A feast of culture: The best arts events over the Easter break

Fed up with egg hunts? Then put a bounce in your break with Pina Bausch on film, Ghost on stage, acrobatics on the South Bank and much more. Elizabeth Davis selects the holiday's cultural highlights
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The Independent Culture


Betty Blue Eyes

Novello Theatre, London

It is the 1940s, and in a small Yorkshire town people are preparing for a royal wedding. This parochial tale of austerity, adapted from Alan Bennett's 1984 film A Private Function, is the latest British musical to hit the West End. Reece Shearsmith plays a nervous chiropodist but the real star of the show is an animatronic blue-eyed pig.

To 22 October

The Price

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Two brothers meet for the first time in years to sell off the possessions of their deceased father. Arthur Miller's parable is powerfully staged by David Thacker, who knew and worked closely with the late playwright.

To 30 April

Ghost: The Musical

Opera House, Manchester

The classic 1990 film starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze gets the musical treatment in this highly anticipated production. The plot follows the film but manages to be more than an homage thanks to new songs by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. See it in Manchester before the West End critics have their say.

To 14 May

The Comedy of Errors

Tobacco Factory, Bristol

A small cast tackle one of Shakespeare's most silly and mind-boggling comedies. Andrew Hilton's minimalist production resists the temptation to descend entirely into farce and offers a more subtle, pared-down interpretation of one of the Bard's funniest plays.

To 30 April


Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

What's in a name? The authorship of this revenge play has been much disputed. The Shakespeare publisher Arden reignited debate last year when it included the play in its edition of the playwright's complete works, and now the RSC will be staging Cardenio in Stratford for the first time.

To 6 October

Clybourne Park

Wyndham's Theatre, London

Bruce Norris's scathing look at racism in America has been feted by critics and showered with awards. Sophie Thompson and Stephen Campbell Moore star in one of the funniest – and most incendiary – shows in town. Catch it before it closes next month.

To 7 May


Nadav Kander, Selected Portraits 1999-2011

The Lowry, Salford

The photographer Nadav Kander has said a portrait is "so much more than just a likeness". This exhibition showcases his work with celebrities from Ian McKellen to Cheryl Cole, Tinie Tempah to Barack Obama.

To 4 September

Jeff Koons

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Oversized kitsch and children's toys dominate this exhibition, in which Jeff Koons takes aim at American consumerism and popular culture, and turns his gaze on modern attitudes towards sexuality.

To 3 July

Sensational Butterflies

Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum has been taken over by butterflies. Swallowtails, blue morphos and magnificent moths are the main attractions in the museum's newly opened butterfly house, complete with five sensory zones to help budding David Attenboroughs learn about how these insects experience the world. A good one for children.

To 11 September

A Sense of Perspective

Tate Liverpool

Carl Andre and Olafur Eliasson are among the artists in this exhibition, which looks at youth as a state of "betweenness" – not a child nor yet an adult. Curated by members of Young Tate from across Europe, the show draws on the Tate's collection and includes two acquisitions never before seen in the UK.

To 5 June

Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens

Turner Contemporary, Margate

This new gallery sits on the site of a boarding house in which J M W Turner stayed, and in the seaside town where Tracey Emin grew up. Revealed, its first exhibition, contains Turner's The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains alongside work by six contemporary artists.

To 4 September

Easter Island, Myths, & Popular Culture

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, Middlesbrough

The Easter Island statues have inspired murder mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. This exhibition explores why the statues – or moai – have intrigued the West, drawing together cartoons, books, adverts, toys and board games inspired by the mysterious stone figures.

To 4 September


CBSO: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

Southbank Centre, London

Klaus Obermaier and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra bring their 21st-century Rite of Spring to the Royal Festival Hall. The dancer Julia Mach performs live and the audience is given 3D glasses for an unorthodox evening of Stravinsky and special effects.

