Outdoor Theatre, Brand New Books & Everything Else We’re Loving This Month

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

Looking for a new book to read, podcast to listen to, series to binge? We've got you.

Autumn and winter is typically when the cultural world really hots up, but who said Spring has to be spent outdoors? And who said culture has to be absorbed inside? From the hottest new movie on everyone’s lips to the book that everyone was reading, ahem, four years ago, here’s everything we’re loving (and looking forward to) this month at Country & Town House HQ.

What Else Is On Our Radar?

Our Top Recommendations This Month: May 2024

Private Rites by Julia Armfield

Belinda Bamber: The C&TH Book Club pick for May/June is Private Rites by Julia Armfield. Belinda Bamber sat down with the author to hear all about the apocalypse, queer writing and why water is her narrative medium. Read the full interview here.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Olivia Emily: For a less timely book pick, I’ve finally picked up Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet after years of glumly missing out on conversations about it. Of course, most people read this back in 2020 when it first hit the shelves – but it totally passed me by to the point that I decided it’s too late. And then, on a whim, I decided to pick it up, and I’m so very glad I did. I’m about two thirds of the way through, and loving the propulsive yet poetic writing style. Now I only wish I’d read it earlier so I could have seen the stage version. At least I have the film adaptation to look forward to; I am unapologetically already visualising Paul Mescal and Jessie Buckley in the leading roles.

Interview: Author Maggie O’Farrell On Seeing Hamnet On Stage

Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea Of You

(c) Prime Video

The Idea Of You

Charlie Colville: We’re finally entering the Rom Com Renaissance – and who better to lead it than first gen ‘It Girl’ Anne Hathaway? Based on a book by Robinne Lee, The Idea Of You follows a whirlwind romance between a divorced mother and the lead singer of a popular boy band (a pseudo Harry Styles, if you will). It’s fun, sugary sweet, at times a little sexy, but overall a great watch for anyone who wants a feel-good story. It’s not quite the romcom’s golden era – that still sits pretty firmly in the 00s – but it gets pretty close.

Cold Kitchen by Caroline Eden

Richard Hopton: In her beautifully written, evocative book Caroline Eden relives her travels by cooking in her basement kitchen in Edinburgh. She is certainly well travelled: Uzbekistan, Russia, Istanbul, Georgia, the Baltic states, Poland, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine all feature in this book. By cooking its food, she conjures up memories of each far-flung place: ‘a kitchen,’ she writes, ‘is a portal… providing unlikely paths out of the ordinary.’ We hear, for example, of her stay in Gyumri in Armenia and her brush with a populist anti-government rising in Bishkek, Tajikistan’s capital. At the same time, she delights in many different regional delicacies: Uzbek melons, Russian meat pies, or Latvian bread-and-beer pudding, among many others. is is a book which takes itself seriously – food is no laughing matter, after all – but an engaging one. Bloomsbury, £18.99

A still from Challengers

© MGM Pictures


Olivia Emily: If you haven’t yet, you must watch Challengers in the cinema. Luca Guadagnino’s latest flick – starring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor as a nervy, bubbly central triangle – is a masterclass in tension. And some of those tennis scenes, choreographed so delicately and shot so innovatively, are so broad sweeping they simply must be first perceived on the big screen. In cinemas now.

The Night Of

Rebecca Cox: Why watch the show that everyone’s talking about right now, when you can watch the show everyone was talking about eight years ago, am I right? If Baby Reindeer has you wanting more can’t-look-at-it, can’t-look-away-from-it super-tense television, then revisit this 2016 American crime drama miniseries, which is available to rewatch on Sky on demand. Based on the British series Criminal Justice, it follows the story of a young man (Naz, played by Riz Ahmed) accused of murder, exploring the intricacies of the criminal justice system and the impact of the case on his life and those around him. If, like me, you missed it the first time around (I had a one-year-old and was only watching In The Night Garden) this multiple Emmy-winning hit is worth catching up on. Just be prepared to hold your breath throughout the entire first episode. Watch on Sky On Demand.

The Style-ish Podcast

Charlie Colville: Fans of Shameless will probably have heard that the news that the media platform is expanding its empire with the arrival of Style-ish, a new podcast dedicated to all things fashion, brand, business and beauty. The first episode dropped at the beginning of May, and is well worth a listen if you want to know whether the ‘crack is back’, what the heck a nunu is and just how Anna Wintour elevated her career in the industry to icon status. Listen on Spotify.

