If you want to catch the best in Christmas theatre for families this year, head to London. With an estimated 230 theatres in the UK capital, it’s likely there will be something for everyone. Just check out this little lot, for starters.
Lyric Hammersmith, 22 Nov–24 Dec 2017
Those of you who are familiar with Raymond Briggs’ take on Father Christmas’ big day, will know that it’s a warts-and-all tale. This Santa is cross about Christmas, grumpy in the cold, and fantasizes about sunny beach holidays while he’s loading up his sleigh with presents. But the Pins and Needles production of Father Christmas at the Lyric, Hammersmith doesn’t lack any magic and sparkle, despite the grouchy main man. You can read our review of the performance here.
The Albany, Deptford, 4–31 Dec 2017
The Albany’s Christmas show, Ugly Duckling is based on the Hans Christian Andersen classic and is brought to life by tutti frutti and York Theatre Royal. The actors are accompanied by live music and the play is a gentle tale of the importance of identity and self-worth.
Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre, 23 Nov–31 Dec 2017
Sadler’s Wells is the home of London dance performances. The Snowman, based on the book by Raymond Briggs and the subsequent film, is now in its 20th consecutive year. Ruari Murchison’s design combines with Tim Mitchell’s lighting to bring to life the story of a boy who sets off on a night-time quest with his snowman, who has come to life. He takes the boy through the skies to meet penguins, reindeer, and Father Christmas. You can read what we thought of this delightful show here.
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Dec 2017–6 Jan 2018
National treasure Matthew Kelly and West End superstar Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights. This original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and it will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the Christmassy surroundings of Grade II Listed Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest Grand Music Hall in the world.
Royal Festival Hall, 19 Dec–31 Dec 2017
For children aged 3–6
Danish company Teater Refleksion and Andy Manley have won acclaim for their poignant and poetic shows for the very young. Described as “a magical journey through the dark and beautiful night”, this show is part of Wintertime at the Southbank Centre, and promises to bring some Scandi-joy into the hearts of young families.
Polka Theatre, 17 Nov 2017–4 Feb 2018
Kai and Gerda are best friends. Inseparable until the Snow Queen bewitches Kai with an icy kiss, Hans Christian Andersen’s winter fairy-tale follows Gerda’s quest to find her beloved companion. Together with their friends, Kai and Gerda go on an epic journey of self-discovery, from a dusty attic, through snowy lands, to the Queen’s icy palace.
Christmas in Leicester Square, 16–30 Dec 2017
This completely improvised show is brought to the family audience by Olivier Award Winners, the Showstoppers. In the Christmas grotto, Showstopper elves take ideas from the children in the audience, and transform it into a show. “Pirates at the North Pole? Harry Potter in Lapland? The Gruffalo singing carols with Peppa Pig? Just shout it out and The Showstoppers will bring it to life!”
Greenwich Theatre, 8–30 Dec 2017
SharkLegs present silliness, light-up antlers and a whole lot of snow. Trilby and The-Boot, two unlikely heroes, create a wintery wonderland – in a world where anything can be made from the scraps left behind. Magic and mayhem is around every corner when the only two people in the world find the last ever book – and find it’s about something called ‘Christmas’.
Leicester Square Theatre, 22 Oct 2017–7 Jan 2018
The eternally popular Scamp Theatre adaptation is back for its seventh run at the Leicester Square Theatre. Sally Cookson’s production takes Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s story and transforms it into a bouncy, perky stage show with a boost of physical theatre, some zingy props and a strong cast. We’re such big fans for the show that, when the children were young enough to appreciate it, we went along for three years in a row. You can read our review here.
Pleasance Theatre London, 29 Nov 2017–7 Jan 2018
The 2017 stage adaptation of JM Barrie’s classic tale features the songs of the Beatles, played live on stage by actor/musicians. This and other treats are in store for Christmas theatregoers who want to watch the story of the boy who never grew up. With fairies, pirates and a ticking crocodile, this is a winter adaptation that’s likely to delight.
The Old Vic, 20 Nov 2017–20 Jan 2018
Jack Thorne has adapted a new version of the timeless classic. This time, Rhys Ifans (from Notting Hill) stars as the miserly grouch, Ebenezer Scrooge. A ghost transports Scrooge to his past, present, and future. The result is a heartwarming tale, but be warned: the show “contains haunting supernatural themes and some content which younger audiences may find upsetting.”
Unicorn Theatre, 22 Nov–31 Dec 2017
The Rose Theatre, Kingston, 7 Dec 2017–7 Jan 2018
In a new adaptation of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Alice is thrust into a whirlwind adventure, and heroically fights to save her new friends in Winterland. Featuring evocative music, this performance of Lewis Carroll’s classics features professional actors alongside members of the Rose Youth Theatre.
Royal Festival Hall, 18 Dec 2017–4 Jan 2018
Clowns, creepy? Not when they’re fooling around with snow at Wintertime on the Southbank, they’re not. This show returns for its seventh consecutive year, and is touted as a combination of theatrical clowning and breath-taking visual effects, including a full-on snowstorm. The multi-award winning show has toured over 80 cities globally including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow.
Winterville in Clapham, 23 Nov–10 Dec 2017
Strictly speaking, Backyard Cinema is a film screening rather than a show. But the company are known for their immersive, theatrical events and festival atmosphere, so I decided to include it in this list. The Winter Garden is an indoor enchanted forest, where you can watch a festive array of Christmas classics, including Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually and It’s a Wonderful Life.
To access the cinema, customers step through a magical wardrobe, and continue down a secret tunnel of trees, into the woodland. Film-goers can snuggle up under a blanket with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and settle in for a Christmas movie treat. Read about our trip to the Winter Night Garden last year in this post.
Battersea Arts Centre, 29 Nov–30 Dec 2017
Battersea Arts Centre has teamed up with acclaimed theatre company RashDash in an adaptation of the original fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. Snow White likes to tell stories and paint. Rose Red likes to race with the deer and the wolves. When a friendly bear knocks on their door, the mischievous sisters have no idea it’s the beginning of a brave and magical adventure. Ths show includes live music, songs and plenty of festive touches.
You can read our review of the show here.
Winterville at Clapham, 25 Nov–30 Dec 2017
Ambassador’s Theatre, 13 Dec 2017–7 Jan 2018
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show features a menagerie of 75 enchanting puppets during a 60-minute show that adapts four of Eric Carle’s best loved books for the stage: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If you’d like to find out more about the show, you can read our review here.
Christmas in Leicester Square, 16–30 Dec 2017
Roald Dahl’s doctor, Professor Tim Solomon, explains how the body works, while sharing some of Dahl’s famous stories. The show was shortlisted for the Primary Times Children’s Choice Awards, and is set to be lively fun.
Are you hoping to see any London Winter shows this year? Our list doesn’t cover them all, by any means. Theatre tickets are on sale to many other top-class shows. If you go to see any, do let me know.
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