23 April, 7pm & 9pm

Northern Sinfonia: St John Passion

The Sage, Gateshead

Matthew Hall conducts Bach's St John Passion, the darker of the two oratorios Bach wrote for Good Friday during his time as Cantor in Leipzig. Smaller scale than the St Matthew Passion, this oratorio will suit the compact Northern Sinfonia. There is a pre-concert talk from the dean of Durham.

23 April, 7pm

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

St George's, Bristol

The OAE specialise in authentic performance of early music. And witty titles. This concert of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert goes under the banner of May the Fours Be with You. Mozart's Symphony No 40 opens the concert before Artur Pizarro takes to the stage for Beethoven's piano concerto No 4. Schubert's fourth symphony completes the evening.

28 April, 7.30pm

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Handel's Messiah

Royal Albert Hall, London

The Royal Choral Society claims to have sung Handel's Messiah more than any other choir. This year is the society's 133rd annual Good Friday performance, with soloists including Julia Doyle and Louise Poole, under the baton of Richard Cooke.

Today, 2.30pm

Symphonic Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

St Andrew's, Edinburgh, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh & City Halls, Glasgow

The bright young mezzo Renata Pokupic performs well-loved arias from Mozart, Haydn and Rossini with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who also perform the overtures to The Barber of Seville and Così fan tutte. Rounding off the evening will be Haydn's entertaining "Bear" symphony, which possibly gained its nickname from the low drone in the final movement.

St Andrew's, 27 April; Queen's Hall, 28 April; City Halls, 29 April; all 7.30pm

BBC Concert Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus: Frank Martin's Golgotha

King's College, Cambridge

Frank Martin's Golgotha was written just after the Second World War, and bears the scars of the conflict. The impassioned oratorio was inspired by Rembrandt's print The Three Crosses but is now rarely performed. Stephen Cleobury conducts and soloists include Susan Bickley. The concert is also being broadcast live on BBC Radio3.

Tonight, 6.45pm


Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D

U, Werner Herzog, 90mins

The maverick director Werner Herzog gained exclusive access to the prehistoric cave paintings in Chauvet, Southern France for a 3D documentary exploring what drove the ancient people to decorate their caves in this way.

On general release

Capriccio Live from the Met

Andrew Davis

Renée Fleming stars in the Met's production of Strauss's Capriccio, which is being beamed to cinemas around the world for one night only. Expect opulent sets to go with Fleming's sparkling soprano. Conducted by Andrew Davis.

23 April at selected cinemas

Pina 3D

U, Wim Wenders, 103 mins

Shortly before the legendary choreographer Pina Bausch died in 2009, she had begun work on this documentary with the film director Wim Wenders, who believed two dimensions could not adequately capture Bausch's work.

On general release

Meek's Cutoff

PG, Kelly Reichardt, 102 mins

Michelle Williams stars in Kelly Reichardt's unrelenting tale of settlers on the Oregon Trail in 1845. Meek, their dusty guide, leads them across the plains of America as their water supplies begin to dwindle. What begins as a simple journey becomes a fight for survival.

On general release


U, Carlos Saldanha, 95 mins

Anther school holiday, another talking animal movie. This one, from the studio that created Ice Age, is about Blu the macaw, one half of the last remaining pair of his kind in the world. With roles voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, Rio is a fun family film to keep children entertained this Easter.

On general release


Easter Egg Hunt

Kew Gardens

For some traditional Easter Sunday fun, Kew Gardens is offering an Easter egg hunt from 9.30am to 1pm, or "until the eggs run out". Other activities over the Easter period include chocolate tasting, also on Easter Sunday, and chocolate workshops every day until 25 April, where you can learn which plants are used to flavour chocolate.

24 April

Shaun the Sheep's Championsheeps

Eden Project, Par

The Eden Project in Cornwall is renowned for its enormous biomes, which house plants from around the world. But this Easter, in conjunction with SGA productions and Aardman, the green-fingered centre has decided to do something different – fun sports days. The games include Shirley's pie-athlon, farmyard flings and "cabbage keepie-uppie".

