Christmas in London: What to Do, Where to Goby
Here's how some of us are planning to spend the weekend in London. Think carols by candlelight, the Tate's shocking Christmas tree, a raucous reunion with the band Madness and the story of a beloved steed that goes to war.
A traditional holiday "knees-up" is on offer when the reunited Madness plays in its home city on Dec. 18. The ska music hasn't changed much since the group formed in the Camden Town area of London in 1976, and the jokes still raise a smile.
The group will be running through the Top 10 hits that made it an institution in the U.K.: "House of Fun," "Baggy Trousers" and "Driving in My Car." A mass singalong by 20,000 people at the O2 is likely when front man Suggs bellows out "It Must Be Love."
Expect a few songs from this year's "The Liberty of Norton Folgate," the first album in a decade from the self- described "nutty boys." (Also recommended at the O2: U.S. star Miley Cyrus on Dec. 19 and 20; the Pet Shop Boys on Dec. 21 and Paul McCartney on Dec. 22. The Pogues bring their traditional "Fairytale of New York" festivities to O2 Academy Brixton on Dec. 18 and 19.)
"Warhorse" at the New London Theatre has had its run extended through October 2010. It's worth seeing why.
One million British horses were sent to the World War I battlefields. Only 62,000 returned, and the play tells the story of one. It opens on a farm, where young Albert Narracott is given a half-thoroughbred called Joey. Albert is so distraught when his pet is commandeered for war that he joins the army.
The production contains a directorial masterstroke: Joey is a realistic life-size puppet.
(Other theater recommendations: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Novello; "Sister Act" at the Palladium; "La Cage aux Folles," through Jan. 2, 2010, at the Playhouse.)
If there's just one show to see among London exhibitions, it's "Turner and the Masters," which runs through Jan. 31, 2010, at Tate Britain. Painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) took on everybody — old masters and contemporaries, artists who tackled territory similar to his, and others with whom you might have thought he had nothing in common.
While you are at the Tate, take time to admire the museum's Christmas tree. "Weihnachtsbaum" by Tacita Dean (until Dec. 23) is a shocking departure for the gallery: it's traditional. The living Nordman fir is embellished with yellow candles.
(Also recommended: "The Sacred Made Real" at the National Gallery.) Information: http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/.
'Tis the season when even the most vocally challenged of us can bellow out familiar tunes to our heart's content. There are plenty of opportunities in London to join in caroling this weekend. St. Paul's Cathedral, Temple Church and Southwark Cathedral hold concerts. There are free sing-along carols from 5 p.m. every day in Trafalgar Square, and Christmas galas at the Barbican and St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
Lobster at Hix
Hix, the new restaurant run by chef Mark Hix in Brewer Street, continues to attract celebrities, cool diners and star- spotters. The only difficult bit is getting a table.
If you do, you might see the likes of artist Tracey Emin, model Kate Moss or rock musician Nick Cave. The mobile above the bar, of dead fish in Perspex coffins, is by Hix's friend Damien Hirst. The menu changes twice a day. Options may include curry of monkfish cheek with lobster, or wild duck on toast with salsify and elderberries. Information: http://www.restaurantsetcltd.co.uk/markhix.
Skates and Jewels
The open-air ice rink in the courtyard at Somerset House off the Strand celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. There's a Skate Cafe and Bar as well as a Tiffany Tuck Shop — the rink is sponsored by Tiffany & Co. — that sells cupcakes and, naturally, jewelry. Information: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/ice_rink/default.asp.