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What’s On in Sussex this May

The stage is set. There are actual, real-life, in-person things to do in Sussex this month and we've got the lowdown on the best of them.

Brighton Festival, various locations, Sat 1 – Sun 23 May

It’s back! Brighton Festival has become known for its ability to adapt and 2021 is putting all of that ability to the test. Guest director Lemn Sissay and the team have put together a programme of theatre, music, outdoor events, visual art and theme, spanning venues across the South Coast. Highlights include Point of Departure, an installation by Ray Lee in the atmospheric industrial landscape of Shoreham Port (1-23 May), a performance by the Strings of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Brighton Dome Concert Hall (27 May), an online event with beloved children’s author Jacqueline Wilson (15 May) and Blast Theory, a guided bike ride with the voices of strangers drawing you to new and unknown places (1-23 May) and much more besides.

May Day at Weald & Downland Museum, Singleton, Sat 1 – Sun 2 May

Learn about the customs, plantlore and superstitions of May Day at this charming living museum near Chichester. Activities include garland gathering from the historic gardens, herbal folklore and traditions and children will be given an activity pack. Takeway food and drink available onsite.

Drive-in cinema, Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill, May dates

Last year was the year of drive-in, and it’s back for 2021. Catch heaps of classic and modern flicks at Tulleys over weekends in May. Featuring state of the art sound, posh toilets, and food and drink delivered to your car.

Back from the Blue with Morcheeba, The Old Market, Hove, Fri 7 May

Part of The Old Market’s Reigning Women Series, this one-off livestream event will be headlined by the inimitable purveyors of chilled-out electro Morcheeba, who took the same venue by storm in 2019. They’ll be performing four tracks including from their latest album Blackest Blue. Also featuring will be soul singer Kymara, rapper Bobbie Johnson and the cast of the hit show STOMP. The closest the South Coast has had to a genuine gig in quite some time.

Victorious, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Tue 18 May

Award-winning, Brighton-based musical comedy performer Hannah Brackenbury stars in this joyful and poignant tribute to the late, great Victoria Wood. A must for all fans.

Daliso Chaponda, Apocalypse Not Now, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Wed 19 May

It’s fair to say that 2020 didn’t go to plan for Daliso. We know how he feels tbh. However, the star of Britain’s Got Talent and and Radio 4’s Citizen of Nowhere has been online performing daily to millions of viewers, and now’s your chance to see what this master of satire has been cooking up. Expect sharp, intelligent one-liners.

Glyndebourne Summer Festival, from 20 May, near Lewes

The flagship summer event returns to Glyndebourne with a series of world-class performances. During May there will be performances of Kata Kabanova by Leos Janacek and Il turco in Italia by Rossini alongside performances from resident Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Tickets are selling fast for all festival dates so book up quick!

Bluebell Railway, from Thurs 20 May, Sheffield Park

This charming steam railway is set to reopen on May 20, just in time to catch carpets of its namesake, bluebells, in the gorgeous countryside between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead.

The War of the Worlds, Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Thurs 20 – Sat 22 May

A playfully reimagined version of HG Wells’ novel and Orson Welles’ legendary sci-fi thriller, in partnership with Brighton Festival. This contemporary version is set in our era of Fake News and ‘alternative facts’ and the internet has replaced Welles’ radio as the medium through which we make sense of the world. What hasn’t changed, however, is how susceptible we remain. This promises to be ingenious, smart and remarkable.

Stand Up Under The Stars, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Fri 21 May

Stand Up Under The Stars was one of the (few) cultural highlights of 2020 and it’s back for another season! This time, catch an all-star lineup of Edinburgh winner Tim Key, Live at the Apollo’s Phil Wang and Mock The Week’s Maisie Adam. Runs for 60 minutes with no interval.

Spring Industrial Trains, Amberley Museum, Sun 23 May

Step back in time and explore the South’s working past in this 36-acre former quarry and limeworks. The focus of this day is the narrow-gauge railway and historic trains, bound to be popular with any Thomas the Tank Engine fans – young or old! Big, spacious outdoor site.

Ivo Graham, The Game of Life, The Hawth, Crawley, Wed 26 May

Socially distanced ‘hilariously anxious blather’ from up-and-coming standup star Ivo Graham, who had a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe and was nominated for Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Award. As seen on Mock The Week, Cats Does Countdown and all the usual panel-show haunts.

Al Murray, The Pub Landlord, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Thu 20 May, The Hawth, Crawley, Thu 27 May

Al Murray’s Pub Landlord has been wisecracking for more than 20 years – Muddy watched him when she was a cub reporter on the West Sussex County Times and got soaked in lager in the front row. It might be a bit more socially distanced these days but not much about this winning formula has changed other than the material. The uniform is the same, the humour is the same – Al’s a guaranteed winner.

Pinocchio, Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Sat 29 May – Thu 3 June

This brand-new production of a much-loved tale features none other than Dave Benson Phillips as the mischievous fox. A socially-distanced version of the classic tale of a wooden boy who longs to be real. For children aged 3-8, with a relaxed performance on June 1.

Archeology Walk, Cissbury Ring, Sat 29 May

The first of 11 archeology walks being organised by Worthing Theatres & Museum. Explore the history of the stunning Cissbury Ring, once a Neolithic flint mine and Iron Age hillfort.

Historic Life Weekend: Wood Craft & Trades, Weald & Downland Museum, Singleton, Sat 29 – Sun 30 May

The latest in a series of Historic Life Weekends, this time with the theme of wood. Learn how wood is worked into the different forms, with demonstrations from a range of craftspeople and displays. Discover which trees are used for which purposes, how this resource is managed and how people learn these craft skills.

Treasure Island, The Hawth Amphitheatre, Sun 30 May

The charming amphitheatre at The Hawth is the perfect Covid-friendly setting for this swashbuckling performance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic. Join young Jim Hawkins as he’s drawn into the search for Captain Flint’s fortune. Sure to be magical.

Summer Concert, Leonardslee Gardens & Lake, Lower Beeding, Mon 31 May

The first in a series of summer concerts in the stunning surroundings of Leonardslee. This performance will focus on opera and see the Bernardi Music Group joined by world-leading soprano Charlotte Broker and tenor Ben Thapa performing favourites from La boheme, La Traviata, Cosi Fan Tutti and others. High-class and magical.

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