To 2 May

Festival of Britain

Southbank Centre, London

Celebrating 50 years since the original festival of Britain, today sees the beginning of a festival of British culture and creativity on London's South Bank. Events over the opening weekend include a performance from a Moroccan acrobatic troupe, a screening of the oldest surviving feature-length animation (The Adventures of Prince Ahmed by Lotte Reiniger) with live music, and a concert from the National Youth Orchestra.

To 4 September

Easter Eggstravaganza

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and the stand-in for Pemberley in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth House is a wonderful setting for a weekend of Easter activities, including Easter egg hunts, bonnet-making classes and face painting. Throughout the school holiday the house, garden and farmyard are open, with plenty of family activities on offer.

To 2 May

Victorian Kitchen Handling

Buckland Abbey, Devon

Learn how a kitchen was run before dishwashers and food processors. Buckland Abbey's resident Victorian kitchen maid guides visitors through tasks that were once everyday, such as churning butter.

Today, 12noon to 4pm (and seven dates to 28 October)


Professor Richard Sennett: What Is Cooperation?

Wheatsheaf, Fitzrovia, London

The sociologist Richard Sennett, from New York University and the London School of Economics, will look at what cooperation means, and at whether it entails crushing individuality and creativity.

26 April, 8pm

Professor Rana Mitter: The Chinese Cultural Revolution

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, will discuss the C hinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, explore its origins, and assess the influence it has had on modern-day China.

27 April, 3pm

Hume's Birthday Party

George Square Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh

To mark the tercentenary of the birth of the Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume, the University of Edinburgh has organised a series of events celebrating his legacy, including this panel discussion. Speakers include the philosopher Dr Peter Millican and the professor of English Susan Manning.

26 April, 6pm

The Holy Thorn Reliquary of Jean, duc de Berry

Room 45, British Museum, London

Behind a small crystal window in the reliquary of Jean, duc de Berry, there is a thorn. An inscription in Latin declares, "This is a thorn from the crown of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Anne Howarth will be giving a 45-minute talk about this intriguing exhibit, which dates from before AD 1397.

23 April, 1.15pm

Creationism, Intelligent Design and Science Education in Britain

South Place Ethical Society, London

For an alternative Easter Sunday activity, try this talk by Roger Stanyard from the British Centre for Science Education at London's only remaining Ethical Society. Stanyard will argue that science education in the UK is under threat from US creationism.

24 April, 11am



Proud2, London

The 20-year-old north-London grime star, aka Jahmaal Noel Fyffe, has achieved plenty in his short career: a platinum-selling debut album, five Top 10 hits including "Oopsy Daisy" and "Champion", and two MOBO awards. Now, the rapper is taking his newly released album, Transition, on tour.

Tonight, 10pm; then touring to 29 May

Katie Melua

City Hall, Sheffield

This soulful songstress, best known for her hit single "The Closest Thing to Crazy", opens her UK tour with this date in Sheffield. Expect bluesy melodies, gravelly vocals and plenty of laid-back acoustic guitar.

Tonight, 7.30pm; then touring to 9 May


Music Hall, Aberdeen

Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, the second album by the Glasgow group Glasvegas, has just hit the shelves. But to appreciate the full force of the band's angst-filled lyrics and treacle-thick accents, get to one of their gigs this Easter.

23 April, 7.30pm; then touring to 11 May

Beady Eye

Newport Centre

When Noel Gallagher quit Oasis in 2009, the four remaining members didn't throw in the towel. Instead, they formed a new band, Beady Eye. With a debut album under their belts, and with Liam Gallagher in apparently rejuvenated form, the quartet are on tour.

23 April, 7pm; then touring to 27 April

London International Ska Festival

Clapham Grand Theatre, London

This festival organised by the reggae musician Sean Flowerdew features 22 bands and 10 DJs from around the world, not least Jamaica. Across the Easter weekend, there are exclusive UK shows from The Loafers, Hotknives and Bim Skala Bim.

To 24 April