From the Nutcracker to SZA: a complete guide to Christmas entertainment | Culture

Going Out - Saturday Mag illo
Illustration: Lalalimola/The Guardian

Workflow notes: Just art to come MH DOING PRINT FIRST Workflow status: Subs Last modified in Composer: 2022-12-06T17:26:01.708Z

Going out: Cinema

I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Out Boxing Day
Houston, we have a biopic. Starring Naomi Ackie as actor and chart-topping pop star Whitney Houston, and with Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) on directorial duties, this also features Ashton Sanders as husband Bobbi Brown and Stanley Tucci as A&R veteran Clive Davis.

Out Boxing Day
Vicky Krieps has been quietly establishing herself as one of the very best actors working today (see: Bergman Island, Phantom Thread), and with her lead role as sassy Austrian Empress Sissi in this beautiful yet unstuffy period drama, she cements that reputation.

The Queen of Spades
Out now
Restored from the original nitrate negative in 4K, Thorold Dickinson’s fantastical 1949 retelling of Andrew Pushkin’s short story sees a lowly captain of engineers (Anton Walbrook) watch as gamblers in 1806 St Petersburg win big and lose it all, inspiring him to attempt to discover the supernatural secret of winning at cards.

Out now
Suffering from PTSD in the wake of his service in Afghanistan, Harry Turner travels to the Amazon jungle in a state of deep depression. Unexpectedly, he finds solace in some unlikely companions: two orphaned ocelots and the scientist Samantha Zwicker, in this documentary from Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh. Catherine Bray

Going out: Gigs

Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Dance floor awaits … Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Photograph: Laura Lewis

Paul van Dyk
SWG3, Glasgow, Boxing Day
Dance music behemoth Cream comes to Glasgow for a Boxing Day blowout headlined by renowned German DJ, producer and musician Paul van Dyk. The top-tier supporting cast includes Chicago house pioneer Felix da Housecat and trance experimentalist Giuseppe Ottaviani. Prepare to sweat off any residual hangovers and mince pie excess. Michael Cragg

Piers Lane
Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday 28 December
Most classical venues go into hibernation between Christmas and New Year, but the Wigmore Hall makes a point of filling the gap. The pianist Piers Lane gives the first of its Christmas week concerts: a programme that features Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Liszt’s Christmas Tree Suite, together with sonatas by both composers. Andrew Clements

Liane Carroll’s Cold Turkey!
Ronnie Scott’s, London, Boxing Day (two shows) & Tuesday 27 December
Singer-keyboardist Liane Carroll is one of the UK’s most respected and affectionately regarded exponents of a repertoire embracing swing, blues, gospel and soul. These post-Christmas dates at Ronnie’s are a regular, and always rejuvenating, date in the jazz calendar. John Fordham

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Friday 30 December
Billed as being for “disco divas of all ages”, this pre-Hogmanay party, headlined by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her travelling, sequin-heavy disco party, is the perfect warmup for the next night’s New Year’s Eve bash (headlined by the Pet Shop Boys). Support comes from Clare Grogan’s Altered Images. MC

Going out: Art

JMW Turner’s Burial at Sea, 1842.
Imprints of the past … JMW Turner’s Burial at Sea, 1842. Photograph: Tate Photography/Tate

JMW Turner with Lamin Fofana
Tate Liverpool, to 4 June
Snow and ice abound in this powerful selection of some of Turner’s eeriest paintings . His Arctic whaling scenes take you to the North Pole – but there’s no sight of Santa or his elves. Instead whaling crews trapped in ice greet the pale sun through frozen mist, to Fofana’s soundtrack.

British Museum, London, to 19 February
Magic for the holidays from the ancient culture whose spells have haunted millennia. Ancient Egyptian writings were understood as magical even before they were deciphered: their decoding revealed the efficacious words of texts such as The Book of the Dead. This exhibition takes you on a journey from wonder to understanding.

The Living Collection
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, to 31 August
Celebrating its centenary in 2023, this south coast gallery starts proceedings with a survey of its collection. Plenty here to make you button your coat, from William Nicholson’s windswept farm lit by cold wintry sunlight to an Ivon Hitchens painting of the sky broken into grey and blue daubs over dappled earth.

Winslow Homer
National Gallery, London, to 8 January
Dark storms rage in this exhibition of one of the US’s defining artists. Homer painted the sea as a savage inhuman maelstrom full of monsters. His depictions of sharks are frightening, but just as doom laden are his scenes of rescue and disaster in the raging, ice-cold Atlantic – they come from winter’s heart. Jonathan Jones

Going out: Stage

Let’s All Dance the Nutcracker at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells.
Up, up and twirl … Let’s All Dance the Nutcracker at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells. Photograph: Katie Hutchings/Bend and Snap.

