London Winter shows for families

Father Christmas

Now that Hallowe’en has passed, there’s no excuse: it’s time to plan some Christmas treats. I’ve been scouting around to find out the pick of this year’s London Winter shows. So if you live in the UK capital, or are just travelling to London for the festive season, take a look at this list of our personal favourites, new and old.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

Ambassador’s Theatre, 2 Dec 2016–8 Jan 2017

Ages 2-7

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. It 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.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

The Snowman

Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre, 23 Nov 2016–1 Jan 2017

All ages

sm058

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 19th 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 and takes him through the skies to meet penguins, reindeer, and Father Christmas. You can read what we thought of this delightful show here.

Babe, the Sheep-Pig

Polka Theatre, 25 Nov 2016–5 Feb 2017

Ages 5-11

babe-the-sheep-pig-landscape-image

Babe, The Sheep-Pig has the backing of some stellar creatives: the performance is adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel by Olivier Award-winning playwright David Wood OBE, and includes puppets created by award-winning puppet designer Max Humphries (Cirque de Soleil), with the ensemble cast delivering puppetry by Matthew Forbes (Associate Director in Puppetry & Movement, War Horse).

When Babe arrives at Hogget’s Farm he is taken in by the trusty sheep-dog Fly, and soon discovers a talent for herding. But can a small pig make it in a dog’s world, and when his farmyard friends are in trouble can Babe save the day?

Stick Man

Leicester Square Theatre, 5 Nov–30 Dec 2016

Ages 3+

stickman

photo credit Steve Ullathorne

The eternally popular Scamp Theatre adaptation is back for its sixth season. 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 we went to see it for three years in a row; you can find out why here.

Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas

Lyric Hammersmith, 18 Nov–24 Dec 2016

Under 6s

Father Christmas

Picture credit Tom Gladstone

Father Christmas, sat on a toilet doing a poo? With someone saying ‘plop’ for sound effects?

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 last year’s performance here.

Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat

Pleasance Theatre, 6 Dec 2016–2 Jan 2017

Ages 3+

Cat in the Hat

Picture credit Garry Lake

Dr Seuss’ classic is a simple story, open to interpretation. Sally and her brother’s home are invaded by the eponymous cat who, with a fish, two kittens and a couple of Things, all mess up the place in zany fashion. Then they put it all back together again, just in time for Mother’s arrival home.

When I reviewed Paul Taylor Mills’ production of Cat in the Hat, two years ago, it was “high-octane fun from start to finish….perfect for slapstick lovers, with its squeaky rubber balls and comedy falls where no-one is really hurt. It’s the sort of show where you can’t help but get carried away with the excitement and merriment; perfect for bringing some Christmas cheer, without even a snowflake or red costume in sight.”

Mimi and the Mountain Dragon

Bloomsbury Theatre, 13 Dec31 Dec 2016

Ages 3+

mimidragon
Skewbald Theatre brings to life Michael Morpurgo’s atmospheric tale. High up in the mountains of Switzerland the villagers of Dorta bang their drums, blow their horns and ring the bells to keep the fearsome Mountain Dragon away. But this year is different. One snowy morning Mimi discovers a baby dragon sleeping in her woodshed. The tale follows Mimi’s efforts to return the dragon to its mother in the dragon’s castle, with songs, puppets and audience interaction.

Duckie

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, 16 Dec–24 Dec

Ages 6+

duckie7745small_web

Critically acclaimed cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat performs in a  reimagining of The Ugly Duckling, in his first ever work especially for kids. Duckie is set in an animal circus and is a quirky, humorous and positive look at what it’s like to feel different and how to find one’s place in the world.

Breaking the Ice

Stratford Circus, 1924 Dec 2016

Ages 2-5

breaking_the_ice-polar-bear-up
This is a good show for small theatre-goers, as it features a ‘stay and play’ Arctic activities session. Breaking the Ice is based on the true story of a wild polar bear who made friends with a husky. Audience members join Team Polar Bear or Team Husky as the animals learn to play together.

Backyard Cinema’s The Winter Night Garden

Mercato Metropolitano, 18 Nov 2016–6 Jan 2017

All ages

bc-winter-_13

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.

The Railway Children

Kings Cross Theatre, until 8 Jan 2017

Ages 2+

The Railway Children

Picture credit Johan Persson

Set in a purpose-built 1,000 seat venue, this show features a stage built around a real train track, and a 60 tonne vintage locomotive that steams onto the stage. The Railway Children was adapted by Mike Kenny in partnership with the National Railway Museum, York, and £1 from the price of every ticket is donated to the charity Railway Children, which helps people living on the streets throughout the world. In keeping with the charity’s aims, poverty and displacement are themes running through E Nesbit’s story; it’s a great tale for Christmas. You can find out here what we thought of the show.

 

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 – and I’d be delighted if you would link up any theatre review posts to #CulturedKids.

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London Winter Shows for families

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40 Comments

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:12 pm

      Yes, we can’t wait to go!

  1. November 4, 2016 / 12:08 pm

    This looks like a wonderful list. Ladybug would love the Very Hungry Caterpillar show since we love Eric Carle. And I would love Babe because I love the book. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:13 pm

      I love it when they adapt a book into a play. Adds a whole new layer.

