Christmas is THE BEST time to see a children’s show. Whether it’s cheesy panto or artsy immersive theatre, the festive season brings out acres of creativity – in snow-laden props, magical characters and charming, whimsical storylines.
I’ve put together a list of some productions that have caught my eye.
One Snowy Night at Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford
28 Nov-24 Dec. Suitable for children aged 3-6.
We love Discover. Austin celebrated his birthday there this year; it’s a venue with all the benefits of a soft play centre, minus the headache-inducing music, and with the added value of books and a well-stocked crafty area. Their productions are high quality. Punchdrunk Enrichment’s The House Where Winter Lives was the highlight of our Christmas two years ago, and this new performance – based on Nick Butterworth’s book, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year – has drawn comparisons to Punchdrunk’s immersive show. It features snow, a squirrel, fox, badger and hedgehog….sounds perfect for little ones at this time of year.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames
30 Nov-4 Jan. Featuring young actors from the Rose Youth Theatre.
CS Lewis’s tale has to be the archetypal Christmas classic, and is full of magic and mystery, peril and love. The story has been adapted for the stage by Theresa Heskins, is directed by Ciaran McConville and features an original score by Eamonn O’Dwyer. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Rose does with the story, which is a delectable feast for a young child’s imagination and one of my childhood favourites.
The Cat in the Hat at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington
8 Dec-4 Jan. For children over 3.
If you’re looking for an alternative to snowy fare, then this performance, based on Dr Seuss’s classic, is worth a look. It’s an interesting adaptation of the National Theatre of Great Britain’s show; you can read my review of last year’s run at the Greenwich Theatre here. The performance was mischievous and lugubrious in turn, at times even bordering on the Burtonesque. Katie Mitchell’s adaptation saw the actors played the few characters with taut panache.
The Snowman at Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre, Holborn
27 Nov-5 Jan. With an audio described performance at 2.30 on Sat 14 Dec
Sadler’s Wells is the home of London dance performances, and I’ve been told that this stage show, based on the book by Raymond Briggs and the subsequent film, is very special. 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 and takes him through the skies to meet penguins, reindeer, and Father Christmas.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King at the Unicorn Theatre, London Bridge
21 Nov-4 Jan. Suitable for children over 8.
This show sounds intriguing: a reimagining of E.T.A Hoffman’s story of the broken nutcracker, which is found under a Christmas tree by a little girl; comes alive; and battles against the evil mouse king. The performance at the Unicorn has been described as whimsical, a little frightening, charming and joyful. If my children were older, this would definitely be on our must-see list for the festive season.
Slava’s Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
17 Dec-5 Jan. Suitable for children over 8.
This show is back in London for the fourth time, and features a dramatic snowstorm that fills the Royal Festival Hall. If you’re not a fan of clowns, a ticket to Slava’s Snowshow wouldn’t be the best thig to find in your stocking. Apparently a team of them lead the audience into a romp involving plastic balls, sticky spider-web blankets and gale force winds. It sounds, though, as though Slava is a unique experience. I’m hoping it comes to town for the next few Christmases, so I have an excuse to go with my kids when they’re older.
Are you going to any children’s Christmas theatre this year?
Disclosure: I was offered tickets to some, but not all, of these productions.