Let’s All Dance the Nutcracker
Sadler’s Wells: Lilian Baylis Studio, London, Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve
Ballet for the youngest of audiences (babies and upwards) that prides itself on clear storytelling. This is an edited down version of the perennial Christmas ballet with Tchaikovsky’s much-loved music that fits Clara, the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy into a 50-minute, “kid-sized” package. Lyndsey Winship

Carl Donnelly
Up the Creek, London, Friday
South London institution Up the Creek is known for hosting a brutally quickfire open-mic night – as well as the odd superstar keen to test new material. But it also caters for those who prefer a safe pair of hands, such as the comedian Donnelly – one of the most seasoned acts on the circuit – is very much in the first category. Join him this twixmas for some deceptively easy-going observational fare. Rachel Aroesti

Garrick theatre, London, to 25 February
Neil Bartlett adapts Virginia Woolf’s beautifully slippery novel about a young nobleman who catapults through four centuries of history, and switches gender along the way. With a star-making turn from Emma Corrin . Miriam Gillinson

Claus: The Musical
The Lowry, Salford, to 8 January
Based on The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, written by L Frank Baum (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). Quirky tale about a young Santa, abandoned as a baby and adopted by a wood nymph. With music from Andy Collyer. MG

Staying In - Saturday Mag illo
Illustration: Lalalimola/The Guardian

Staying in: Streaming

Emilia Schule and Louis Cunningham in Marie Antoinette.
There will be cake … Emilia Schule and Louis Cunningham in Marie Antoinette. Photograph: Caroline Dubois/BBC/Capa Drama/Banijay Studios France/Les Gens/Canal+

Marie Antoinette
Thursday, 9pm, BBC Two & iPlayer
Another leftfield – if rather less outrageous – take on royalty comes courtesy of Deborah Davis, AKA the multi-award-winning screenwriter of The Favourite. There has been no shortage of fictional portrayals of the last queen of France, but if Davis’s previous work is anything to go by, this drama could be the sparkiest, cleverest and most interesting yet.

Prince Andrew: The Musical
Wednesday, 9pm, Channel 4 & All 4
Following the weird sycophancy of The Crown’s latest season, this wildly irreverent Comic Strip-esque biopic feels like a welcome corrective. Comedian Kieran Hodgson writes and stars as the not-so-grand Duke of York alongside Munya Chawawa as Prince Charles, Harry Enfield as Blair and drag queen Baga Chipz as Thatcher.

Without Sin
Wednesday, ITVX
Vicky McClure ditches the action-woman schtick to play a mother who confronts the man apparently responsible for the brutal killing of her teenage daughter in this new drama. Both a nail-biting murder mystery and a sensitive study of grief, it reunites McClure with Johhny Harris, who was utterly chilling as her abusive father in This Is England ’86.

Tuesday, 9pm, BBC One & iPlayer
Also sloughing off the police work for more emotional fare is McClure’s Line of Duty compadre Martin Compston, who leads this adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s 2020 novel – a tender tale of male friendship set between the 1980s and the present day – alongside Tony Curran and Ashley Jensen. RA

Staying in: Games

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, computer game.
Going strong … Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Photograph: Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Out now, Nintendo Switch
The perennial Nintendo Christmas family favourite has just been updated with brand new courses. Get ’em downloaded in time to save yourself from Charades.

Sports Story
Out now, Nintendo Switch
A kind of cross between sports game and 90s pixel-art role playing game, this indie effort has you attending the Hogwarts of sports. Keza MacDonald

Staying In: Albums

SZA, musician.
Back with a bang … SZA. Photograph: RCA Records

Out now
Five long years after her critically adored debut, Ctrl, and with just a smattering of singles in the interim, honey-voiced R&B superstar Solána Rowe finally releases its follow-up. The perfect soundtrack to the emotional winter wallow, lead single Shirt is a complex paean to self-preservation.

Little Simz – No Thank You
Out now
It has been a spectacular 12 months for rapper Simbiatu Ajikawo, AKA Little Simz. Her fourth album, 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert crashed into the UK Top 5, earning her a tardy Brit for best new artist, as well as the Mercury prize. She cements that mainstream success with this typically multilayered fifth album.

Ab-Soul – Herbert
Out now
Taking a similarly laid-back approach to music-making as labelmate and former collaborator SZA, this album from rapper Ab-Soul arrives six years after his last, Do What Thou Wilt. Production comes from DJ Dahi (Drake, Vampire Weekend) and Sounwave (Kendrick Lamar, FKA twigs), who conjures up recent single Gang’Nem’s swirling atmospherics.

Alicia Keys – Santa Baby
Out now
The 15-time Grammy winner (below) joins the increasingly busy Christmas albums market with this 11-track collection of old classics (Schubert’s Ave Maria) and relatively new (Happy Xmas (War Is Over) yuletide hits. As an extra gift, there is also a handful of originals, including the recent single December Back 2 June. MC

Staying in: Brain food

Richard Branson, businessman.
Going the space race … Richard Branson. Photograph: HBO

Sunday, Sky Documentaries
This four-part series on the life and career of Richard Branson has proven a valuable insight not only into the entrepreneur but into our fascination with billionaires and their egos. This week’s final episode charts Branson’s space race.

Add to Cart
With January sales around the corner, this energetic podcast from comic Kulap Vilaysack and journalist SuChin Pak analyses the wider societal forces driving our shopping habits, from makeup products to the power of representation.

Literature Clock
A literary counterpart to the artist Christian Marclay’s video work The Clock, this ingenious site from Johannes Enevoldsen compiles passages from books that reference the exact time you are reading them. Meander from Dave Eggers scenes to Jules Verne. Ammar Kalia

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