  2. November 4, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    Lovely round up of the shows, we saw Stick Man last year and loved it. It’s really really well done.

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:13 pm

      Ah yes, I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with that performance.

  3. November 4, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    What a wonderful selection, Nell! Christmas is the perfect time to enjoy a show and I love the sound of all these particularly the irreverent Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas. We took our two to the ballet of The Nutcracker a few years ago – it’s a great Christmas introduction to ballet. Really loving your #CulturedKids linky!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:14 pm

      The Nutcracker would be a good one. We’re spoiled for choice at Christmas, aren’t we?

  4. November 4, 2016 / 3:01 pm

    When I read something like this I sometimes wish I didn’t live in a tiny village in a rural backwater of Luxembourg… To live in London and to have the choice of all these shows to treat the kids to must be a real privilege. Very jealous! Grumpy Santa and backyard cinema look great!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:15 pm

      There are some clear benefits to living the rural dream! But yes, we are lucky here in London.

  5. November 4, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    I would LOVE the Winter Night Garden – that is enchanting! We always go to the Nutcracker at Christmas. I love all the options for family outings in London. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:15 pm

      The Nutcracker sounds good. Enjoy!

  6. November 4, 2016 / 5:31 pm

    What a comprehensive list – I love the railway children #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      Yes, that really is a spectacular show.

  7. November 4, 2016 / 5:49 pm

    Oh loves these-we don’t have quite the same choice up here but I do normally take my oldest daughter to the ballet at Christmas time-especially when it is the Nutcracker!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      We went to the ballet for the vey first time a few months ago. It’s a lovely thing to do with kids.

  8. November 4, 2016 / 6:19 pm

    Totally spoiled for choice there. There are about six shows jumping out at me. Thankfully I don’t live in London or I’d spend a fortune!
    #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      Yes, it’s just far too tempting!

  9. November 4, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    I am so tempted by Backyard cinema in particular – I hadn’t come across it until recently – but would love to take my daughter to a ‘proper’ theatre performance. We’ve done baby-friendly, we’ve done an open-air play, but not the traditional stage and all. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:17 pm

      You should – I reckon you’d both love it.

  10. November 4, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    So many great productions! Very much looking forward to seeing Stickman (thank you!) The Snowman, Hungry Catapillar and Breaking the ice look particularly good! Thanks for giving no the lowdown! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:17 pm

      We are VERY excited about going to see The Snowman….

  11. November 4, 2016 / 11:45 pm

    We love Christmas shows and there are so many you’ve mentioned that we haven’t seen. Our big one this year is the panto in Bromley – Peter Pan – with Craig Revel Horwood in it. I’m so excited 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:18 pm

      That sounds fabulous. We haven’t been to the Panto yet. Perhaps this year will be our first.

  12. November 5, 2016 / 1:11 am

    Crazy how we are already talking about Christmas, but I love this time of year to go out and see shows too. We usually alternate between the Nutcracker and the Rockettes – looks like a great round-up in London! #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:18 pm

      Yes, there’s lots here. It is rather early, but you have to book in advance as these shows sell out quickly….

  13. November 5, 2016 / 9:52 am

    There really are some great shows for kids (and adults) aren’t there! I like the sound of the winter night garden.

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:20 pm

      I think I enjoy these shows just as much as the kids!

  14. November 5, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    Wow there is so much on, I would love to see the Snow Man I don’t think you ever grow out of it do you x

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:20 pm

      No – I get really excited at this time of year!

  15. November 5, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    Lovely list – in the old days, I’d definitely have taken the kids to the very hungry caterpillar, but now they’re too big! I still need to go to the Railway Children though – it’s been on my list for a while…..
    #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:22 pm

      It’s a shame when the kids grow out of shows and we don’t have an excuse to go any more!

  16. November 6, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    I don’t know how to choose actually! But as The Winter Night Garden is at the absolutely fabulous Mercato Metropolitano (I cant rave about it enough) we will definitely end up there. Thanks for sharing this great list – I’ll be passing it along straight away #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      November 12, 2016 / 2:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t come across the Mercato Metropolitano before, so I’m looking forward to finding out more when we’re there.

  17. November 16, 2016 / 9:18 pm

    One of these days I will bring the children down to London for Christmas. There are so many fabulous shows!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 21, 2016 / 11:05 am

      Yes, we’re spoilt for choice!

  18. November 24, 2016 / 5:13 pm

    Great round up, Nell. We are big fans of the Backyard cinema, and I, I mean the kids, really want to see Father Christmas. Love a good christmas show!

    We are off to see Peter Pan at the national – can’t wait!

    • Nell
      Author
      November 28, 2016 / 11:59 am

      OOh, I’ve heard good things about it. Looking forward to finding out what you think!

  19. November 25, 2016 / 9:41 am

    There are some really great options here. We’re lucky to have seen a couple of them touring locally. Fab alternatives to the traditional pantomime.

    • Nell
      Author
      November 28, 2016 / 12:15 pm

      Yes, we have SO much choice in the festive season.

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