in Southend-on-Sea welcomes panel-show staple Dylan Moran on 9 April; whilst on 21 April, the Cliffs Pavilion is featuring comedy legend Jimmy Carr. This is followed by previous Bake Off host and all-round national treasure Sandi Toksvig exploring reasons to be cheerful on 25 April.

KIDS: Magic of Mirabel, Marsh Farm, Chelmsford, 30 April – 2 May

If you’re a parent you almost definitely know the Encanto soundtrack like the back of your hand. Depending on how you feel about the unfailing catchy-ness of We Don’t Talk About Bruno, you’ll either love or hate this family sing-a-long event. Your kids’ll certainly love it, though! Featuring costumes, barnyard animals, and plenty of play, it’s a full three day extravaganza.

But wait! That’s not all! See our round-up of what’s on for kids this Easter here.

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