Kanna Hashimoto as Chihiro in Spirited Away at London Coliseum

SPIRITED AWAY | Kanna Hashimoto as Chihiro (c) Johan Persson

Spirited Away At The London Coliseum

Charlie Colville: When Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning film Spirited Away made its theatrical debut to Japanese audiences back in 2022, it sold out in just four minutes. It’s the second stage adaptation from the renowned animation studio – the first being the RSC’s My Neighbour Totoro – and is one of the most anticipated arrivals on the West End this year. But with such a fantastical reputation to uphold, not to mention thousands of fans to please, will Spirited Away live up to London audiences’ expectations? As a long-time Studio Ghibli fan, I headed to the London Coliseum to find out. Read my full review hereOn until 24 August 2024.

Wayfarer by Phoebe Smith

Richard Hopton: Walking is for many people a liberation. The metronomic act of putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile, frees the mind. Phoebe Smith, already an inveterate adventurer, took it a step further by walking some of the pilgrim routes that have been revived in recent years in Britain and Ireland: St Columba’s Way, St Hilda’s Way and many others. ‘I know,’ she writes, ‘that I had to walk old paths in order to discover new trails.’ She might have added that walking these pilgrim trails, imbued with ancient religious significance, gave her the time, space and inspiration to come to terms with her troubled background, her mother’s death, and abusive, coercive relationships. As she walks, Smith reveals her love of nature and the countryside in poignant, finely observed prose. HarperNorth, £16.99

Roof East

Roof East © Owen Billcliffe Photography

Roof East

Olivia Emily: Next time we’re hit with a scorcher and you have no plans to your name, head down to Stratford’s very own adult playground, Roof East. Featuring multiple bars and street food vendors alongside archery, mini golf, glitter bowling, batting cages, giant jenga, table tennis and even an open-air cinema, there’s plenty to do – and it makes for great people watching if you just fancy a cocktail in the sun. Open Tuesday–Sunday at 7 & 8 Stratford Multi Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Rd, London E15 1XE. roofeast.com

GoodFellas (1990)

Olivia Emily: Speaking of Roof East, I ended my visit with a trip to Rooftop Cinema Club, the gorgeous open-air cinema that also has a venue in Peckham. My boyfriend and I settled into our comfy padded deckchairs, headphones on and popcorn in hand, and watched GoodFellas. Who would have thought that Martin Scorsese’s highly decorated film, so often cited as a favourite among film fanatics, is actually incredibly good? I was absolutely engrossed from start to finish.

My Family And Other Seedlings by Lalage Snow

Richard Hopton: In a previous life, Lalage Snow was a photojournalist covering the world’s war zones, living for a while in Kabul. In My Family she tells of her attempts to cultivate an allotment in a Dorset village. She fights weeds and slugs, plants, hoes and, eventually, harvests while looking after two young children and a baby. As the year progresses, we learn much about the history of vegetables – more interesting than you might think – and, at intervals, she delves back into her journalistic experiences, especially once the Russians invade Ukraine. e allotment helped rationalise the world: ‘When events seemed to spiral beyond comprehension I found a sense of stillness,’ she writes. It’s no mean feat to turn a tale about allotments and young children into an enjoyable, informative and charming book. Quercus Books, £22

Olivia’s bar keepers (Harry Waller, Jon Trenchard, Sally Cheng & Katherine Toy) in Twelfth Night

Harry Waller, Jon Trenchard, Sally Cheng & Katherine Toy in Twelfth Night. © Richard Lakos

Twelfth Night, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Olivia Emily: Shakespeare’s best comedy gets a glittery refresh at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre this summer, with Owen Horsley’s queer rendition. Here, music, combined with drag makeup and glittering dresses, elevates the action from amusing to electrifying. Check out my full review for all the detailsOn until 8 June 2024.

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy in The Bear

We’re Looking Forward To…

  • The Bear: After winning big this awards season, The Bear is back for its third instalment, with Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and all the others set to return for another dose of high-octane drama. Out June.
  • The Bikeriders: Jeff Nicols’ hotly-anticipated 1960s film The Bikeriders is primed to arrive in cinemas this summer, complete with an all-star cast that features Austin Butler, Jodie Comer and Tom Hardy. Out 21 June.
  • Romeo & JulietThe latest A-lister to join the West End is Tom Holland, starring in Jamie Lloyd’s pulsating adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, at Duke of York’s Theatre. 11 May–3 Aug
  • Blue Sisters by Coco Mellors: A must for your summer reading list. Three sisters return to their family home following a loss in Blue Sisters, the new novel from Cleopatra and Frankenstein author Coco Mellors. Out 23 May