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Your winter / spring 2022 local culture guide

New year, new exciting things to do! There's a jam-packed schedule of cool cultural happenings coming to Essex this year, and we know all about 'em. Diaries at the ready, let's go!

THE STAGE

Point shoes on, folks: the Russian State Ballet is coming to the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea on 6 Feb, with a performance of The Nutcracker. We’re talking passion, whimsy, enchantment…and astonishing calf muscles. Can’t wait — and they’re back on 13 March with Swan Lake.

You also don’t want to miss the official tour of RuPaul’s Drag Race, coming 11 Feb and then again on 12 April, with more sashaying and slaying than you can shake a stick at from all the tremendously-named favourites (lookin’ at you Bimini Bon Boulash).

There’s plenty of family fun happening at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester thanks to a swashbuckling comedy production of Treasure Island on 15-17 Feb, followed by the Olivier-nominated The Tiger Who Came To Tea, direct from the West End, on 18-20 Feb.

Back at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea, expect sweeping Puccini arias with Madama Butterfly on 18 Feb, followed by plenty of tangos in cell blocks with Chicago (above) from 21-26 Feb (dubbed ‘the sexiest musical ever’, if you need to sell it to a spouse) .

There’s also a production of Dracula on at the Palace Theatre, Southend-on-Sea on 10 March, and a showing of West-End-favourite Singin’ In The Rain from 5-9 April.

COMEDY

The Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea welcomes Katherine Ryan, creator and star of Netflix smash-hit The Duchess (and presenter of BBC2’s All That Glitters — anyone else’s comfort watch?) on 3 Feb. The iconic Jimmy Carr then sweeps in on 10 Feb, baffling hiccup-laugh and all, and wry Scouser John Bishop (weird celebrity crush, anyone?) will be performing on 14 Feb. Ross Noble takes the stage 19 Feb.

Settle in for a laugh at Chelmsford’s Civic Theatre, starting with panel show favourite Andy Parsons on 10 Feb, who first named his tour ‘Healing the Nation’ back in 2019, with no idea of how apt it would become (though not as apt as we would have liked). Next up is Omid Djalili on 18 Feb, also a star of basically every beloved British panel show as well as absolutely stealing the show in the second Mamma Mia! film (right?!).

Then, on 4 March 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. Also on at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford, it’s had great write-ups.

Also on 4 March is Ed Gamble, panel show fave and co-host of the megahit Off Menu podcast, at the Palace Theatre, Southend-on-Sea.

ART & EXHIBITIONS

FirstSite in Colchester have a great exhibition honouring Cedric Morris and the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, which became an influential cultural centre in the 40s and 50s, running until 18 April. There are over 100 significant artworks to look through, as well as opportunities to create your own works in the exhibition.

Also on until 18 April at FirstSite in Colchester is an exhibition celebrating the Essex and Suffolk coastline through charcoal: Shore Lines.

Meanwhile, at Beecroft Art Gallery in Southend-on-Sea there’s an exhibition on the influential 20th century East End artists Walter and Harold Steggles, on until 3 April. This offers a really fascinating story: what started with evening classes for untrained working men in the 1920s amounted to glossy exhibitions in the West End.

Want more ideas for what to do? Check these 15 things to do locally in January 2022.

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